Prescribed Burning for Quail

By Paul Henry / in , , , , , , , /

The beauty of fire is that it does a lot of
things for you simultaneously, relatively inexpensively. We’re interested in the Prickly
pear control, forb development, bare ground, good brooding country, but from a cattleman’s
standpoint, cattle that are grazing on burned country gain about 15% more than those grazing
on unburned country. So there’s an economic incentive for the cattleman as well as for
the quail guys, it’s a win-win situation. We’re doing that, we’re doing it inexpensively,
and we’re doing it safely as long as it’s done by trained personnel. The date of burning,
the season of burning can have a big impact on what your results are, and so we’re experimenting
burning basically every month of the year to see what kind of vegetation response that
we get. This was burned on August the 5th, it was 100 degrees, relative humidity was
fairly high, about 30% for a summer burn, winds about 6-10 mph, and we pretreated it
with two quarts of Roundup. I like what I see from this. Number one is we’ve got a heck
of a burn down on the Prickly Pear, a February fire might give us 20-30% control, an August
fire might give us 50-60% control, at this point in the game, it looks like we’ve got
over 80% pad reduction. What makes me giddy about this particular combination is the amount
of forbs that we grew. We’ve got a lot of weeds coming up out here as a result of bare
ground, and then September precipitation, we’re growing a lot of Texas Filaree and California
Filaree, those are two little annual weeds that quail seem to really like. This is called
Tasajillo Cactus, “Pencil Cactus”, “Turkey pear”, “Jumping Cactus”, from a quail hunting
standpoint, it’s a real nuisance. It’ll just get all in you, and Tasajillo fire alone can
give us a real good control of that, so when we get into some areas that have a lot of
Tasajillo, just that initial fire will probably knock it back enough that we will be pleased.
We would not have to apply a herbicide just for the sake of killing Tasajillo. Looks like
we’ve got about 2-5. Bird’s alive. Be sure and check on them right after the flame front
goes through. Ok. Make sure that this north side gets burned in pretty well, kind of get
us maybe a third of the way down and then you know, based on that you can go ahead and
start working your way up. Ok. The technique we’re using called “Drip Backfiring”, we have
a staggered approach here where torch #1 takes a small bite, torch #2 takes a larger bite,
torch #3 takes a larger bite to where as a result of having all three of those torches,
now we’ve got a sufficient area of black line that we can run our head fire into. We’re
trying to devise a more quail friendly approach to Prickly pear management, and the basis
of that is still going to be prescribed burning, but we’re going to be burning every month
of the year to see what our vegetation response is. Cool season fires as well as warm season
fires, and we want to note not only how much Prickly pear control do we get, but what is
the impact on things like Western Ragweed, Dove weed, some of those annual and perennial
forbs that are really important to quail. Y’all did a good job of protecting our quail
houses out there, and so another successful burn down, that makes 35 here at the Research
Ranch over the last year, and we still have a perfect safety record, so let’s not rest
on our laurels, let’s stay sharp and hopefully we will have 36 the next one. We ought to
be learning something from every fire that we do, I hope you’re taking advantage of that,
and Seth why don’t we have you and Becky continue to stay over here for the next couple of hours
and just mop up, just make sure we don’t have anything that might jump across the fire line,
and otherwise we will see you on the next burn. Let’s go.

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