Hoof power takes care of poplar regrowth

PROGRESS, B.C. — Glenn Hogberg used hoof power instead of horsepower to clear the wood regrowth in his poplar-logged fields.

His cattle turned the rough land into pasture through intensive grazing.

“The idea is to get the cows to do as much as they can do,” said Hogberg, who farms near Progress, B.C., west of Dawson Creek.

In 2005, contractors logged about 200 acres of a 300-acre field for a nearby mill.

They left behind a tangled mess of stumps and branches. The area was aerial seeded, but the following two years were dry and it was tough to get the grass growing.

The poplar shoots from the logged trees had no such problem.

By using intensive grazing and winter feeding, most of the logged fields have become good summer pasture.

“It’s a significant difference. It’s a pretty holistic approach,” said Hogberg.

With only 240 cow calf pairs and too many acres, there weren’t enough animals to keep all the trees from turning into a wall of impenetrable brush.

Logging contractors are not interested in cutting smaller areas.

This winter, while clearing a fence line with a brush cutter, Hogberg was surprised at how easily the thumb-thick poplars disintegrated. He may clear the rest of the regrowth with a brush cutter before it gets too large.

“I couldn’t believe how effective the brush cutter was. I see some possibility,” he said. “I’m not interested in working it up. We’re half way to having decent grass.”

Hogberg said intensively grazing the poplar regrowth is a low-cost solution to his problem. Thousands of poplar acres in northern British Columbia have been harvested for lumber, but without fences, water and cattle, they are left to regrow into a thick mass of trees.

Hogberg knows the system works. In 1999, a 100-acre area on his farm was logged and successfully turned into a pasture and now has waist-high rye grass.

“In 36 years, we have never had as much grass. The problem is actually too much grass.”

This year, he began grazing the pasture May 18, two weeks earlier than last year. The difference between the two poplar logged areas is the size of the pasture and the intensity of the grazing, he said.

“In the first 10 years, we did everything to put pressure on the pasture with small five to six acre paddocks. We have successfully eliminated the poplar. The more intensive you go, the better job you do. The key is water and moveable pastures.”

Contact mary.macarthur@producer.com

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