Last weekend brought the first real rain storm in more than 18 months to Northern California. From Thursday morning through Sunday evening, we measured more than 7.5 inches of rain in Auburn. In Rio Vista, where our sheep are currently grazing, we received 4.4 inches over that same timeframe. Based on seasonal averages, we're approaching 50% of our normal precipitation for this time of year! Perhaps more importantly, we've finally received enough moisture - combined with warming soil temperatures and lengthening days - to grow some grass. While it will still be at least 30 days before we have enough green forage to meet the full nutritional demands of our ewes, things do look better for the spring grazing season.
Looking longer term, I'm still very concerned about the availability of water this summer for irrigating our pastures. We'll know more when the Nevada Irrigation District meets at the end of this month, but this warm series of storms didn't store much water in the form of snow - crucial to our summer irrigation season. We'll see....
For now, we've sold about 20 ewes to reduce the demand we're putting on our feed resources. We've identified 35 or so more that we would sell if it turns dry again. And we're planning to wean our lambs early and sell them in early May (5-6 months earlier than normal). This Friday, I'll move our ewes onto un-grazed pastures near Hidden Falls Regional Park near Auburn. We grazed these pastures two years ago, but they haven't been grazed since. This will allow us to reduce or eliminate the hay that we've been feeding for the last four months. Lambing will get underway in early March.
Keep the rain coming!