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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Managing Grasslands with Fire: Potential Benefits to Livestock Producers

Authors
item Mitchell, Robert
item Larsen, Dana - USDA, NRCS

Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 7, 2007
Publication Date: August 7, 2007
Citation: Mitchell, R., Larsen, D. 2007. Managing Grasslands with Fire: Potential Benefits to Livestock Producers. Symposium Proceedings 2007 Nebraska Grazing Conference P. 72-75, 2007.

Interpretive Summary: Prescribed burning can provide many benefits to livestock producers, and is an important tool for managing grasslands. A single prescribed fire can be used to control eastern redcedar, increase warm-season grass production and nutritive value, and improve animal performance. However, there is an inherent risk associated with prescribed burning. Prescribed fires are applied in a specific place at a specific time under specific conditions to meet specific management objectives, whereas wildfires are unplanned and occur as a result of lightning or human negligence and can have an undesirable effect on plant communities. Safe and effective prescribed burning requires training, planning, and site preparation. Experienced prescribed fire applicators must use caution to minimize the risks associated with prescribed fires. However, with proper planning and skilled application, prescribed fire can provide an excellent return on investment for livestock producers.

Technical Abstract: Fire occurred naturally in grasslands and is the oldest method used by humans to manipulate grasslands. Today, fires are typically identified as wildfires or prescribed fires. Wildfires are unplanned and occur as a result of lightning or human negligence and can have an undesirable effect on plant communities. Prescribed fires are applied in a specific place at a specific time under specific conditions to meet specific management objectives. Special considerations are given to wind speed and direction, soil moisture, fuel load, ambient air temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture and volatility, and plant growth stage. Prescribed fire can be used to meet many management objectives simultaneously in warm-season grasslands. For the livestock producer in Nebraska, a single prescribed fire can be used to control eastern redcedar, increase warm-season grass production and nutritive value, and improve animal performance. Grassland response to prescribed burning is complex and its use must be considered based on well-defined management objectives for a specific site.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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