Pastures up in flames

Pasture burning is a spring time ritual in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Fire is a great grass management tool to control weeds, burn off old dead grass and kill woody shrubs and cedar trees--which cattle can't eat and can choke out the native grass.
Yesterday afternoon, we contacted the neighbors and the police department to alert them that we would  be burning a pasture. In addition, we checked the smoke modeling online to make sure the smoke would dissipate before reaching a metropolitan area.
We burn the pasture to remove the old dead grass, and new grass begins to regrow within hours! By burning at the time that the woody shrubs are just beginning to bud, it controls the invasive shrubs and trees that would kill out the grasses.
This is only about 100 acres, but some pastures may be 1,000s of acres burning at the same time.
Our ranch is staffed by our family! We have one neighbor who helps us from time to time, but these are two of my boys overseeing the fire. At left, my son holds a fire stick that we use to set fires. The 4-wheeler on the right has a water tank on it to put out the back fires.
The fire boss (my husband) oversees the burning operation. Burning takes a lot of organization, equipment and then finally nerve! But it is a necessary job in the Flint Hills.
For more information about burning pastures for environmental management, see previous blog posts:  Photo Blog - Grassland Management via FireThe Kansas Prairie is Up in Smoke Cattle Ranchers are True Environmentalists


  1. Great info and awesome pics!

  2. I agree with Jent :)
    It was great to read another great post on your blog... yours is one of my very favorites!

  3. I'm pretty sure I drove by this pasture Monday while hauling students to a Wheat State League meet. It's totally amazing to see how fast the green starts appearing.

    Love, love, love the pics!

  4. We are usually burning this time of year too, but most of the state has been under a burn-ban for almost 2 months. Our drought has got to end soon!

  5. If this is beautiful this of all the wildlife that is being destroyed

  6. I appreciate your concerns about wildlife. We are actually creating a better space for wildlife. The whole ecosystem benefits from healthier grass. I have stood in the middle of the grass as the headfire approaches, and have not seen much wildlife running from the flames. Also, if they are able to climb deciduous trees, they are not touched as the flames do not reach that high.

    We work hard to improve the land for cattle, people and wildlife! The number of wild turkeys, quail, pheasant, deer, rabbits, coyotes, and even mountain lions in this area show that we are doing a great job keeping their habitat healthy!

    Thanks for your comments--I wish you had posted your name instead of being anonymous, so we could have connected and had a real conversation.

  7. We do this too! Except, ours is much much much smaller scale. Isn't it lovely how it grows back?

  8. Love your pictures..........they turned out really neat. We burn our flax stubble....acres and acres at a time too.

    Stop over sometime for a visit.

  9. How can you assure that the smoke doesn't reach metropolitan areas? I live north of you (Nebraska) and we actually had air quality warnings this month that authorities blamed on grass fires in Kansas.

    I'm not saying what you are doing is wrong or trying to start a debate - just simply pointing out that what we do has an effect on others.

  10. Carole, I am not guaranteeing our smoke doesn't hit metropolitan areas. I know some days the wind turns or it is just inevitable that the smoke does impact the air quality in a city. We truly do try to check the wind patterns and use that in making a decision as to when to burn. But, ultimately, it is very important to burn and we have to just get it done.

    Please be patient with us on those days. We are doing our best with the first year of the Smoke Management Plan. Not everyone is aware of it and how it works. I believe as time goes on, more farmers and ranchers will take the wind patterns into account when they make their burning decisions.

    We totally know what we do has an impact on others--you are preaching to the choir here!:) Nearly everything I do on my land impacts someone else! We try to make the best decisions for the land and the people.

    Thanks for reading my blog. I always welcome debate or comments!


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