Last summer I spoke a bit about the challenges we faced at Acabonac Farms due to the prolonged drought on Long Island this past season. Simply put – water grows grass. Long Island’s sandy loam soils are already poor at holding water in an average-rainfall year, but when drought strikes we definitely feel some pain. Our regenerative approach to ranching builds soil organic matter, creating a richer more moisture retaining soil, but the reality is it’s a years-long process.
Tracking rainfall is something we obsess over almost as much as tracking weight gains on our cattle; so, when we began to observe weekly declines in the amount of rainfall at the farm we knew we would have to execute our plan to reduce moisture variability. A consistently great grass finished steak requires consistently high-quality forage, and consistently high-quality forage requires (among other things) a consistent supply of moisture.
Introducing irrigation to our operation was not an easy decision for us, not only is it a large investment but we also like to “leave it to mother nature” as much as possible. Unfortunately, with the persistent reduction in rainfall we concluded that mother nature could use a helping hand when it came to watering our fields.
So… this winter we began the installation of a new(ish) irrigation system from K-Line, a New Zealand vendor that specializes in irrigation systems for pasture-based operations like ours.
Irrigation will allow us to water our pastures only when and where necessary, and through an attractive electric rate offering from PSEG we will be pumping waters only during off peak hours. This means no nasty diesel pump fumes and we won’t be straining our local electrical grid.
Beyond lush pastures in summer, we will also be able to grow forage farther into the fall and even stockpile forage for winter grazing. This means our cattle will be able to eat more of the grasses we grow on our own pastures without trucking in as much hay from offsite farms, leading to less emissions from transportation and offsite harvesting.
Ultimately this extra lush forage means even better grass finished beef! We are what we eat after all, and this goes for cattle as well. So, while our irrigation project is keeping us busy this winter, we’re excited to have it up and running come spring.