Ranchers work to reclaim Texas southern Plains

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David Crow and Matt Crow on horseback

Through the years, the once open prairies of South Texas have become covered in assorted thorny brush with a spattering of pricklypear. David Crow’s primary goal in acquiring Parks Ranch some 20 years ago was to restore the coastal prairie for sustainable cattle production.

“Native grasses thrive here,” Crow says, adding that brush encroachment has a significant detrimental impact on water utilization, absorption and recharge.

The ranch, like many in Texas, is prone to extremely high summer temperatures and low rainfall — a recipe for overgrazing. In 2022, for example, they had less than 8 inches of rainfall through late August.

“The temptation during times of drought is to cut back, but if you don’t continue to invest in your ranch, you go backward. At times last year, the only green thing here was mesquite, but we kept that back so what little moisture we finally got was able grow grass,” Crow says.

Crow’s theory in fighting brush is to “keep open spaces open” and systematically restore the grasses. He sets aside an annual budget, working his way around the ranch. Following the Texas Grazing Land Coalition methodology, he concentrates on eliminating brush in one area of the ranch for three years.

With help from Corteva Agriscience’s Range & Pasture portfolio of products, he’s made significant progress in the last 20-plus years. Crow manages croton (goatweed) and knocks back Macartney rose (rose hedge) and dewberry vine with a mix based on GrazonNext® HL herbicide. He tackles other species one by one, using the high-volume foliar (leaf-spray) individual plant treatment (IPT) method. He uses Sendero® herbicide to control mesquite and GrazonNext HL on small huisache.

Brush control on the ranch is achieved mostly by using herbicides via IPT and aerial broadcast applications, along with some prescribed burning. But Crow says they don’t shred pastures.

“Shredding, particularly huisache, creates a huge taproot requiring large amounts of herbicide to eliminate it,” he explained.

Now more than 4,000 acres, the Parks Ranch consists of 10 pastures, inlaid with water tanks so cattle don’t have to travel more than a ½ mile for water. Multiple pastures enable Crow to practice rotational grazing and optimize grass.

“It doesn’t rain grass,” he says. “But with deferred pastures, you get that spurt of growth — it takes off with a little moisture. So, when you do get rain, you have more options.”

Crow says growing out cattle on grazed forage is most economical. He only buys hay for the horses. Crow and his partner, son Matt, run two cow herds — one calving in spring and another in the fall — so grass management is intense.

Historical moments

The father of four and grandfather to four, David Crow is enthusiastic about the ranch holdings, driving him to preserve the land for future generations. Parks Ranch also holds a special piece of Texas history. Established in 1860, the Parks Ranch is the site of Col. James Fannin’s surrender to Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army in the Texas Revolution of 1836.

“This land is too valuable; it’s too important,” Crow says. “Santa Anna marched across this land, and Col. Fannin surrendered across the road. It’s worth preserving for future generations.”

Crow’s commitment to the land and the industry also is evident in his active participation in producer organizations. He’s a board member of Texas & Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT) and the Coastal Prairies Grazing Land Coalition.

Crow and Parks Ranch have been recognized with many accolades, including a Lone Star Land Steward Award, and the ranch was recently named a regional winner of the 2022 Environmental Stewardship Award. As the program’s longest-tenured sponsor, Corteva Agriscience, formerly Dow AgroSciences, is proud to help the cattle industry share these important stories.

GrazonNext® HL has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with GrazonNext HL and to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. Consult the label for full details. GrazonNext HL and Sendero® are 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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