Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chute N The Bull 9-18-10

Grasslands are complex environments comprised of many different kinds of living organisms affected by abiotic factors such as weather. There are few things that are black and white in such complex ecosystems, but there may be some self-evident "truths." If you haven't considered them in your grazing operation, perhaps you should.

Rotational grazing

Grazing systems developed over the past 100 years attempt to optimize the productivity of pastures while at the same time produce a useable or saleable product. What most rotational grazing systems try to do is mimic the defoliation patterns under which grasslands were thought to have evolved; severe defoliation of native flora by massive herds of native ungulates (hoofed animals such as bison) for a relatively short period of time. Did short-term overgrazing occur by bison? Of course it did.

The integrity of these grasslands was maintained because bison would not return to these heavily grazed areas for many months or years, giving the land adequate opportunity to recuperate. Short duration grazing, high intensity-low frequency grazing, management-intensive grazing and, recently, mob-grazing have all been introduced as the grazing system that best mimics the movements of the great bison herds of the past. Fences were not in place back then, but rotational grazing occurred by herd movements over time. Isn't it interesting that these massive herds were able to maintain their numbers despite no one being around to feed them hay all winter long?

Diversity of grazing species

Historically, the Southern Great Plains was a very diverse ecosystem with a mixture of grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees on the landscape. Bison preferred herbaceous vegetation; woody plants were not their forage of choice. Fortunately, there were other ungulates that did utilize woody plants as well as forbs. Pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer were common on the Southern Great Plains prior to European settlement. Today, domestic cattle have taken the place of the bison, and many cattle producers spend huge amounts of money trying to kill plants that some animals (e.g., deer, domestic sheep and goats) use. Fencing is a challenge for sheep and goats, but money spent on weed and brush control would buy a lot of woven wire fence. Cattle didn't pay for five-strand barbed wire fences the first year they were up, either.


The impact of fire on the Great Plains cannot be overstated. In addition to grazing, plant communities evolved with fire during all months of the year. The resulting regrowth was preferred by grazing animals, and Native Americans would use this technique to attract the great bison herds. Fire on the Great Plains has been reduced significantly since European settlement, resulting in increasing woody vegetation such as Eastern Red-cedar. Not using prescribed fire can lead to loss of grassland, landscape heterogeneity and plant diversity, not to mention the cost of trying to control woody plants with chemicals. Fire is not a stand-alone tool. In conjunction with a targeted grazing system and a diversity of grazing animals, you may be able to use forbs and woody plants instead of fighting them. You can find this and past articles on the web at for your reference. Extension programs serve of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating serve of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating

Cow Country Congress

2010 Cow Country Congress

To Be Held in Freestone County
September 23th, 2010

Cow Country Congress is an annual multi-county event supported by the Extension Beef & Forage Committees from Walker, Madison, Houston, Trinity, Leon, Freestone and Anderson Counties. This educational program rotates within the group of host counties each year. In addition to the traditional seven county area, beef producers from outside these counties are invited to attend this educational program. Participants in attendance will have the opportunity to visit with a variety of commercial exhibitors several times during the course of the day between presentations, demonstrations, and tours of the host property.

The 2010 Cow Country Congress program will meet at one of the F.E. Hill Company Ranch locations located north of Fairfield, Texas. The program is scheduled for Thursday, September 23, 2010. F.E. Hill Company Ranch is a multifaceted agricultural enterprise that has been known in Freestone County for extremely high quality hay production, and intensive beef herd management characterized by progressive reproductive practices. The ranch also uses an intense land management program that allows them to decrease production cost. Waterfowl and Whitetail Deer are managed for and are abundant on their property. Topics discussed at this Cow Country Congress will include new methods in feral hog control, wildlife diversification on the ranch, fly control in the cow herd, and genetics and their role at F.E. Hill Company Ranch. A live cattle handling demonstration will also be provided along with a discussion by the Luminant Power Big Brown Complex Reclaim Team. The site where the event will be hosted is a reclaim site resulting from coal mining operations in the area. The team will discuss the reclaim process and share some recommendations on land management. This event will also showcase truly outstanding facilities for working cattle.

Program registration will begin at 8:15 AM. The program will begin with introductions at 8:45 AM. Individuals interested in attending the 2010 Cow Country Congress should R.S.V.P. prior to September 21st to the Freestone County Extension Office (903) 389-3436, or one of the other participating County Extension Offices from any of the seven sponsoring counties. A registration fee of $10.00 per person will provide each participant a Barbeque Lunch with all the trimmings! In addition to the benefits of a catered lunch, on-site commercial vendors, and touring the ranch operation, each participant with a Texas Department of Agriculture- Pesticide Applicators License will be eligible for 2 IPM hours of Continuing Education Credits for renewal of their license. Additional participant credit of 1.5 hours will be given for Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) recertification. Directions and a printable map may be downloaded from the Freestone County Texas AgriLife Extension Service web page at

Provisions from the American Disability Act will be considered when planning educational programs and activities. Please notify the County Extension Office if you plan on attending an Extension Educational program and need specialized services. Notification of at least two weeks in advance is needed, so that we may have ample time to acquire resources needed to meet your needs. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.

Thank you,

Tommy Neyland
County Extension Agent
Texas Agrilife Extension Service
P.O. Box 188
Centerville, Texas 75833
903.536.2531 phone
903.536.3804 fax