Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Drought Costs Money

(post by Jason) Someone asked me a few days ago why all the farmers in Middle Tennessee were so up worked up about the ongoing dry weather. It's an interesting question on a number of fronts and it made me think deeply about how to explain it. 

Most people today, even those in rural areas, don't rely on nature to directly supply the inputs required for their living. Farmers very much do. I'll explain it this way. Every farmer works with their soil to make a living by turning seeds, sunshine and rain into crops that can be sold onto the market. The only real difference between farmers is how they choose to market the crops they have to sell. Thus some people grow corn or soybeans or wheat or milo or cotton. Others grow vegetables or tree fruits. A lot of farmers grow grass. Some grass farmers choose to market their grass as hay or haylage, either by selling it to others or by storing it on their own farms and feeding it to confined livestock. Other grass farmers market their grass by allowing livestock or horses to harvest it for them. We fall into this camp. 

Grass and every other crop I mentioned requires some combination of fertile soil, ample rainfall, abundant sunshine, good weed control, timely management and adequate time to mature between spring and fall freezes in order to produce a bountiful, successful crop. When any of the variables I mentioned is out of whack....either too much or not enough....it reduces the amount of grass or crop produced. In the case of grass either the farmer needs to commensurately reduce the number of animals grazing the grass, or if he wants to maintain livestock or horse numbers he needs to buy grass/hay from somewhere else to feed them. Both can have vastly negative impacts on the bottom line. 

The other rule about nature is that it abhors a vacuum and it will not tolerate bare soil. The best and most effective weed control on any grass farm is a thick, tall stand of productive grass. When that has been removed due to grazing during drought conditions the grass will be replaced and outcompeted by weeds. I've seen lots of times in my life when it was too dry for grass to grow. I have never seen it too dry for weeds to grow! During droughts all the money spent on fertilizer and (perversely) weed control in order to get grass to grow will instead cause one heck of a crop of weeds to get started. Then we get to spend more money, sometimes over a couple of years, trying to get the weeds under control and re-establish grass by (you guessed it) buying seed and fertilizer to get it going again!

At this time we are about 9 inches below normal rainfall for the spring in our immediate area. Last week we started feeding hay in some of our pastures. If the rainfall situation does not normalize we will soon be feeding hay in all of the pastures. It isn't too late for the rain deficit to see some correction. This year won't be as productive for grass, hay and other crops in our area because of the spring drought, but should rain amounts begin to move back to normal levels some catch-up can happen with grass. Farmers are used to playing whatever hand Mother Nature deals them in any given year. Some years you get a full house, other years not so much. 


Romeo, Faune and Lofty

Bonnie and Griselle

Chance, Convey and Cisco

Lighty and Sam

Levendi, Moe and Homer

Charlotte and Calimba

Renatta, MyLight and Calimba

Walden and Remmy

Baner and Fabrizzio

Gus and Silver

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Stills

Sam and Mick

George and Asterik

Toledo and Walon being absolutely wild

Bruno and Cino


new resident Miel

Lighty insisted on getting to know Miel

new resident Sabrina

Sabrina and Lily


Elfin and Rip

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In Memory of Kennedy

As tends to happen on a retirement farm, we unfortunately had to experience the full circle of life with our resident Kennedy. We had the pleasure of living with Kennedy for five and a half years before saying our goodbyes to him last week.

Kennedy and his mom

Kennedy's story began in the  Netherlands. He was born on July 4th, and undoubtedly this contributed to his name. He came to his mom with the name Kennedy, and she gave him the absolutely perfect show name of Mr. President. Kennedy's sire was the highly regarded stallion Uniform, who is one of the leading sires of dressage horses in the Netherlands. Kennedy was imported to the United States in March 2004, and it was soon after that day that he and his mom met. 

 Kennedy and Oskar

Kennedy and Clayton

Kennedy leading the way in followed by Stormy and Rampal

Kennedy's mom began her "horsey life" at a young age. She started our riding and showing hunter/jumpers, then she switched to eventing, and eventually settled on dressage. When she was a student at the University of Kentucky she also spent some time working on a thoroughbred farm prepping yearlings for the sales. She has always been involved in some facet of the horse world for most of her life.

Kennedy and Donovan

Kennedy and friends coming in for breakfast

Kennedy and Rampal

In 2004 Kennedy's mom had recently sold a horse and was looking for another equine partner. Her trainer happened to be discussing her horse search with a hunter/jumper trainer at their barn, and she mentioned a horse that she had just imported a couple of months ago. It was decided that Kennedy's mom should try him. At first she was resistant to the idea of trying Kennedy as he was 12 years old at the time and she preferred to buy young horses. However, at that point in her life she had two young children and she knew that a steady, quiet horse would be the best match for her.

Clayton and Kennedy

Kennedy (with his signature drooping lower lip) looking cute with Walon . . . 

. . . being goofy with Walon . . . 

