Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pasture Burning

     The other afternoon and evening, the entire farm and surrounding areas were covered in a haze of smoke. Is this anything to be concerned with? Nope! At least if you can see the fire is aways away and not headed towards you. 

     I should probably warn you right here, this post is going to be rather boring for those of you that come here for the recipes or craft ideas! So I apologize, but be assured, I have two wonderful recipes coming up that will more than make up for it. Promise. 

     Some people wonder why farmers/ranchers burn their pastures and fields. Right now, it's mostly pastures being burned to get rid of the dead stuff. Later after harvest (say, wheat harvest), some will burn the wheat fields before they plant, to clean them up.

     People have burned pastures, fields, and prairies for hundreds of years. Tall grass prairies (such as the Flint Hills) have been kept free of trees by the occasional wildfires that swept through the prairies and pruned them. Do the fires actually kill the grass? The answer is no. While the grass stem on top of the ground is burned and dead, the root of most tall grass is deep underground and not harmed; this factor allows the grass to grow back fire after fire.

     On a side note, if we were talking about burning fields I would launch into the topic of back-fires and firebreaks, but we aren't. So I won't even mention it. Nope, not saying a word...

We burn pastures because:

- Burning helps reduce the brush, dead grass, and weeds. Basically, it's spring cleaning for a pasture.

- It kills the ticks and parasitic worms that hide in the dead grass.

- Pasture burns also help clear the land for native plants to grow better and creatures such as the Sharp-Tailed Grouse need the open prairie to nest on. 

- Burning helps with an "uneven" pasture. When a pasture hasn't been burned in awhile, it develops "clumps or bunches" of old grass. Because the old grass stems poke cattle in the mouth, they generally avoid these areas and go graze where the grass is shorter, softer, lighter, etc…

- Another reason to burn is that burning removes the dead grass or "filler". This grass has no nutrients or good things to offer the cattle and it just fills them up. Since cattle are bought and sold by the pound, it helps when your cattle have grazed on healthy green grass all summer and are fat and slick vs filled up with the dead filler grass and weighing 50 pounds less than the other cattle.

- Besides all of this, burning a pasture can make it plain gorgeous after the grass starts to grow back. It's all green, soft, and new!

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