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Cattle raising in the southern Coastal Plain region, extending from 
Virginia to Texas, is an important, rapidly developing agricultural 
enterprise. There are about !){ million cattle in this region, represent- 
ing an increase of 20 percent in the past 5 years. 

Forage and feed resources of the southern Coastal Plain are made 
up of extensive areas of forest range as well as improved pastures and 
farm crops. In 1943 nearly 1 billion pounds of beef and veal were 
produced, equivalent to about one-fourth of the Nation's requirements 
for military and lend-lease purposes. The continued need for beef 
and hides, economically produced, during the war and in the post-war 
period demands careful handling of forest range and livestock to make 
the most of available forage and feed supplies, without damage to 
the forest. 

A large proportion of the cattle of the southern Coastal Plain graze 
on forest range at least part of the year. This is an old custom which 
has developed many grazing practices well fitted to the country. 
However, some of these traditional practices do not provide for 
adequate livestock nutrition, proper handling of cattle, or the most 
efficient production of livestock and timber. The average small farm 
wood lot is often used by so many cattle for summer shade and winter 
protection that it furnishes little forage and produces far less timber 
than is possible. Improved management, therefore, offers real 
opportunities in range grazing — reduced death losses, larger calf 
crops, heavier calves at market time, greater profits, and minimum 
damage to timber. 

Cattle grazing and timber production are generally recognized as 
an ideal combination in the Coastal Plain. Fully stocked stands of 
vigorous trees close enough together to induce natural pruning pro- 
duce a maximum of timber. In such stands, the amount of forage is lim- 
ited. However, there are on the Coastal Plain vast areas of cut-over 
forests that are not now fully stocked with trees, and a heavy forage 
cover is available for grazing. 

Grazing on forest lands should be only moderate so as to assure 
continued vigorous production of the more valuable forage plants as 
well as tree reproduction. Moreover, if managed so as to make sure 
that no damage results to the timber, grazing has real value in 
forestry by reducing the fire hazard. It also furnishes the landowner 
with an annual source of income. Experience and research indicate 
that the better the range management the greater will be the produc- 
tion and profit from both timber and livestock. 


Cattle need adequate nutrition throughout the year for efficient 
production of beef. When not properly nourished, they become poor, 
produce very few calves, eat more poisonous plants, and the herds 
suffer excessive death losses from starvation during the winter. 
Adequate year-long nutrition can be obtained from forest range when 
combined with supplemental feeding, the use of permanent and 
temporary improved pastures, or both. 

Such adequate nutrition is reflected in greater beef production, as 
illustrated by two similar herds on forest range in Louisiana. The first 
was grazed on fenced forest range in spring and summer, and on farm 

pastures the rest of the year, but was fed 2 pounds of cottonseed meal 
and 4 pounds of cottonseed hulls per head per day for about 100 days 
in winter. In 1943 there were nearly 80 calves per hundred cows; 
calves averaged 355 pounds at 8 months; and herd death losses were 
only 2 percent. The calf crop from this herd in 1944 was over 90 
percent. In contrast, the second herd ran yearlong on unfenced 

Figure 1. — Yearling heifers grazing on wiregrass range in June in southern Georgia. 
Wiregrass range furnishes reasonably good grazing in spring and early summer 
but only fair grazing after early July. 

range, with inadeguate winter feed and an average of only about 
one-half pound of cottonseed meal per head per day during January 
and February. As a result, the calf crop in 1943 was only 35 percent; 
calves weighed 300 pounds at 8 months; and herd death losses were 
6.4 percent. 


Grass is grass to some folks, but forest ranges in the southern Coastal 
Plain differ in type and in forage composition and grazing values. 
They are most effectively used and have highest value if grazed at the 
proper seasons and proper intensity. Among the many types of 
range in the southern Coastal Plain, the wiregrass, broomsedge, 
switch cane or reeds, and bottom4and hardwoods are the most 

Wiregrass Type 

The wiregrass type, found mainly in the longleaf-slash pine flat- 
woods of south Georgia and Florida, is composed chiefly of pineland 
three-awn, Curtiss dropseed, carpet grass, and bluestems, and many 
additional grasses, weeds, and shrubs (fig. I). This type furnishes 
reasonably good grazing from mid-March to early July, but only fair 
grazing from then until mid-October. It may be profitably grazed 



during the winter if Curtiss dropseed is plentiful and if the cattle are 
kept on unburned range and are given enough supplemental feeds. 

