A Cowboy’s Faith: Pasture blazes are dangerous – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Pasture blazes are dangerous

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“There’s smoke in the air everywhere.”

That has been the most common comment throughout eastern Kansas in recent weeks. Likewise, the statement is the most controversial issue at this time of year.

Farmers and ranchers are not as much in disagreement about burning pastures as decades ago. However, there are still old timers who argue that it is an unnecessary practice that wastes feed supply.

Consensus among cattlemen and Flint Hills owners is that spring burning is essential. Purpose is twofold in that it helps destroy invaders to the native grassland and it improves grassland quality.

The main problem nowadays is the environmental issue caused by smoke drifting into urban communities.

Many regulations have been put into place determining when it is legal for landowners to burn. Wind direction and speed are major factors along with humidity, temperature, and other issues. Permission must be received before burning is permitted.

Nature is still the controlling factor. Even though all conditions are perfect when a fire is started, everything can change instantly. A planned fire can become out of control and very dangerous. Strong winds will force fire across native grassland destroying everything in the path. That includes personal lives, livestock, homes, buildings, machinery, even communities.

Regardless of the firefighting crew, a blaze pushed by strong wind is completely impossible to stop.

Populations of certain pasture invaders including brush, trees, and certain weeds are reduced by spring burning. However, additional chemical applications as well as hand mechanical efforts are required for complete control.

It is not a one-time effort, but must be done on a regular basis. Wind and animals will continue to bring seeds of the invaders back into native rangeland. Without management of the invaders, the grassland can become a timber in just a few years. There are numerous examples where former pasture ranges are heavy forests.

Considerable research has proven additional benefits of burning. When the dead grass is destroyed, young lush prairie has an opportunity to thrive. Tender new green grass is very high in protein so cattle gain pounds rapidly. There is no faster way to increase cattle gains than grazing spring native pasture.

Despite all the positives from burning grasslands, negative issues of fire dangers and smoke continue.

Reminded of Matthew 5:22: “Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.

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