Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Drought

We are doing our best to stay positive about this season's lack of precipitation. While this recent storm was encouraging, it dropped less than an eighth of an inch in the west side of the Sacramento Valley. We doubt that it will do much to grow the native forage as the soil is so depleted and dry on our rangelands. We continue to irrigate our pastures and have already begun grazing paddocks that were not ready as the ability to buy forage that fits the requirements of our grass-based feeding program is now almost impossible to find at any price. We know of producers bringing in truck and trailer from Arizona, and the dealers out of Oregon have become elusive as hay is being tied up by dairies and beef producers in their frantic search for feed. One of the last local stockpiles of last year's alfalfa at the Gnose Farm in Woodland was sold for dairy producers which are also in desperate straits to find feed. Our own family's field of alfalfa is currently being irrigated in January via the well. My father-in-law's three-way blend also had to be irrigated, or he loses $8,000 in seed. These are crops that historically do not receive any winter/spring irrigation.

With that said, we will be culling 20% of our sheep flock. We worked very hard to get up to the numbers we are at and these sheep have been through a lot with us so it is a very hard decision to make. We accepted a lease on 30 acres that could potentially be irrigated, but it does not start until May, which doesn't allow us to get anything planted for this year's demands. We may not be able to raise steers this year, instead sending them direct to auction at 500 weight. We have 4 finished steers remaining, which will be allocated across our three farmer's markets. We also will not be raising any poultry this year. Our focus is to keep our existing pastures irrigated, our tree crops drip irrigated, and there is not much left for growing additional forage as we had planned. We have made some efficiency improvements on our wells this past year, including converting one of our wells and warehouse to solar power. This well irrigates our tree crops. Our larger 5 HP well is functioning very well for its age, but we would like to convert a portion of it's energy use to solar as well. Unfortunately, with all the unforeseen costs to buy hay and the loss of income from loss of production, we will not be able to make any large capital improvements this year.

The changes we must make on the marketing end are:
We can no longer sell any beef or lamb freezer specials.
We also will be terminating our CSA.

Current CSA members, your support has been wonderful. But we feel we cannot offer you a diversity of meats nor can we be reliable in our supply. Because it is so difficult to get into a good farmer's market, we must divert any meats we can produce this year to the markets in order to preserve our space and reputation. We will continue to participate in the Capay Valley FarmShop MeatShare with our beef and lamb. We encourage our current CSA members to sign up for a MeatShare. I think you will be pleased with the diversity and quality of the products on offer. We may also be offering individual cuts through Good Eggs as part of the Capay Valley FarmShop portal, but prices will be much higher than at our markets.

We hope that these setbacks will only be temporary and that we can once again expand our business instead of contract. But for that, we must wait until the hills turn green again. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and buy local as much as you can. In order to compensate for the prospective loss in available domestic beef, the FSIS has allowed Brazilian beef to be imported for the first time in many years. Please don't buy foreign beef. The new farm bill did include the controversial COOL (Country of Origin Labelling) so you soon should be able to tell where your beef product was produced. Thanks for your support and we hope the rain comes.

1 comment:

  1. My thoughts and prayers are with you! I have enjoyed your beef for the last few years at Kensington Farmer's Market and will be ready to enjoy it again when the rains come again. Meantime, thanks for the information on foreign beef.