Bush Sunflower rarely seen on rangeland in our area, with the exception of the lonely one growing within an existing ‘bush’ such as skunk brush or any other low growing bush that protected the highly palatable bush sunflower form being grazed to ‘death’. Although the leaves and stems feel very harsh being somewhat scratchy and not being a particularly showy or pretty ‘weed’, livestock and wildlife alike readily graze it. Being a perennial plant having 26% to 31% protein in the early spring, its robust root system makes it a drought tolerant plant that can be an unbelievably valuable resource for rangeland health and the ranchman’s pocketbook. (A very opportune time to have a high protein source of forage available coming out of winter months.) The assumption that the bush part of the name was derived from its tendency to be found growing within a bush, is supposedly incorrect, as given the opportunity to flourish within a good grazing program it is said to develop a bush like appearance. (Still waiting to observe this.) As time goes by, on rangeland protected by a good graze-rest program, the plant is becoming ever increasing in prevalence like the one pictured below, without the ‘bush’ being present. (Young mesquite in picture being excepted) Areas that are under a continuous grazing program seldom have bush sunflower present other than those growing in a bush as referred to above. When numerous bush sunflowers are present, it is an excellent indicator of improving rangeland health.
The current blessing of the prolonged ‘wet’ spell is perhaps the best grass growing episode in memory. (Some 6 weeks of continual green-growing plant life, this doesn’t happen in this area often) Little weed competition, adequate rains (Nothing big, just slow soaking moisture on a regular basis), warm weather but not to hot until this week and rangeland that has been properly grazed with a well-planned graze-rest program.
The Vine-Mesquite (Some call it spaghetti grass because of the runners that hang from the cattle’s mouths as it is eagerly grazed) along with Buffalo grass has certainly taken advantage of conditions to send their stolon’s (runners) out in all directions to establish themselves on new territory. Close observation reveals many seedlings of very desirable grasses and the Big Four of forbs are also showing great response of this amazing episode in rangeland recovery.
Oh, what a productive life they will lead with the tender loving care provided by their grazing managers utilization of a well-planned and applied grazing program. Much the same, my grandson Brant’s life will be amazing to watch as he grows and learns from the tender loving care given by his parents, grandparents and the many others that are close to him. Hopefully becoming the 6th generation of ranchmen on the Price outfit.
One of the largest areas of dominantly Vine Mesquite I have seen.
Exciting things are happening on rangeland that has been properly cared for through utilization of a carefully planned and applied graze-rest program. The recent rainfall across the area, granted more in places than other, is proving exceptionally valuable on areas that have a continuous cover of healthy perennial grass plants. Even the places that received sparser amounts of moisture are showing amazing recovery from the limited rainfall of late winter and spring. Regretfully, but fully expected, the areas that have not recovered from past continuous and sometimes heavy grazing are struggling to achieve the growth needed to allow the rangeland manager to be assured of good grazing through the summer season. Leaving that producer dependent of “a good follow-up rain soon” of course all concerned will thankfully take it if the Lord sees fit to send it. Recovery of rangeland is a slow process and is directly proportional to the brittleness (Total rainfall and low humidity levels) of the environment the rangeland manager is working within.
Had the honor of making a presentation at the 2021 Hemphill County Beef Conference. One of the best county organized symposiums I have seen, learned much more than I had to offer. Andy Holloway and his Ag Committee did an outstanding job. The first session of my talk is below. A short ad is seen prior to my presentation, which depicts the quality of the Hemphill County symposium, the paid supporters of the program were recognized often.
I’ll provide the second session at a later date.
Microbiome: Now that is a complicated word for a country boy that is very dependent of and thankful for Word and Spell Check. With all its complexity and lack of understanding, I am going to predict that the study, and understanding of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses and other one celled organisms) and the role they play in virtually every living thing, will ultimately be one of the most important discussions and understanding of the world we live in that modern science has ever taken on. Simply put microbes are everywhere, some are considered to be bad, but most are beneficial and are being found to be key combaters of the bad ones. Overall scientists are finding microbes are important to our health along with the health of livestock and the rangeland resource. (Early on many believed that virtually all microbes were bad and needed to die, thus the rampant use of antibiotics, that paradigm is changing quickly.)
