Consider plants, property goals in brush control

There are so many combinations of ways to control brush it is mind boggling. But hold on — think it out before you start.

Charles Hart, Texas AgriLife Extension range specialist, Stephenville, challenged the many attendees at the Biennial Big Country Beef Conference in Abilene to first ask themselves two basic questions before they get after brush: “Why do you want to kill a plant?” and “What are your goals on your property?”

Key Points

Landowners should decide goals before brush control work.

It is vital to know what plants you want to remove or keep.

Many methods for brush control are available to landowners.


He said the answers may largely depend upon whether you are primarily a livestock producer, strictly a wildlife operation, or some of both. That will influence how you manage brush.

Hart travels a lot, and he hears reasons like the following from producers on why they want to control brush:

gain more grass

save water

keep brush out of fences

maintain aesthetics and tradition (Dad and Granddad liked it that way.)

easier accessibility to property

perception of an increased land value

The feedback he gets goes on and on. But those are some of the main reasons why people desire to do some brush work.

Of course, Hart also hears from folks who tell him the reasons they don’t have a brush management program:

Brush control is too expensive.

Chemical brush work would be too close to cropland like cotton.

Landlords may not want to go along with brush control.

Know your plants

Hart said before brush work, know your plants and what you want to kill and why. And identify the plants you want to save. Good brush control involves identifying goals, taking inventory, implementing and evaluating.

He advised knowing your main objectives, but also having second-priority areas. Brush control can be mechanical, chemical, biological or a prescribed burn. Many seasons aren’t appropriate for a controlled burn due to severe drought conditions or a lack of rangeland fuel to support a fire.

Reclamation fires, which are very hot, are aimed at significantly changing the land and plants. A maintenance burn is a cooler fire targeted at cleaning up range and pastures.

Brush control can also be carried out by many mechanical methods. Tree shears, like those attached to the front end of a Bobcat, have become a popular method. Some equipment complements the shears by also chemically spraying the stump.

Mechanical mulching is common on juniper (aka cedar) brush. But you can sometimes get too much mulch for the ground.

Grubbers are popular for mechanically removing trees from the ground. Some rigs are very big, while others work from the back of tractors, such as hydraulic attachments.

Roller choppers can be effective on prickly pear when combined with herbicide. There are many different kinds of roller choppers.

Chaining and disking are more prevalent in some parts of Texas than others on tough brush.

Root plowing remains the old, reliable way to get brush — root and all — but it’s not cheap.

This article published in the December, 2011 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.