If you have been out to Wild Horse this week you have seen our haying operation on some of the "wooga". So what is the purpose of such operations? Most of you will appreciate the easier search for balls and better chance for recovery from the rough and while that is a benefit of swathing, it is not the main priority. The goal of haying is long-term health of the prairie that separates one hole from the next. Our intention is to set back some of the warm season native grasses which should create space for other forbs to prosper. This is similar to what prescribed burning does in the spring to cool season grasses except during the summer the target is warm season grasses. Grazing would be the best option to selectively thin grasses and create species diversity, but that isn't very feasible so we will use haying as an alternative that can reduce overall production and open up the canopy of the stand.
So why have we not done this before? Our goal with our burn program that started 15 years ago was to reduce bluegrass and bromes while encouraging warm season native grasses. Up until now we have not wanted to dissuade our native grasses but we feel like we have enough of those species that we can start limiting their production to maintain a good variety of cool and warm season grasses and also encourage more wildflowers and forbs.
Our plan is to swath some areas now, others around the end of July, and a couple areas will get it both times. We want to see the difference in intensity and timing and how it affects each area and what plants seem to respond best. We will probably do this for a few years to see how the prairie responds during both wet and dry years. Prairie evolved under fire and disturbance such as grazing so that is what we will try to simulate with our prescribed burns and haying operation.