Winterizing!!!!

Well guys winter is quickly setting and as usual it always comes to soon on the farm. The growing season is done(for the most part) and its time to wait it out for four months. Across the countryside almost all the crops are out and the winter wheat is in. Cattle farmers are starting to use their hay supply as even the fescue is going dormant. One of my biggest worries is creating sufficient wintering cover for the wildlife on my property. So often I think as landowners we forget about the animals that spend their their time on our ground, although it may be outside the fence. Along with winter habitat, a winter food source is key in sustaining a native wildlife population. Predators become active when wildlife become exposed in the winter. Placing food closer to cover will greatly decrease the odds of predation on local wildlife. Young animals born in the spring are still quite vulnerable going into their first winter and must be closely monitored for protection. It all roles around to location!!!! Food close to cover will create a natural magnet for wildlife to travel and stay on your property!

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Checkout Dairy Carrie!!

I discovered a new blog a few weeks back at dairycarrie.com! And it’s certainly one to remember and check up on often. Carrie’s blog consists of a multitude of subjects involving the world of agriculture. If you see it on the news and have questions you might just give her a shout out or see if there’s an article on the blog page.

Classmates and I recently spoke with Carrie through a Skype session and I found her story to be quite interesting and funny in a way. In the session Carrie described how she was not originally born into the farming community. But she is certainly flourishing in it now. Carrie’s farm in Southern Wisconsin is of average size, about 100 head on 300 acres, and that’s how they like to keep it. I’m sure they are busy enough with that number and the ever-growing blog she has created just 2 years ago.

The best way to learn more about this Dairy Carrie is to read up on her. Not only does she run a successful blog, but you can find her on Facebook and Twitter, along with going to see her at some of the public seminars she may be involved with in the future.

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Whitetail Deer Wintering Habits

Well it’s Mid-November, and the breeding season for the whitetail deer is in full swing in most areas of the Midwest. Within the next few weeks however, this cervid’s behavior will take a dramatic shift. Whitetail bucks and does lose a considerable amount of body weight during the fall rut due to chasing and overall body stress. This extreme stress can even be the cause of fatal heart attacks experienced by these animals.

Once the November rut winds down, the focus shifts back to food sources as it was during the summer and early fall. Body Mass Index is key in sustaining a deer’s overall physical health which aids in mental stability and function. As most of you know Food source substantiality is much slimmer at this point in the game than during the growing season. Climate and location are two of the key factors that control availability of mast throughout the year. Drought is the enemy and in the past few years the Midwest has seen its effects. Hemorrhagic Disease or EHD has stood out the most. EHD is a result of drought. This drought creates stagnant pools of water, making it the perfect breeding ground for a small insect known as the midge fly. The midge fly is a carrier for the disease. After contact with the whitetail’s nasal cavity the disease becomes infectious. It causes a breakdown of the central organs and extreme fever, causing the animal to burn up without being able to cool. This is why rainfall is so key.
In the late season during a year of drought, deer will have to travel much more in order to fid food. This exposes them more to predators and the elements. Often in the latter portion of winter, whitetails will also be seen in large herds. Although most people may just see this as “grouping up” it is more likely just a meeting place due to the substantial food in that location. Most of the deer in the group will likely seek solitude when they are not at the food source.   

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Crop Harvest Effects on Wildlife

Every year the time roles around for the rows to come out. Crop farmers climb into there combines for a solid month or more. This period in the Midwest generally occurs during mid-fall or October and early November. It’s a major economic boost for the agriculture industry and it’s when all the hard work pays off. But….does everyone benefit from the crops coming out? In a way, it’s a trick question.

Lets talk about the effects of crop harvesting on wildlife habitat and behavior. Row cropping is major food source for wildlife species during the majority of the year. Soy beans and corn are most prominent but others might include milo, sorghum, wheat, along with many others. Even though the crops are harvested, small remnants of the plant are left on the ground as waste. This may only seem like a small amount of food, but on a large scale food source it adds up to a substantial amount. Corn and soy bean leftovers are generally enough to get the neighborhood wildlife through the winter especially if they have a secondary food source such as wintergreen plots or acorns in the timber.

Let’s talk about behavioral differences we notice in the wildlife due to the changing environment. First and foremost, they have to travel! Plain and simple there’s just less food to go around which forces animal species to move to secondary sources to maintain body weight. When crops are harvested it also shrinks the ground cover for wildlife. Eight foot tall corn was a pretty convenient household for the whitetail deer before it was harvested. Now the species becomes more exposed and must resort to other forms of cover for safety such as timber and nightfall.

The fact is the crops have top come out but it definitely has effects on the local wildlife movements and behavior. These effects aren’t necessarily negative, but I’d say its a little bit of an inconvenience. These behavioral changes have been in place for a very long time and the native wildlife have adapted to live in conjunction with annual farming activities and operations. 

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CRP Benefit to Upland Wildlife

For several years now farmers and landowners have been offered a government program known as the Conservation Reserve Program(CRP). This program was created in order to restore native plant species to the landscape whereas non-native invasive species have taken over. It has been and continues to be an uphill battle due to the resistance of the invasive.

These invasive species number by the hundreds but most problematic and common, although it may go unnoticed, include tall fescue, smooth brome, multiflora rose, and ceresia lespedeza. A large portion of the invasives are a cool-season species, such as the fescue. These species hinder growth of the original natives by competition and lack beneficial cover or food for native wildlife especially upland birds.

Upland wildlife species need native grasses for food, cover, and brood rearing habitat. Native species allow these birds to also travel more freely while still remaining hidden by exposing soil and creating overhead cover. In a way, it’s a “roof over your head”. Fescue and other cool-seasons grow shorter and denser lacking the benefits of the above description. Some ideal species of native warm-season cover types include, big bluestem, little bluestem, and indian grass along with many others. These are the species biologists are fighting to bring back.

If you have any questions about how you may be able to bring back native species to benefit wildlife on your property, contact your local Department of Natural Resources(DNR), or Natural Resource Conservation Office.

 

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Plot Recap

Well in most parts of the country food plot growing season is quickly coming to an end. Soil temperatures are falling and first frosts are becoming reality. Lets do a quick recap of this years challenges and outcomes in the Midwest in relation to food plot and crop growth, thus also affecting the local wildlife. The Midwest had a plentiful amout of rainfall to kickoff the spring, along with a healthy amount of sunlight energy. This boost our soil temperatures from a dormant stage and prepared seed beds. But, on the other hand, the heavy rains hindered some equipment use, and ultimately forced farms to wait to plant due to flooding and muddy conditions; not that they’re complaining about rain…Once Mid-May rolled around soil temperatures became moderate and seed was in the ground and sprouting rapidly. In a matter of weeks crop growth was substantial along with our spring green food plots. Little did we know this moisture deposit would have to last as we would not receive anymore for some time. June 1st through the latter part of August were quite dry with the occasional sprout of rainfall, luckily crops gained a head start in the spring and for the most part sustained their output. Of course, rain could have always helped improve the yield and local wildlife benefit. Now heading into the first part of September food sources are still being hit hard by area wildlife but rain and cooler temperatures were not far off. From Mid-September to the first part of October we noticed a huge increase in food plot mast due to a drop in soil temperature and increased moisture. I guess the Lord answered our prayers once again, kicking off our fall bow-season with great action.

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Wide 9

Wide 9

5 1/2 Year Old Hit-List Buck

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