From the Ag Journal (Don Schoderbek):
With few exceptions, your range plants are still alive and will come back. Think of your forage community as a boxer healing between fights. Management objectives should focus on retaining and improving existing plants, restoring soil cover and water capture, and allowing for recovery of the forage community to support livestock production again.
1. Range management
The loss of reliable fence – and the ability to control grazing livestock – should alone be enough to avoid the temptation to turn cattle out following the first flush of green forbs.
Donâ€™t be in a rush to begin grazing burned areas. At a minimum, burned pastures should not be grazed for one growing season. Ask yourself, how was the range condition before it was burned? If you have problem pastures, they could probably use some extra res
Fire presents an opportunity to change the layout or design of your pastures. This is probably the largest â€œsilver liningâ€ of a fire – the ability to re-develop fencing and water into a new sys
If possible, keep livestock water running (even if at a reduced flow). Your water tank might be the sole source of water for deer, antelope and birds of prey still living on the land.
Recommendations for four-wire fences usually incorporate a 12 ? ga barbless (â€œslickâ€) bottom wire, hung at 16″. This allows for movement of antelope, while keeping your cattle enclo
Establish permanent monitoring points, and account for them in your infrastructure plan, like you would a windmill or trailer. CSU-Extension has fencing supplies available for this purpose, and can assist in the design and implementation of exclosures and photo points.
More detailed monitoring information can be found in the Colorado Rangeland Monitoring Guide, available for free from the Colorado Cattlemenâ€™s Association or CSU-Extensio
Try not to overgraze unburned pastures. This will create a lose-lose situation, with increased supplementation costs, decreased livestock gains, and doing long-term harm to the rangeland.
2. Livestock management
Do not plan to return to normal stocking rates for several years on burned areas. Base your future decisions on the amount of actual forage available on the ground.
When making herd management decisions (i.e. culling, maintaining, dry-lotting etc.), work within the time frame of the fire recovery time. In most cases, multi-year planning is required.
Continue to monitor livestock for secondary effects of the fire – partial blindness, respiratory problems, foot damage, and starving calves (udder damage).
Early weaning can expand your grazing period for a few weeks in a cow/calf herd.
3. Emergency erosion control
Some sandy sites are extremely vulnerable to erosion. In these sites, agronomic methods (such as seeding) are likely a waste, as any new plants will be buried or sheared by moving sands.
Management of sand blowouts should focus on increasing surface roughness. A low-rate manure application (2 – 3 tons/acre) and rolled out bales of hay/straw are some short-term solutions.
When controlling blowouts, start at the windward leading edge and lay the treatment down in parallel strips. Focus on the areas of erosion, and not the areas where soil is being deposited.
Other resources available:
University of Nebraska Extension has an excellent, modern guide called â€œGrassland Management with Prescribed Fire,â€ EC148. This document also covers post-fire recovery and management practices. Available for $1https://marketplace.unl.edu/extension/ec148.html
University of Wyomingâ€™s Dr. Derek Scasta has published a detailed, relevant technical resource called â€œWildland Fire in Wyoming: Patterns, Influences, and Effects,â€ B1271. This is available for free onlihttp://www.wyoextension.org/publications/html/B1271/B
Don Schoderbek is a Regional Specialist (Range Management) for CSU Extension, serving 31 counties across eastern and southern Colorado. His office is located in downtown Sterling. His phone number is (970) 522-7207, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.