. . . and then both of them looking grumpy

Kennedy's mom knew from the first ride that he was the horse for her. Kennedy was a very comfortable and steady ride which was exactly what she was looking for. She loved that if she rode him correctly and found the right buttons he was very honest in his work and would give you exactly what you were asking for. In May of 2004, just a couple of months after being imported from the Netherlands, Kennedy and his mom became a team.

Clayton and Kennedy having a quiet moment; this is one of my favorite pictures

Kennedy and Toledo

Kennedy and Toledo

Kennedy and his mom did some showing in dressage. They eventually competed through Second Level and earned a Dover Medal at one show. However, Kennedy's main job during much of their time together had nothing to do with showing and competing. He was a place of solace and retreat for his mom. His mom's life partner had cancer, and eventually passed.

another view of his signature droopy lip

Kennedy and Oskar

there's that lip again

A couple of years before Kennedy was retired he began having some suspensory issues in both hind legs. Kennedy was very patient through his rehab and did get better, but over time it began to be apparent that his hind legs were no longer going to hold up to regular dressage work. Since Kennedy had also had issues in the past with a dry cough from dust, his mom knew she needed to find a place where he could retire and live outside comfortably year round. In January of 2011 Kennedy made the trip to our farm from Ohio.

Kennedy and Stormy

Kennedy and Oskar

Kennedy and Toledo

I will always remember Kennedy's arrival because he provided me with a very fond memory of my dad. He always liked to meet our new residents and was with me when the trailer with Kennedy arrived at our farm. As the driver walked Kennedy off the trailer my dad said, "another white one?" and Kennedy was officially added to our collection of grey horses. My dad always said white because he knew I would immediately correct him and say grey, which of course I did. Many times through Kennedy's years with us, and especially after my dad passed unexpectedly, I would smile and think of him saying "another white one?" as Kennedy walked off the trailer.

Stormy and Clayton both found Kennedy's back to be a comfortable resting spot

Largo, Kennedy and Donovan

Kennedy and River

Kennedy was always a horse with a lot of self confidence, and he arrived at our farm with the attitude  of "here I am." He had a very easy and low stress transition into his group, and immediately decided that two of the horses in his family group were in need of his close guidance. Toledo and Rocky found their lives being directed carefully by Kennedy. Over time Rocky declared his independence, but Kennedy continued to keep tabs on Toledo.  Over a period of several years Kennedy decided he could live even if others decided to spend some time with Toledo, but Toledo was always high on Kennedy's list of things to manage and keep an eye on.

Kennedy and Toledo

Rocky and Kennedy

Kennedy and Oskar

A couple of months ago Kennedy started having pretty strong diarrhea. It seemed to start out of the blue. We did all of the typical things to treat a case of diarrhea while working closely with the vet, but nothing worked. We sent off fecal samples and tested for infectious diseases such as salmonella and e. coli which were all negative. He was on strong antibiotics, he was on steroids, he was on UlcerGard, he had a powerpak de-worming, he had another fecal sent off to see if anything was possibly missed the first time around, he was on high doses of BioSponge, we ran CBCs and blood chemistries on him, we pulled him off all grain and had him on grass only. That's a small list of things his mom let us do,

Toledo and Kennedy

Kennedy and Donovan


Finally, after going through a long, long list of treatments and diagnostics we received the diagnosis of Lymphoma. Shortly after that Kennedy went from being a horse with diarrhea but otherwise had a healthy appetite and completely normal activity level to starting to act lethargic and like a horse that didn't feel good. The signs were subtle but slightly more pronounced each day. We made the decision along with his mom and his vet to let him go before his good moments were outnumbered by bad ones. He passed peacefully in his pasture with his friends nearby.

Kennedy and Toledo being wild

Kennedy and Johnny

Kennedy, Walon, Toledo, Donovan, Rocky, Oskar and Clayton

One of the best gifts we can have on a retirement farm is knowing that you were able to try everything reasonable when things are less than perfect with one of our residents. We are forever grateful to his mom for letting all of us, herself, Jason and I and the vet, make the decision to let Kennedy go without having to wonder about any what-ifs. As long as Kennedy was feeling good and enjoying life she gave us the ok to try any reasonable diagnostic and treatment to manage Kennedy's symptoms.

I will always think about Kennedy as "another white one" thanks to my dad, and I appreciate very much the fond memory of him that Kennedy gave me. I'll  miss seeing his signature, drooping lower lip and watching him try to run Toledo's life like an old biddy. Kennedy would be happy, I think, to know that Toledo is successfully running his life just fine without Kennedy's input. Kennedy was so sure that wasn't possible, but maybe his five and a half years of coaching paid off.

Rest in peace Kennedy, we miss you.

Kennedy, Toledo and Stormy

Toledo and Kennedy

Kennedy, River and Walon 

Kennedy and Roho having some play time

Kennedy, Toledo and Largo

group nap time

Rubrico and Kennedy

Toledo and Kennedy, complete with his droopy lip again

Toledo and Kennedy

the signature drooping lip again

yet another picture with his drooping lower lip

Rubrico, Oskar, Kennedy and River

One last look at the droopy lip; rest in peace, Kennedy