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By: "Gary Pfalzbot"
About the Author

There's an age-old practice in the Missouri Ozarks - burning the fields for the upcoming spring. While this practice has long been an accepted practice, in recent years, not as many farmers are doing this as they used to. For the most part, as much of the agricultural land keeps becoming swallowed up by the city, the farms that were once very large have been cut drastically in size. In our location alone, there is a gentleman that at one time owned over 5,000 acres of prime grazing fields. That was then, this is now. 5,000 acres has become 500 acres, yet he still proceeds to burn each year.

The first question you might ask yourself, "why do people burn their fields?" Mainly for two purposes: one reason is to control the unwanted weed growth in the upcoming spring. The other reason is to control many insects such as ticks and to a lesser degree, harmful bacteria that reside near the surface.

For myself being a native Californian and living in the middle of a high fire danger zone, during at least 11 months out of the year, our particular area had an ordinance against backyard barbecues. And to boot, they even passed an ordinance where a person could not smoke outside their home or in their car when traveling through said areas. Very extreme but if you've seen the yearly wildfires that have raged in California you certainly can understand why these ordinances exist.

I have adopted a practice of burning our field and our waste hay. The field I burn at least twice; once during the late days of autumn and then again right at the onset of spring. The waste hay is dealt with on a weekly basis and this takes alot of thought and planning to be done right to achieve the maximum benefit. Whether you decide to burn your field, your waste hay, or both, you should first check your local ordinances to make certain that it is allowed in your area.

There are two ways to burn your waste hay - in a large pile or spread out evenly. Of course burning waste hay in a large pile is going to create more heat in one area, so anything in this vicinity should be carefully watched to ensure you are not going to catch something else on fire such as a goat shelter, a feeder, etc. If you are burning the waste hay in a goat pen, I would recommend moving all the goats that are housed in that pen to a location that is away from where you will be burning - preferably in a pen that has been freshly burned but not so fresh to where the ground is still hot.

The method I use is to move all the goats a day or so ahead of time and then rake the pen to be burned so the waste hay is evenly spread out and can dry enough to ignite. Wet hay does not easily burn and has a tendency to smolder. The drier the waste hay, the better. When you have determined that the waste hay is dry enough to be easily combustible, choose a day that is not windy and proceed to ignite an area to get the burning started. At this point you may want to keep an aspirator (face mask - mouth and nose filter) on at all times - burning hay has a particular odor that is very thick and there is usually alot of smoke. Also keep a good metal leaf or grass rake with you to keep the fire under control.

About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is the webmaster of GoatWorld. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides near Branson, Missouri where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats, mainly precipitated for the control of Kudzu vine.

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