KERRVILLE – Landowners today face many questions: What is my forage demand? How should I manage my animals? Can my wildlife and livestock coexist, and what do I need to do to help? Should I own my animals or just sell forage?
Dr. Rick Machen, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension livestock specialist in Uvalde, said producers in the Texas Hill Country who have these and similar questions should attend the third annual Bennett Trust Resource Stewardship Conference April 14-15 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center in Kerrville.
The conference is funded by the Ruth and Eskel Bennett Endowment and hosted by AgriLife Extension. Cost of the two-day conference is $75. Register or more information can be found at https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/BennettTrust or by calling 979-845-2604.
“Our ultimate goal is to teach landowners how to be good stewards of the land, water and stock,” Machen said. “Conserve and enhance the natural resources, and at the same time, grow and teach the next generation of resource managers.”
Dr. Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension Bennett Trust specialist in College Station, said this year’s program will aim at helping landowners find a balance on their property, and keep it for future generations.
The Texas Hill Country once was a live oak savannah with junipers confined to the canyons and steep hillsides where fire didn’t travel, Machen said. Then, when man began controlling the fire, building fences and bringing in livestock, they eradicated the screwworm, pressured predators and imported “exotic” grazers and browsers.
“It changed the landscape,” he said. “So now it is a balancing challenge to estimate forage demand with forage supply; knowing your numbers and what moisture, soil and plants are available, and where your management should focus.”
Machen suggests stocking pastures at 75 percent of the carrying capacity and watching what the resources are indicating.
“Is the grass disappearing and being replaced with less desirable plants? Are you starting to see litter dams, where the water is running off and bunching up the dried plants? Are you seeing a well-established browse line with lesser quality plants?” he asked.
Livestock can be compatible with wildlife, he said, but sustainability is determined by the composition of the plant community – grasses, browse and forbs.
Machen said the conference will address these and many other issues, as well as give participants a chance to pick from a Hillingdon Ranch tour in Kendall County, a “Wine and Roses” tour in Gillespie County or a Kerr Wildlife Area tour.