Cattlemen and Cattlewomen members, I ask, “ARE WE READY?” Please notice that I say, “WE”, not “I”, not a “FEW”, but all of “US” from north to south and from east to west in our great state of Florida, “ARE WE READY?” to engage in March 2021 and in the months and years to come. “ARE WE READY?” to educate, inform, and take an active role with our elected officials, appointed officials, and the general public about the importance and significance of Agriculture and Cattle Ranching for Florida. In February, I called for commitment and outreach. For March 2021 and beyond I am calling for action! The Florida Cattlemen’s Association will inform decision markers which issues we strongly support and would definitely like them to consider, support, and pay attention to as this legislative session moves forward.
MEMBERS, ACTION is required!
It is up to each of us to make a difference. Your staff, volunteer leaders, and our FCA hired lobbyist will take the lead as we all learn new methods of sharing our message. We need each of you to do your part, to meet decision makers via email, letters, phone calls, and whatever other method might be effective. WE just need you all to engage. If you are unsure about who you need to contact, please reach out to your staff at the FCA headquarters, or send me an email, and we will assist in lining you up with those you need to reach in your district, at a state and federal level. Let’s make 2021 the year that we unit and show our passion, share our heritage, and #opengatesopenminds. “WE” must make a statement that “WE, the Agriculture/Ranching Community, are here to build solutions, and work together across fences, boundaries, parties and whatever else stands in the way of making progress to save Florida’s open space, waters, and wildlife for generations to come. Let’s show it is vital we have Cattle on this Florida peninsular for another 500 years.
Here’s a short list of priorities as reminder and to get everyone going. This is our 500th year! NO new Taxes. NO land use restrictions which ties to our strong support of SB 088, the right to farm act. NO new regulations. On funding, we ask our officials support the Cattle Enhancement Funds (CEB), land conservation funding for Rural and Family Protection Program, and for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, including the Division of Animal Industry, Florida Forest Service, Marketing, and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Services programs. Let ‘s not forget our strong support for the University of Florida IFAS. We must convey the importance of, and the need for, IFAS. Its existence: is vital for our society. IFAS research and education programs provide the knowledge and science to keep our farmers and ranchers producing food while remaining economically and environmentally sustainable. So, let us get up, show up, participate, and do what we do – never give up, no matter what is thrown at us, for that is exactly what we do, persevere through challenging times.
In closing remember who we are,” the salt of the Earth”, earnest, honest, and down to earth. Matthew 5:13 Jesus tells us “you are the salt of the earth”. Jesus uses the ‘salt’ analogy to teach His followers, and believers today, to submit our agendas to Him so that we may not lose our saltiness, nor the privilege of becoming a vessel of God’s love to those around us.Please do not forget to read this month’s featured article on fire. A management tool that is not only important for cattle ranching but also important for our partners in conservation community, and a vital part of Florida’s natural ecosystems.
See article below
Harnessing fire and grazing to enhance cattle distribution, forage, and carbon capture
Betsey Boughton, Hilary Swain, Raoul Boughton
Fire has shaped Florida’s ecosystems for thousands of years. Before humans arrived, lightning ignited fires would occur frequently across the southeastern US. Florida’s plants and animals are adapted to fire and without fire natural habitat quality declines. For hundreds of years, Florida cattle ranchers managed fire in grasslands, prairies, and flatwoods, even during times when government policies were to suppress fires and when it was popular to suppress. If ranchers and foresters had not been using fire for land management over the past hundreds of years, our Florida landscape would look a lot different and the number of plant and animal species we see today would be drastically reduced. Floridians are fortunate that ranchers kept burning and maintained a tradition of fire!
Cattle production goes hand in hand with the controlled use of fire. It is a widely known that cattle and other grazing animals, like bison, are attracted to the regrowing forage in recently burned areas. Our research at Buck Island Ranch has shown that after a fire, forage has higher crude protein, digestibility, and phosphorus compared to unburned vegetation. The increased forage nutritive value lasts for 100 – 200 days’ post fire but the response can vary by year and may depend on moisture conditions. For the last few years, scientists at Buck Island Ranch have been investigating how controlled fire can be used in pastures to influence cattle behavior, distribution, and use, and how fire and grazing interact to affect forage value and carbon capture.
In our study, funded by the USDA, we applied two different controlled burn methods to 16 experimental pastures. In the first method, full-burn, we burned the entire pasture once in a three-year period; with the first burn in 2017. In the second method we burned a different one-third of the pasture each year in rotation (Figure 1). This second method has commonly been called ‘patch-burn grazing’. Rotational use of fire in pastures helps prevent overgrazing a burned patch over consecutive years. Both methods allow us to put fire on the ground, which helps reduce woody plants and remove dormant, less nutritious thatch and grass. Patch-burn grazing has been used for many years by Florida’s ranchers, who often conduct intermittent patchy burns, though there may not have been a formal name for the practice. Patch-burn grazing has also been applied for both conservation and cattle production purposes in the Great Plains region.
Cattle were equipped with GPS units to track their movement within pastures. In Buck Island Ranch’s semi-native pastures for each year of the study (2017-2019), cattle in the patch-burn group spent more time grazing in the 1/3rd burned patch compared to the 2/3rd unburned patches of the pasture (Figure 2A). In contrast, in the semi-native full-burned pastures, cattle seemed to favor certain areas of the pastures consistently across all three years of the study (Fig. 2B). Meanwhile, in improved pastures treated with patch burning we saw weak to little effect of cattle utilizing patch-burned areas (Figure 2C), and in the improved pasture full-burned treatments, cattle utilized the different thirds of the pastures equally (Figure 2D). These results suggest we can use patch burns in semi-native pastures to make areas more attractive to cattle and encourage them to utilize different areas of these pastures that they might otherwise avoid, but this is not effective in improved pastures.
The use of controlled fire can provide many benefits to ranchers and wildlife. These benefits include the reduction of woody plants and improved forage nutritive value along with the ability to attractcattle to other parts of the pasture they might avoid. Burning a different patch of a pasture each year leads to an annual bump in forage nutritive value every year while full burning on a 3-year interval only provides the bump in forage nutritive value once every 3 years. Patch-burn grazing also benefits habitat for wildlife species since cattle will graze disproportionately in recently burned patches, reducing the grazing pressure on unburned areas leading to taller grasses that can provide shelter for wildlife. By creating both short grass and tall grass areas, patch-burn grazing can fulfill the requirements of a greater variety of bird species. During this same study, Archbold’s collaborators from University of Illinois measured carbon capture in the two burn regimes.
The first results coming in from the semi-native pastures suggest that the practice of patch-burn grazing enhances pasture uptake of carbon compared to the practice of full burns. Our data analysis is not yet complete in improved pastures. More results will be coming out soon as well as an economic analysis. Please contact Betsey Boughton at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, we would love to hear your thoughts about the practice of patch-burning.