Spring Pasture Burning


Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchMany of you may have noticed (cough, cough) that spring brings with it the annual pasture management practice of prescribed burning. The whole world, it seems, is a haze of choking smoke. Ash settles on absolutely everything, and most people are complaining of stuffy noses and a hacking cough, and are generally grumbling, “When will it end?! Why in the world do they have to do that!?”

Well, even though we join in on the smoky and oft-despised practice on our farm, I hate the constant smell of smoke, too. And all of my household are sporting uncomfortable allergy and cold-like symptoms. However, I admit I didn’t really know why we did it, other than maybe weed control. So, I learned why. And I will try to help you all to understand, too!

Here in my part of Kansas (Wabaunsee County), we generally burn from March 15 through April 15 (tax time), although according to some agricultural scientists, this can be extended through mid-May. This time is optimum to ensure burning does not hurt the new grass that is emerging, and that it helps control the weeds and brush starting to come out. It facilitates the growth of native grasses.

The timing of burning is specific to region, so if you are reading this to learn for your own information so you can burn your own grassland, please be sure to find out the proper time to burn in your area. The type of grass you wish to encourage, the timing of pasture leases, and the condition of the pasture (wet or dry) may also play a part in the timing of your burn. This time of year is before the usual start to the grazing season (mid-April or early May), so pastures have time to green up before cattle are put on them.

Another consideration when planning a burn is the weather. You should not commence burning if the wind is forecast to be above 12 to 15 miles per hour. In addition, humidity should be above 25 percent and temperature should be below 80 degrees Farenheit.

Obviously, burning can be very dangerous.

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