Pasture and Forage Minute: Red Cedar Control and Fall Hay Inventory

Controlled burn of red cedar trees
A prescribed burn continues to be the most economical approach to controlling Eastern red cedar trees. (Photo by Troy Walz)

Pasture and Forage Minute: Red Cedar Control and Fall Hay Inventory

Prescribed Burning for Cedar Tree Control

By Jerry Volesky

Eastern red cedar trees are a significant and expanding problem across many pasture and rangeland acres in Nebraska. When fire is planned and controlled properly, it can be a very useful tool to control these unwanted plants. 

It is estimated that a single cedar tree with an eight-foot diameter could reduce forage production by three pounds. If you had a density of 200 trees per acre, that would translate into nearly a one-third loss in forage production because of the effects of area coverage, moisture use and shading.

In addition to cedar tree impacts on forage production, excessive cedar trees will also dramatically alter habitat for many wildlife species that are adapted to a grassland environment. Also, in the event of a wildfire, uncontrolled cedar tree growth can result in devastating and destructive wildfires. 

While mechanical cutting or shredding and herbicides are options to control cedar trees, a prescribed burn is by far the most economical approach.

Safe and controlled prescribed burns don’t just happen. It takes preparation, planning and an understanding of how fire reacts in certain weather conditions, with particular fuel loads, and on various types of topography.

You can begin to learn how to conduct a safe and effective prescribed burn by attending the 2023 Nebraska Prescribed Fire Conference. This conference will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5 in Kearney. To learn more about this conference, including registration and agenda, visit the Nebraska Prescribed Fire Conference site.  

Fall Hay Inventory

By Samantha Daniel

How much feed or hay do you have going into winter? Will you have enough feed to provide for current cattle numbers?

Consider the “best case” and “worst case” scenarios. Count bales, measure silage, evaluate remaining fall and winter pasture, and estimate how much possible grazing there will be. Of course, get a real idea of how many calves and feeders you will have. Some may have too much feed laying around that is getting old. Selling some may generate a premium. 

Another action plan to consider is buying feeds that are cheaper now and storing them through the winter. We know how to do this with hay and silage, but what about distiller’s grains? Mixing with low quality feeds and packing in a bunker or in a bag can significantly reduce the cost of protein and energy supplements during the winter months. This is especially helpful if cows are coming off grass thin and need to improve condition before calving.

Planning is indispensable. Having a feed inventory and checking prices and availability now will go a long way to reducing the anxiety of what we will feed our cows this winter.

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