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REGISTRATION OPENS for 2019 North American Prairie Conference in Houston, TX, June 2-5, 2019 Proudly Co-Presented by: NPAT,…

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Photo of Blue Bonnets in Dry Wash By Jason Weingart, Photographer,…

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2019 TLC CONFERENCE Call TLC @ 512.994.8582: Sponsorship/Exhibitor opportunities Call Hilton Austin Airport @ 512.385.6767, $146/night Room Block Rate. • Conservation Related Policy…

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Prairie Facts

Family Goal: Leave a Financially Self-Sustaining Prairie

Farm to Native Prairie Philosophy

The Kirchoff Family’s restoration efforts on our 200-acre farm, by Don Kirchoff

One of the goals of the Kirchoff Family is to leave to future generations a restored native prairie that is financially self-sustaining. When restoration efforts replaced row cropping and cattle grazing, new sources of revenue were needed. The initial years of conversion to native grass land produced no income to replace grain and cattle sales. The initial rewards of restoration were not financial. They were the return of many native species to this land that once again had become home to native grasses and forbs that provide shelter, food, and water for returning wildlife long ago displaced by agriculture.

Four native prairie management techniques were planned for restoration: shredding, controlled burns, haying, and prescribed grazing. Two of these four techniques generate revenue: prescribed grazing and haying.
The acreage is selected from year to year for prescribed grazing. 
Haying is rotated from field to field to maximize prairie restoration outcomes.

Prescribed Grazing:

The Kirchoffs sold their cattle at the start of restoration, so there are no cattle continuously on their prairie. Prescribed grazing is achieved by leasing grazing rights for neighbor’s(s’) herds - at selected periods during the year.
Electric fencing was installed to facilitate moving cattle among fields to achieve desired grazing impacts.
NRCS and other prairie specialists provide advice on when and which fields to graze.
Intense grazing generally is acceptable after the growing season and after nesting birds have raised their families. This is normally from November through March.
Neighbor’s(s’) cattle are brought into a quarantine area and fed baled prairie hay for a 72-hour period to clear their digestive tracts of possible unwanted invasive plant seeds before moving them to selected fields for intense grazing.

Haying:

Each year 15 – 20 acres are selected for haying.
Preparation has included significant efforts to suppress semi-woody plant populations of Baccharis halimifolia, huisache; Texas Huisache Vachellia farnesiana; and Texas honey mesquite Prosopis glandulosa by chemical treatment and cutting.
The grasses in fields selected for haying are allowed to reach maximum growth and seed production.
Wood from previous years of treatment is picked up and burned to reduce woody material in hay bales.
The taller grasses (switch grass and four-flower trichloris) produce most of the hay volume and native seed content.
However, the shorter prairie grasses, including windmill grasses Chloris verticillata, gamma grasses, Canada wild rye Elymus canadensis, SW bristle grasses Setaria scheelei, etc., are also rolled up in the bales.
The native grass hay was produced with no fertilizer applications.

   

   

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Forage Analysis Report for the 2017 harvest indicated nutrition values of:
Crude Protein:  8.4%
Acid Detergent Fiber:  39.8%
Total Digestible Nutrients:  53.7%
Net Energy Lactation:  0.54 Mcal/lb
These figures are significantly higher than coastal Bermuda hays produced in unfertilized fields, according AgriLife Extension folks.

Don Kirchoff stands in 6’ tall prairie grass prior to cutting

Hay baling operation performed by local farmer

Scott hauls hay to hay barn using equipment owned by the Family.
The baled prairie hay (with native grass seeds) is stored in the hay
barn and sold when hay prices are attractive.

Hay barn full of prairie hay ready for sale

Scott and Don Kirchoff load buyers’ vehicles with Prairie Hay: