Wildfire news, May 22, 2009

Wildfire effects on grazing

It is interesting to read the recommendations of Terry Bidwell, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, about how ranchers should manage their pastures that burned in one of the recent wildfires.

“The impacts of a wildfire on forage production are similar to a prescribed fire and landowners should take advantage of that,” he said. “For example, we can expect a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in stocker cattle gain or about one body condition score (improvement) for cows on burned areas. This is true for either a wildfire or prescribed fire. That is why many ranchers burn. They also get the added benefit of brush control.”

Several management considerations following a wildfire should be taken to ensure the desired outcomes. Included in those considerations is that some areas may need to be deferred until plant growth is adequate to support grazing. This is highly dependent on precipitation.

Proper stocking rates should always be used, and with adequate precipitation areas can be grazed with intensive early stocking, as long as producers make sure to remove cattle by July 1 and not graze the area again until after frost. Also, the proper use of fertilizer, rotation of salt, mineral and feeding locations and avoiding the same areas and plants at the same time each year will benefit.

“The impacts of wildfire to the land are beneficial and landowners should take advantage of it. Some of the wildfires that removed large eastern redcedar trees could be worth as much as $200 per acre in cost savings of cedar removal,” Bidwell said. “The key is to not overreact. All of Oklahoma’s ecosystems are fire dependent and therefore adapted to fire.”

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