Friday, September 12, 2014

Are We Finally Going to Have a Normal Wet Winter?, and a Sorghum-sudangrass Update

When I was a kid, I'd wait all summer to go dove hunting in September and then it always seemed like in the first few days of the month it would rain a bunch, the temperature would drop, and most of the doves would be chased away for a while.   Back then my whole world in September revolved around finally being able to go out and shoot at some doves with my shotgun and when it rained it was raining on my dove-hunting parade.
Sitting in the heat and the weeds, dove hunting before the rain comes
But that rain and temperature drop also usually signaled the start of a "normal" wet winter that you need to grow a decent wheat crop.  It's been a long time since we've had those September rains and for a lot of years we've also had some pretty dry winters.  About 5 days ago, we happened to get one of those formally-common September rains, and true to form it chased a lot of the dove away, but I'm hoping that it means we're going to have a wetter winter (and some better wheat yields next summer).  Of course, I also thought we were going to have an extra-hot and dry summer about 5 months ago and was wrong about that, so I wouldn't bet the farm on my prediction just yet.
It's been a long time since it's rained this much in early September
The sorghum-sudangrass has been steadily growing and at about the 45-50 day mark it's around 6 foot tall over most of the field, and I've finally reached the point were I am able to easily ignore the urge to just go ahead and bale it (it was a mighty struggle at times).  If I had baled it, I'd guess that I would have easily gotten at least 2.5-3 bales of hay per acre (1.5-2 tons?), and it would have grown about another 3-4 feet tall before winter-killing.  

Planting it earlier in the summer right after wheat harvest, baling or grazing it when it's about 45-50 days old, then letting it regrow before winter-killing might be the best way to manage sorghum-sudangrass.   Or, starting to graze it at about this stage so that I could plant wheat in about mid-October.  

We still have about 6-8 weeks before the first freeze date, so I'm not sure how much more it will grow or if it will get too mature and the quality will drop significantly (it shouldn't get too mature for a cover crop).  I'm also wondering if I'll get some volunteer wheat or some ryegrass coming up this winter after the cows are done grazing it which would be a bonus. 

Next year, I'm thinking that adding some sunn hemp and/or some sort of brassicas like turnips, canola, or tillage radish might actually be worth the expense.  A cocktail of pearl millet, sunn hemp, turnips, and oats might be even better.  One of the things I like is that there are a lot of options when you're growing something like sorghum-sudangrass or a cover crop cocktail.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the cows out on this field this winter.

Now, after all the boring grass growing talk, here's some pictures of that exciting grass growing along with a picture of one of the bulls (don't get too attached to him though, because he's on the short list to go to town).
Haygrazer - about 45-50 days and over 6 foot tall

That sorghum-sudangrass isn't as tall as it looks in the picture since the field is higher than the pasture

Sorghum-sudangrass already over 6-foot tall along the oil-field road


  1. Funny how you gauged the weather. I did the same. Back when I was a kid, I always worried that it would snow in mid September prior to September 15, because if it did, I couldn't get up into the high country to hunt sage grouse.

    And, in fact, it was snowy yesterday. First time in years and people keep saying how unusual it is, but it isn't. It's actually normal, and we've just sort of forgotten that. I was going to post on that myself.

    1. After a little thinking, I came up with a few more connections between hunting and 'normal' weather.

      I always hoped that the first freeze would come around the first of November so all the leaves would drop off of the trees during the peak of the rut (it's easier to see and hear a running buck when the leaves are all on the ground).

      There always used to be an ice storm or snow storm right after Thanksgiving, which would make it miserable and difficult to deer hunt in the last days of rifle season.

      It always seemed to rain in the first week of spring turkey season, making the toms shut up right at the peak of gobbling.

      You don't really need a long-term weather forecast from some TV weather guy if you pay attention to whether or not certain weather events happen on schedule.