2018 training class SV #4
San Marcos, TX
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT & GEOLOGY WALK
Article and Photos by Andy Witkowski
Click on images to view in Lightbox.
On September 4th a group of about 25 Master Naturalists met on a 30 acre ranch Northwest of San Marcos to hear two presentations specific to the location. When the land was purchased 10 years ago it was, as is much of the hill country, overgrazed and stressed. The new owners were motivated to start the process of encouraging the reintroduction and reestablishment of native grasses and other plants. Blake Hendon, Wildlife Biologist with Texas Park and Wildlife, was on hand to walk the group through the pastures to discuss particular aspects of range management.
Stocking rates were discussed in detail and how different sites, different government entities and different animals affect this number. Stocking rates or animal units are a critical calculation to folks who manage rangeland or pastures with animals.
Not only is this used in determining agricultural tax exemptions, but the understanding of allocating appropriate amounts of forage is an essential step in protecting the long term viability of your land. Essentially, based upon a 1,000 pound cow who needs about 3% of their body weight per day in forage, coupled with a “take half/leave half” strategy for sustainability, in an ideal Hill Country ranch there should be about 15 acres per cow.
For landowners who find themselves in similar situations, with overgrazed rangeland he stressed that it is important that we understand the unique ecosystem and work to reduce the negatives and support the increasers as the natural process of succession occurs.
The next stop on the ranch walk involved our own Hays County Master Naturalist, Geologist Tom Jones discussing rocks and the history they tell. The property presented a unique place to discuss the geography of the hill country; sitting on an extension of the Balcones Fault, this stretch of Karst topography of the lower Edwards formation had numerous examples of flint, fossils, and what is believed to be an oyster reef.
Standing in the field where 100 million years ago was a shallow sea, remnants of life remain. Plankton and other sea living animals left their detritus and debris in the form of silica and calcium carbonate. From the early Cretaceous to Quaternary periods, deposits of sediments were happening simultaneously with the uplift of the continent which created the Gulf of Mexico and the Hill Country.