Healthy riparian areas have great value including soil stabilization of creek banks, water quality, habitat for fish-wildlife-insects and the microbiome that flourishes above and beneath the soil. When cared for properly not only are those sites beautiful, the positive environmental repercussions are tremendous.
Much time and study has been given as to how to enhance those precious resource areas of the rangeland. It seems that most of time the suggested treatment is to fence the area out from livestock grazing. While I have not had the opportunity to observe many of those fenced out areas, I do have the privilege of observing riparian areas that have not been fenced out and are simply part of a planned grazing program. (Properly applied animal impact should never be ruled out of any rangeland management program, as it is one of the key components creating a successful rangeland management program.) While the riparian areas within the ecosystem of West Central Texas tend to eb and flow rather dramatically as to the amount of water present, properly grazed areas seem to continually improve- regardless of the amount of rainfall God blesses us with.
Results of a riparian area within one of those ‘properly grazed’ areas. After being grazed for 25 days, cattle were removed from this pasture some 40 days ago and will be rested for 225 days. Make note of the large Switchgrass plant at start of video and the Redberry Cedar at the end. The Cedar shows the current water level is above normal, many other plants seen indicate a consistent water source. (Cat Tails-Button Bush-Sedges-and many more)
THE BETTER IT GETS THE FASTER IT GETS BETTER.
Old World Bluestem continues to show excellent ‘vertical’ growth after removal of cattle 32 days ago. If you zoom in- it is beginning to put on seed heads, another week should reveal considerable seed production. Now as to the Indiangrass in center of photo, it has achieved 2, 3 maybe 4 times the growth of the OWB. From recent posts of same plants, the Indian and OWB were grazed to approximately the same height. While this photo does not adequately reveal the increasing density of the Indian, close observation provides knowledge that many young plants are making headway.
An analogy can be made that OWB can be a very productive forage producer when a properly applied grazing program is utilized. However, don’t get too attached to it, as the Indiangrass just might overtake its dominance. (And some say I am not an optimist!) As for me I’ll take the diversity and with the rangeland grass managers caring hand and natures awesome influence, the improving rangeland resource appears to be secure.
Take note of the dense Texas Wintergrass at top of picture. As it has matured, the strong winds of West Texas have thrashed the spears, and is currently dispersing the tall seed stalks, what remains underneath those mature ‘Spear Grass’ plants reveal what summer grazing season has in store for us. More on this next time.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ONLY FACTS were used to address the degraded condition of our natural resources and the environment that is largely influenced by those resources? So many times, emotions and ill formed perceptions are considered the key to recovery of our environment and the facts are lost in the process. Granted, facts are extremely elusive these days, as one can find just about any “FACT” on the internet and social media that the reader wants to believe.
As we advance our understanding and implementation of effective grazing programs, the recovery of our rangeland resource is nothing short of phenomenal. The effective rangeland manager has the privilege to observe how soil erosion is becoming a thing of the past, how soil health is improving much quicker than most dreamed possible. With that improvement in soil health it is quite evident that carbon is being sequestered within that healthy soil, microbe activity seems to instantly come to life. (You can smell the healthy soils.) Water is being stored by those healthy soils and little is lost to runoff or evaporation, lessoning the damaging effects of drought. Animal health is good with seldom need for use of antibiotics and the need for pesticide use is minimal, and in some cases, no longer needed. (Granted those rangeland managers are a long way from having every aspect of rangeland recovery at the level he would like, and most likely will never get to that premiere level of land management.) All these things are exactly what the environmental movement says they want. The problem is, very few if any of the effective rangeland managers are considered qualified scientist and have no ‘certifiable’ knowledge base to document the exciting results of a properly applied grazing management and animal welfare production program. Thus, the ‘FACTS” that he has to offer are without credence, unless one considers the opportunity to show -on the ground- what is happening.
This is what I was referring to in my past post ‘Fake Meat and The Green New Deal’. Given the opportunity, we must let our story be known to others. Yes, as some of the comments received point out, one must be careful how this is done. When showing or commenting on environmental issues, at the upper levels, proper media training is essential, and the support of well-prepared professionals is essential, but it can and should be done. (While the ‘good old boy’ approach works well for us country folks, the producer must recognize that the within the political realm everybody is a professional and have been trained to be so.)
Preventing the implementation of uniformed environmental policy just could save our environment from the scenario the proponents of the “Green New Deal” are predicting. Potentially, if the ‘Green New Deal’ proposals were to be implemented, the environment would be the one that suffered most. Of course, one must wonder if the environment is primary reason for the authors writing this proposal or is it just a front to justify their ultimate goals. Whatever those goals may be. (I am trying to stay away from politics and deal with the facts. So, you can determine what the ultimate goals might be.)
For your viewing pleasure:
This creek has been flowing crystal clear water for over 9 months now. Two 50 to 100-year flood events ‘redesigned’ a considerable portion of this creek, reestablishing the riparian-pristine conditions will take time. What a blessing the Lord has provided. And the grassland manager needs to do his part in caring for His gifts: Providing a bit of properly applied-well planned grazing management only assists the Lord in his plan.
The better it gets. The faster it gets better!
May have found an alternative use for Old Word Bluestems.
