A passion for grass powers brush control

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wood ranch cattle

Clark Wood Jr. confesses he wasted some of his father’s money on youthful exuberance at Texas Christian University 60-plus years ago. But not all of it. The Ranch Management Program there inspired his life’s passion: growing grass for cows.   

The Ranch Management Program at Texas Christian University 60-plus years ago inspired Clark Wood Jr. life’s passion: growing grass for cows. 

“Our instructor, Arthur Courtade, was a grass man, and he instilled that in me a love of grasses,” the West Texas rancher says. “That’s all this business is. It’s grass. If you don’t have grass, you don’t have anything.”

“I’m passionate about grass, and I’m against anything that competes with it, like weeds and brush.”

That passion and conviction show today on his family’s 14,000-acre C Bar Ranch near Slaton, Texas. Wood operates the ranch with his son, Trey Wood, marketing Angus, Charolais and Red Angus seedstock.

In a favorable spring like that in 2021, green grass carpets the ranch’s open landscapes. Many of those landscapes are dotted with skeletons of dead mesquite.

“We’ve got about 95% of our mesquite under control now,” Wood says.

Then the rancher cites a common rule of thumb: A ranch can support one cow per section (640 acres) for every inch of annual rainfall. The annual average for Slaton is 21 inches — 21 cows per section.

“We’re above that,” Wood says, “but we’re still understocked.”

SUCCESSFUL AERIAL TREATMENTS

Wood made a big dent in the ranch’s mesquite population with aerial treatments in 2014, 2016 and 2017. In those years, he sprayed different blocks of mesquite with Sendero® herbicide at the rate of 28 ounces per acre.

“We killed big brush, little brush and lots in between,” Wood says. “Some were 8- to 10-foot-tall mesquites. Lots were smaller. But little brush is going to be big in a while. When I spray mesquite, I want every one of them dead.”

He estimates his rootkill over all three years at 90% or better. He’s been careful to follow the prescription for aerial spraying of mesquite: warm soil temperature, healthy foliage and the right timing window.

“We’ve been blessed,” he says. “Usually, you’ll see new [mesquite] seedlings in two to three years after treatment, but we haven’t seen any yet.”

Native grasses have increased and filled in. Blue grama is the dominant grass over the ranch, but big bluestem shows as well. Sand dropseed has increased with recent moisture.

“We have such a diversity of soils on the ranch, and that’s reflected in the grasses,” Wood says.

Sendero is noted for getting control of mesquite but having minimal effect on other woody plants. It leaves most nontarget plants valuable for wildlife. For Wood, that meant it left most of his hackberry trees unharmed — he estimates 80% survived, though not uniformly.

In some areas, most of the hackberries died, and in other areas, very few. “That’s OK with me,” he says. “Hackberries are OK for shade, but they can get too thick too.”

FOLLOW-UP MAXIMIZES BENEFIT

One thing about killing mesquite, Wood says, is that it makes it easier to see understory pricklypear cactus and bear grass (yucca). He regularly hand-sprays to control those species, as well as isolated mesquites, by using the appropriate herbicides. That helps to keep brush at bay to maintain control. 

Wood also aerially sprays pastures for broadleaf weeds about every year.

“Weed spraying every year has really made a difference,” he says. “It’s been a fantastic help on grass. Even if it didn’t pay every year, it pays over the long term because it keeps little mesquites suppressed.”

A small percentage of mesquite sprouts are killed by weed spraying each year. Others are defoliated and stunted so they never grow into a bigger problem.

Wood is a keen observer of such things in his drives around the ranch. It helps that he’s not always stopping to open a gate.

“I put in cattle guards between the pastures partly for my father,” Wood says. “He liked to drive around, and I wish I’d put in more for him then.

“Now, it’s heaven in my old age, just driving around looking.”

 

™ ® Trademarks of Corteva Agriscience and its affiliated companies. Sendero® is covered by U.S. Patent No. 10,412,964 and other pending U.S. patent applications, international patents, and pending international patent applications. Sendero is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions.

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