As we begin to recognize how important soil health is to our rangeland resource and how positive change can quickly occur. It is also being seen that microbe activity within that soil profile are not only the result of good grazing management practices but given the opportunity those microbes move the soil health forward, thus making the rangeland that much more productive. Microbes along with ‘critters’ like earth worms and dung beetles are what breaks down manure, old grass, leaves and wood into humus and are also responsible for the wonderful aroma that fresh tilled soil produces. (Try sticking your finger into a heavily grassed area and smelling the dirt, then scratch that finger into bare soil. The difference in smell is very noticeable.) The trick is to provide an environment for those ‘little fellers’ to flourish. Bare ground and poor soil moisture are not the environment they need. Through a good grazing management program, the soil profile is improved so moisture is retained and a food source (decaying plant material) is available to those microbes. Once that process is established the soil profile begins to improve at an exponential rate- if the grazing program remains active- revert to a poor grazing management regimen and the process will cease, taking the condition of the rangeland back to its original depleted state.
Neat thing is we don’t have to buy any microbes from a dealer, all that is required is apply the proper management and the little critters do it on their own. Trash farming or no till as it known to some, can result in amazing transition. One farmer I know, after initiating his ‘trash farming’, took his tilled soil from 0.3% humus to 3.0% in just three years. Rangeland soil health improvement is very notable within a few years of instigating an effective grazing management program.
Improving cattle health has numerous opportunities with the use of microbial research not only for the digestive system but even the respiratory system. The understanding of these relationships of environment-plant-animal and human health and their relation to the microbes around us has great potential.
A good article suggesting these relationships can be found in Drovers Journal.
Another source of information is:
Engelmann or Cut Leaf Daisy in full bloom. The pasture pictured will not have livestock in it until May 15, plenty of time for the highly preferred grazing plant to secure its perennial root and reproduction systems, so that it can be available next year for increased grazing capacity. Yes, it will be grazed during a slightly different season the next grazing cycle.
Nature seems to always be looking for the best resolution when a challenge presents itself. The spring is no exception in the area that Sims ands I work. The photo depicts Huisache Daisy and Texas Filaree, both of which can provide greatly beneficial spring grazing for livestock and wildlife. The Huisache Daisy (Also known as Coke County Tallow Weed) is in full bloom, barely 2” high, including the bloom. The Texas Filaree is seeded out with the awns of the seed being twice the height of the leafy portion of the plant. (Take note of the sorting stick in the background.)
The promise of a flush spring after the December and January snows has faded into the glume of very sparse rainfall this spring. Yet instead of declaring a disaster nature has flexed into survival mode and is producing a seed crop despite depressing conditions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans had a consistently favorable-positive outlook on what is happening around us?
If this small piece of rangeland, with a well-designed and implemented Rest-Graze plan, had a good cover of perennial grasses and forbs this picture would have a more positive story to tell despite the limited rainfall.
Kit Pharo recently provided a quote written by Friedrich Nietzsche.
“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” ~
Grazing pastures noticeably short, while sometimes unavoidable, is not the best policy -even within a sound graze-rest program. The energy needed to provide the grass plant the ‘jump start’ that is needed to produce new growth after grazing is critical to rangeland health and the recovery from a grazing event. Question is: Where is that needed energy stored within the grass plant that is needed for recovery from grazing-fire-trampling-even mowing? The first assumption is the root system, but researchers have found that the stems, rhizomes and stolons are also involved in that reserve energy storage, not to mention the growth nodes of each particular species of grass. Some of which are at the ligule or juncture of the stem and leaf. Some would say do not graze the plant at all, that is a severe mistake in that it will die from lack of use. Creating the beginnings of a desert, primarily in dry low humidity areas.
