Frank J. Buchman

Cowboy • Horseman • Writer

Woody Brush In Pastures Can Be Limited With Control Efforts

Burning, herbicides, and utilizing goats are among the options to help control woody brush in pastures.

Rangeland and pastures can be taken over by buckbrush, Eastern red cedar, and honey locust.

Some reproduce by seed, others by a horizontal creeping root system. Left to grow, they can reduce the quantity and quality of desired forages.

Walt Fick, range management specialist at Kansas State University, said there are several methods to use either alone or in combination with each other.

“Timing is important in all of these. Unfortunately, they aren’t all susceptible at exactly the same time,” Fick said.

“Normally, they need to be fully leafed out. Bud stage as these plants start to flower, that’s a good time to treat them with a herbicide.”

Fick said it takes planning to get the right herbicides for a particular species in a field.

Sometimes mixing 2,4-D with other products is the most effective way to get long-term control.

“Proper grazing management’s top of my list in terms of thinking, you know, if we do not overgraze or do things like that, we probably will not have these problems as much. Fire is an important thing, so prescribed burning is effective,” said Fick.

“Thinking mechanically, cut these off based on their physiological cycle and do some good in terms of setting them back.”

Some are easier to knock back than others and the methods will vary depending on the species. And it’s rarely a one-and-done approach.

For example, if Eastern red cedar trees are not more than a few feet tall, prescribed burning works well. However, they will be back in a few years, and you’ll have to do it again.

Fick said you’ll have the best results if you attack within a window of opportunity.

Goats are an interesting option. They will eat just about anything and will mow down the brushy stand pretty well.

Goats’ propensity to browse rather than graze like sheep or cows can work in their favor.

While fencing would have to be a consideration, there has to be strategic use of goats when deploying them,

Overall, goats can be valuable management tools. They can go where equipment like bulldozers cannot and they are considered low impact animals, meaning they rarely cause soil compaction or erosion issues.

Goats are also great for steep areas and can help control the encroachment of brush within firebreaks.


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