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June 2020 CVCA Newsletter – Managing Native Grass Forages

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Catawba Valley Cattlemen’s Association
(meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month)
This month’s meeting is on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at the Propst Cross Roads Fire Department (Hwy 10 and Hwy 127 South). GPS Address: 3169 Plateau Rd. Newton, North Carolina 28658

Meeting Agenda                                                 
6 p.m. – Supper is served.
6:45 p.m. – Business meeting – Mr. Andrew Rector, president
7 p.m. – Educational Program: Fire Safety, Prescribed Fire Burning Options, Visit Big Bluestem Plot to discuss Management Options
Speakers: Mr. Mike Weaver (Fire Chief), Mr. Jeff Icard, (County Forester), Mr. Jason Smith
(Regional Wildlife Specialist)
8 p.m. – Meeting adjourned


  • Sheep/Goat Show Friday @ 5 p.m., June 21. Location: Hickory American Legion Fairground.
  • Beef Expo Saturday 10:30 a.m. June 22. Location: Hickory American Legion Fairground. Showmanship 10:30 a.m., Lunch. Burgers prepared by CVCA. Heifer Show @ 1 p.m. Dairy Steer Show following the heifer show.

Managing Native Grass Forages Patrick Keyser, Professor and Director, Center for Native Grasslands Management Using Prescribed Fire for Managing Native Grass Forages. Prescribed burning is widely used to manage native grass pastures in the Great Plains and Midwest. Burning native grasses has a number of benefits but is not necessary for managing native grasses. Productive, vigorous native grass stands can persist for years without any fire at all. ****One benefit of burning native grasses is that it can help suppress weeds. However, the amount of suppression depends on the weed species and the timing of burning. Earlier burns (March through early April) can be very effective at reducing encroaching cool-season weeds. That is because they are often actively growing at this time and the fire either kills them outright, in the case of annuals or seedlings of perennials, or suppresses them in the case of established perennials. ****In the same way, later burns (mid-April into May) may set back the native grasses because they are actively growing at that time. However, these later fires, as well as those that occur toward the end of the growing season, can suppress woody species such as sweetgum seedlings or briars. If these woody stems are still small, they may be killed outright by these growing-season fires. ****Burning too early in the spring (before mid-March) can lead to encroachment of cool-season perennials such as tall fescue. This is because the fire releases whatever species are ready to grow once the field has been burned. By burning in early March, for instance, tall fescue will be ready to start growing but the natives are still weeks away from breaking dormancy. ****On the other hand, any burn that occurs shortly before the native grasses break dormancy in early April will give them a competitive advantage. Burning also can help native grasses grow more quickly in the spring. This is because the blackened soil absorbs more solar radiation and is able to warm-up more quickly. **** Another advantage of burning native grasses is that a large amount of nitrogen and phosphorous is released into the soil. The burning mineralizes the elements bound-up in the litter and duff from previous years’ growth. The effect is short-lived though. Nevertheless, grasses that emerge following burning provide higher quality forage, at least for several weeks during the beginning of the growing season. In fact, studies have shown that cattle (and bison) selectively graze portions of pastures that have been burned within the same growing season. ****If you do decide to burn native grasses, it is important to take care to select the correct firing technique. Normally, back-burning (into the wind) is preferred because it is safer and easier to control. Weather conditions must be acceptable with moderate winds and relative humidity. Both these factors exert strong influence over fire behavior. Be careful to have fire lines in place on every side of the field to be burned prior to your burn. If you are not experienced with burning, find someone to help you who is. There is no need to burn native grasses more often than once every two or three years.

Cooperative Extension Service has a one-acre Big BlueStem plot at Propst Crossroads. It was first sprayed in September 2017. Big Bluestem was planted in May 2018. This is now June 2019 and it will be probably baled in July. Keep an eye on it. All farms should aim for 25% to 33% of pastures be a Warm-Season Perennial Grass. No matter your location in North Carolina you can acquire assistance for growing Native Warm Season Grasses for the dual purpose for grazing and for wildlife. For Big Bluestem, prescribed fire burns are recommended in late March. Chief Mike Weaver will discuss fire safety. Mr. Jeff Icard will discuss different fire burning options. Mr. Jason Smith (Wildlife technician) will visit the plot and discuss practical tips on when to burn, how to burn, and who to contact before you burn. Jason not only supplies a special drill to plant NWSG, Jason provides prescribed fire equipment such as drip torches and water tanks. There are many good things about Big Bluestem. It needs little to no lime or fertilizer and still produces 3 ton of hay per acre. It may not produce 3 ton every year but it will produce the same as Ky31 Fescue with the same weather conditions on 1/5th the amount of fertilizer or lime. It does this in the summer months when Fescue is dormant. When properly managed, NWSG can provide multi-season habitat for many wildlife species. They provide cover for wildlife due to its growth structure, which creates open space on the ground and canopy cover above. Come learn more. If questions call Glenn Detweiler, Livestock Extension Agent, @ 405-219-1902.