They’re predicting a wetter than usual winter this year, and after a scorching hot, dry summer, it will be quite welcome. In anticipation of that, I spent the weekend mowing the pastures and planting wheat (mowing was necessary to set back the weeds that had taken over during the drought). I’ve had better success with oats, but as I purchased an abundance of wheat from a local farmer back in July, I thought I’d give it another chance.
Winter annuals (wheat, oats, rye) are a key component to raising cattle in Texas. They have a high sugar content that gives the animals the extra calories they need to thrive during the cold winter months. The sugar acts as an antifreeze in the cells of the grass, allowing it to survive temperatures below freezing; with some varieties surviving below zero degrees.
Wheat is a great grass for overwintering cattle as it is very nutritious. If we get enough rain, I should be able to get 3 or 4 grazings before it goes to seed around April. This should significantly reduce the number of hay bales I have to buy, and produce some nicely fattened cows and steers.
That being said, there are never any guarantees when farming. I’ve tried planting wheat once before and failed to get good germination. The seed has to be planted to the right depth, at the right time. Plant it too deep, and it struggles to emerge. Plant it too shallow and dies off quickly due to lack of moisture. Plant it too early and the Army Worms can take it out. Plant it too late and you don’t get enough growth before winter.
We planted the wheat utilizing a “no-till drill” that you can rent from the county extension service. This planter cuts a small furrow into the existing sod and drops the seed in. The furrow is then closed up with a pressure wheel. The alternative is to till (disc) the pasture to create a nice seedbed. Doing this will kill the existing grasses and micro-organisms, and contribute to erosion and moisture loss.
Again, they are predicting a warmer, wetter winter this year, so I don’t anticipate testing wheats survivability. I sure hope “they” are right about the weather. Seed isn’t cheap, and neither is hay. So if you find it in your heart, say a few prayers for the farmers out there - that we’ll have gentle rains and sunny days for the remainder of the year.
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