Fire!: The Benefits of Controlled Burning

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There is a surprising enemy of the native grass pastures and that is: Trees! More specifically the Red Cedar, Osage Orange (Hedge Apple), and Locust trees.  Among these, others are lurking such as weeds and parasites. The Tall Grass Prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems and the only way to keep this ecosystem healthy is by using prescribed burns.

At Grant Creek Ranch our goal is to preserve, restore, and enhance this important ecosystem found at our farm. A prescribed burn will kill any new seedlings that try to come up which will aid in keeping the pasture tree-free for the following year. It reduces the need to spray for weeds and may reduce internal parasites which live in the pastures over the winter. Finally, it will enhance grazing by the cattle which we know contributes to all that delicious grass-fed goodness.

So how does it work? Areas that burn the best contain the most grass fuel. These just happen to be the least grazed areas from the past grazing year.  Vice versa, areas that will burn the least are the heavily grazed areas from the past grazing year since there is not as much grass fuel.  After a burn, new grass will quickly grow and the cattle will want to eat the new grass over having to pick through last year’s dead grass to get to the new growth. So the areas that burn the best, the under grazed areas from the year before, will be grazed during the new grazing year while the overgrazed area from the year before will not burn as well and the cattle will not graze this area as heavily because there is not as much new grass.  This effectively rotates the cattle to new areas of the pasture and forces them to graze more efficiently.

Read more about the benefits of burning!