By Baxter Black, DVM
For several years my phone conversations with George have been depressing. Sometimes when we discuss rain, he’s never had enough on Spud Mountain. He seems to live in the endless drought conditions…until it rains and washes out his water gaps, tanks and roads. It’s tough on his cows. Thank goodness he has a job at the bank.
Last summer in anticipation of summer rain he sent me a rain gauge that his bank has been using as a customer gift since, oh…probably statehood. It was shiny and had the bank’s name on it. When our monsoon hit in July, we were ready!
Our late summer rains are pretty reliable; it’s the spring rains that can make a big difference.
Even two or three inches will get the grass growing before it gets so hot. It affects the delicate balance that haunts dairymen; milk vs. reproduction. When a cow is generating enough milk to keep the calf’s condition positive, there may not be enough energy left in her body to cycle. There’s nothing prettier than a sleek cow in good condition with a big bag and a good-sized calf at her side. Well, it would be even prettier if the bull were trying mount her!
My neighbors and I have a morning-after rainfall report. The one that tells his amount first, usually get one-tenth less! I’m sure most of you have heard the joke about the farmer who left his double barrel shotgun leaned up against the property line fence. After the big rain he retrieved his shotgun. One barrel was full of rain and the one on his side was plum dry!
It’s not unusual for us to get that kind of spotty precipitation in the county, though by the end of our rainy season we’re within 2 inches of each other. If we get more than five minutes into a conversation I’m sure to be reminded when it rained every year on the same day. “Yessir, sonny! Jes like clarkwork. You could set yer watch by the afternoon showers.” Sometimes Noah comes up in the discussion. Then the subject will switch to the times when it was so dry fish were wearing sun block!
In the Midwest where agriculture is recognized as part of the economy, they have really good weather coverage. But if you live within 100 miles of a metroplex, you get the Weather Show! The program spends a lot of time discussing how it will affect your backyard BBQ, how slow the Freeway Loop is proceeding, if there are delayed flights at the airport and a comment on how the Weather Channel babes hope it doesn’t disrupt your day. The blackboard they use looks like a full color kindergarten jigsaw puzzle. “Scattered showers” covers a chunk of ground as big as the Louisiana Purchase!
One of the rights of farmers is to have an opinion on the weather. I try keep abreast. I study the TV weather map with its big smiling yellow sun and the white clouds that look like giant puffs from Thomas the Tank Engine. I admit I have trouble relating to El Niño and how it will affect my area of the country. Of course, it seems every time I watch the local weather forecast the weather girl is standing in front of my state.
Oh, well, I better go check the rain gauge.