While observing young Indiangrass plants in an area dominated by Old Word Bluestems, it was noted that virtually all the young Indian plants were growing within the clumps of OWB’s which are considered a ‘bunch’ grass. The various bare ground sites surrounding the OWB’s do not show signs of Indian germination or establishment. (Bare ground it a result of the dominance of the OWB, bunch grasses do not have tillers or rhizomes.) Of note, the OWB was dying that the Indian had established itself within. MMMMmmm. What if we have found a way to reduce the population of OWB and increase the Indiangrass at the same time?
Some of you ‘professionals’ feel free to offer your thoughts. This is a new one for me, and perhaps I am miss reading it. Take the time to zoom in so you can differentiate between the Indian and OWB.
1st picture shows Indian and OWB two days after cattle were removed. Both were heavily grazed in the short time the cattle were present.
2Nd picture shows young Indian growing within the center of a OWB. Using it as a HOST plant?
3rd picture shows a developed Indian plant that has dominated the OWB, perhaps killing it?
I was recently involved in a discussion about when to rest a pasture after completing a brush management practice. The first response was to rest the pasture for the entire growing season. That resulted in another question. Which growing season? This caused a bit of confusion among the group, as most considered the growing season to be from spring green-up to fall when growth of warm season grasses ceases. (Good for warm season plants, but what about the cool season ones.)
If you are fortunate to ranch in an area where the climate permits cool and warm season grass growth, deferment from grazing during that cool season growth period may be as important as rest during the warm season. If the grazing manager hopes to build a program that does not require feeding of the livestock anything other than the forage that is raised on the rangeland, warm and cool season plants must be as vigorous as possible. (No cake-no hay-no tubs-no blocks) Some consider this an impossible task without severe reduction in animal performance. This is incorrect as ranching operations from several regions of the nation have accomplished it. Including West Central Texas.
The next issue raised during the conversation was: Is rest for one season enough after brush management or should it be a continuing rest. Ranchmen have been fighting brush for decades and it continues to be an issue even on lands that have received extensive treatment in the past. OK, next question. Why can’t we get ahead? The obvious answer is: We have not addressed the reason or cause of the brush problem. That cause is grazing practices that do not encourage strong-vigorous-dense cover of rangeland perennial grasses and forbs. Last question. How is that accomplished? A grazing program that is continually ongoing, rotating rest from grazing seasonally in all pastures.
Observing cattle graze can be less than exciting, that is until one observes what they are grazing. This two-year-old first calf heifer seems to be enjoying some of that much maligned KR Bluestem. With properly applied-effective grazing program the KR goes ‘vertical’ and provides some very good forage for cattle, which during rapid growth the cattle obviously enjoy grazing.
Looking down on the rangeland should not be considered a negative or derogatory aspect. This spring season is one of the most notable in terms of looking across the rangeland and making potential serious mistakes in analyzing what is happening. Statements like: “Never saw so much grass.” “The Spear Grass is taking over.” “I’m surprised there isn’t much Broom Weed this year.” “Weeds are taking over, if not killed there will be nothing to show for this rain we are receiving.” The list can go on for several pages and the statements may be correct, or incorrect.
Now let’s look down: The below picture is a good example of what the rangeland can tell us if we look closely. The reader will possibly be able to see things that I have missed -the point is- we have to look closely to determine what the range condition is, what the potential for the rest of the year might be and perhaps what should be done to make it better for the future.
Here are some of the things I see:
- Among all the plants seen the Reverchon bristle grass and another grass to the left, that is beyond my expertise to identify, are the only ones that have been grazed.
- Both grass plants have been grazed well below the 50% that many say is desired.
- The ground litter is very good except for the bare soil, and even it has a tolerable sprinkling of litter.
- There is possibly some sign of termite activity on the litter. This is not a bad thing as decomposition of plant material is important for soil health.
- The bare soil shows signs of pooling of rainfall and no erosion activity. Would take a ‘really’ big rain to run water.
- Some very palatable weeds are present such as one of the Plantains showing no evidence of grazing. Should sheep be added to the grazing mix?
- Annual Broom Weed is present. Will it dominate as the summer season progresses?
- To the right of the Reverchon are two small grasses, they do not appear to be seedlings and are probably lesser value short grasses. (Red Grama?)
- To the lower left of the Reverchon are grass seedlings, babies too young to identify, but are much wider leafed than the previous grass plant mentioned. Improving rangeland conditions?
- Texas winter grass to the far right shows no sign of grazing. As the spears of the seed head mature most grazing animals cease grazing it and move to other plants for grazing, unless that is all there is to graze and if that is the case animal condition may suffer.
- A large amount of grazable forage will be lost as summer heat reduces much of the cover to unusable grazing material. Low density grazing? A good cover crop that will be utilized by termites-earth worms-microbes-etc. to improve soil health.
The analysis of each site will always be different, but trends will be obvious with a little practice. One exciting trend noted this season is the increase of Buffalo Grass beneath the heavy cover of Texas Filaree. With a continuing effective graze-rest program this can be a ‘game changer’ with respect to drought resistance.
The management solutions to questions raised are up to the grazing manager. Looking down is the only way he can make an informed judgment.