Bison Farm Diary

Goings on at a Kansas buffalo farm.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pasture Burning

The wind was going down at 5 pm last night, so Verne and Dyllan started the Eastern Gammagrass on fire to get rid of the old grass clumps. We have a planted pasture of it on the northend of our land.

Eastern Gammagrass is native to Kansas, and the bison have eaten it for centuries. It looks like big clumps of Pampas Grass, and can get three to four foot tall. It has a wide leaf and is sweet to the taste. When Kansas was fenced by the homesteaders, cattle liked it too and ate it down to the ground, which killed it out in most areas.

Because bison eat and roam, and this type of grass needs 6-8 inches of the crown left on the plant to rejeuvenate, it thrived on the prairie with the bison's grazing pattern.

The goal was to burn the old growth off, leaving fresh new grass to come up from the ground. Old dried stems can poke the animal's eye as they try to get the fresh stems, and it just tastes better not to have old grass in a mouthful.

From the picture you can see Verne is equipped with a water tank on his back with a short pump to dose fire, the red fire starter, and the rubber flap to hit out stray fires. (The Visitors Center is in the background.)

I was driving the pickup with the big water tank in the back, and Dyllan was manning the hose from that tank. They burned a strip west along the driveway and north along the fence and road ditch first to form a fire break, then went to the south end of the pasture and started the main fire.

From the second photo taken this morning, only part of the pasture burned as the wind died down and the fire could not jump from clump to clump in some places.

Verne had planned to burn again tonight to get the rest of the clumps, but we're getting a light rain today so the grass will be too damp.

Most people don't realize what we do to maintain pasture... to graze the buffalo... to provide meat for our customers. This is all to mimic what nature did centuries ago when prairie fires cleared the dead winter grass for the bison's spring food.

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