Each family of grass seems to have its own way of surviving, some like Texas Bluegrass and Texas cup grass. Being bunch grasses, if grazed to the ground are extremely slow in putting on new growth when rainfall and or springtime permits a flush of greening. (Seem to green up and just ‘sit’ there producing little growth for considerable time. While their cousins that were not grazed close to the ground quickly put on new growth and flourish.) Others, like Buffalo grass seem to tolerate close grazing better, possibly because of the rhizomes it produces that grazing animals and fire cannot get to.
The net result of this little course in grass growth is to show the importance of utilizing a rangeland management program that encourages healthy root systems and above ground plant structure. Those managers that can produce this healthy ecosystem find themselves much more profitable due to the drought resistance and quick growth when the rains do come.
Excelling in grass land management is not a one approach fits all. It is a process that must address many factors.
Within the video link below find an excellent description of how this process works and a bible verse that is very descriptive of the process.
7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
First photo shows Texas Bluegrass that was grazed noticeably short in the fall. While showing to be healthy and growing it has achieved little leaf length when compared to the next photo of TBG that was not grazed short last fall.
Photos were taken same day, zoom in and notice the shape of the tips of the leaves. Pointed and cupped like the keel of a boat. An easy identifying characteristic of Texas Bluegrass.
Considerable discussion and comments to recent posts has been had as to who is responsible for our degraded rangelands and the continuation of that degradation. Perhaps it would be much more productive to identify what the cause of this loss of rangeland productivity is and how to resolve that cause. Once this has been accomplished, perhaps finding those responsible would be in order. Be careful though, as each of us probably has been part of the problem, whether it be producer, scientist, extension, or politician. Everyone involved in caring for the rangeland is responsible to some degree, blame will not resolve the problem. This is true with virtually every problem locally, nationally and personally. Placing blame seldom resolves an issue. Establishing the cause and treating it the best resolution, treating symptoms is only a temporary fix.
A very telling difference between the two photos below. First is one day after deep freeze this past month. Cattle fared the storm well although the rangeland is very slow in recovery.
Second photo was taken 1st on March last year. Ranching is only predicable in one way in West Central Texas. IT WILL BE DRY MORE OFTEN THAN NOT!
The recent rains and snows have added wonderful moisture to the stressed rangelands in our area. Being winter moisture coming on rangelands that have received no moisture since September 10 last year, the rangeland response has been slow in coming. Those operators that have healthy summer and cool season perennials will receive positive results over time, but patience is in order. Those that have pushed their grazing operations to the point of little cover of healthy perennial plants and little to no cover of litter over the soil will regretfully receive small benefit. As the bare ground will not be able to store the moisture and most will evaporate. (Additional rains would certainly be of great benefit to all.) Yes, winter weeds like Texas Filaree are making a showing even on those bare soil areas and will provide some desperately needed grazing later in the winter. However, those operations that have developed those strong rooted grasses and good cover will enjoy some recovery from dry conditions even if further moisture is limited. Cool season perennials like Texas Bluegrass, Canada Wildrye and yes Texas Winter Grass will soon have beneficial grazing for those animals being moved to fresh pasture. Those operations that do not have fresh-rested pastures to move to, will suffer the economic trials of increased feeding of purchased products. An expensive process at best.
Picture shows a Claret Cup Cactus or possibly Hedgehog Cactus. (I will leave the final call on name to plant guru’s that are much more qualified to ID. Special thanks to Kent Ferguson and Mark Moseley for their help in providing me possible names.) The one pictured is by far the largest I have ever observed and perhaps the first, being some 2.5’ across and 12” or so tall. Looking forward to catching it in bloom, as it might be an awesome site.
Note that the prickly Pear is considerably dense at this site. I am not too concerned about it, as close by am seeing signs of it dying in large areas of natural causes. It will be interesting to watch and see if the Hedgehog is affected by this phenomenon.
The Better it Gets the Faster it Gets Better.