Where the forage fully covers the ground, as under open foresi 
stands, the grazing capacity is about 5 acres per cow for spring and 
early summer; 8 to 10 acres per cow for spring, summer, and fall; and 
15 to 20 acres for the entire year. In some well stocked forests in the 
lower Coastal Plain and where the forage cover is thin, the grazing 

Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. 

Figure 2. — Average monthly gains of steers on broomsedge-forest range, during a 
9-year period at McNeill, Miss. These figures show the value of this type of range 
for spring and early summer grazing. 

capacity is so low as to reguire 30 acres per cow for a 7-month season. 
Grazing at the intensities indicated would utilize the available forage 
without adversely affecting the growing forest. 

Broomsedge Type 

The broomsedge type is widely scattered throughout the Coastal 
Plain, but is especially characteristic of the longleaf pine forests in 
southern Mississippi, Louisiana, and east Texas. It extends north- 
ward into the shortleaf and loblolly pine-hardwood forests as far as 


southern Arkansas. The grasses, which grow very densely on cut-over 
timber lands and old fields growing back to trees, are mainly broom - 
sedges or bluestems, with scattered panicgrasses, paspalums, and 
weeds. The broomsedge type furnishes reasonably good grazing from 
late March through mid- July and fair grazing in early fall (fig. 2) . Its 
value is very low in late fall and winter. Carpet grass and Bermuda 
grass, which grow along roads, trails, and on heavily grazed spots 
within the broomsedge type, furnish good forage and help lengthen 
the summer and fall grazing seasons. 

Average grazing capacity of the broomsedge type under heavily 
cut-over or open pine stands is about 8 acres per cow for spring, 
summer, and early fall, whereas 15 acres or more are reguired for 

Figure 3. — Cattle grazing on switch cane or reed range in eastern North CaroHna. 
If not overgrazed or burned, switch cane furnishes valuable forage. 

yearlong grazing with supplemental feeding during the winter. Under 
moderately dense stands of shortleaf and loblolly, mixed with low- 
value hardwoods, such as blackjack oak and post oak, there is less 
grass, and grazing capacity is about 10 to 12 acres per cow for the 
spring and summer. Fully stocked pine stands shade out most of the 
grass and thus have little value for grazing. 

Switch Cane or Reed Type 

The switch cane or reed type furnishes some forage throughout the 
Coastal Plain, but is especially valuable in eastern North Carolina 
(fig. 3). The main forage plant is switch cane or reed, which pro- 
duces" best when protected from overgrazing and fire. Switch cone 
areas are used for grazing during all seasons of the year, but most 
commonly in late spring and summer. Some farmers, however, 
protect them during the summer and graze them only in the winter. 
In parts of Louisiana, switch cane is highly prized for winter grazing. 

Grazing capacity varies from 3 to 12 acres per cow for 6 months of 
grazing, from May 15 to November 15, depending on the density and 
vigor of the reeds. About as much acreage is reguired for 3 or 4 
months of winter grazing as for 6 months of summer grazing. 

Bottom-Land Hardwood Type 

An abundance of shrubs and vines, and scattered tufts of grasses 
and sedges, valuable for grazing, grow in the more moist areas 
typical of the bottom-land hardwood forests in the Mississippi River 
delta and swampy areas scattered throughout the Coastal Plain. 
This hardwood forest type produces an assortment of valuable timber 
trees such as sweet gum, tulip poplar, and ash, the seedlings and 
sprouts of which are readily eaten by cattle, especially in the spring. 
While this type of forest range is highly prized by stockmen, it requires 
more careful handling than the pine types, in order to assure continued 
forest production. 

The bottom-land hardwood areas furnish fair winter forage and 
usually may be grazed moderately at that time. Usable areas have a 
grazing capacity of about 8 to 12 acres per cow for the winter, although 
some supplemental feeds are needed on most ranges to keep the cattle 
in good breeding condition. Heavier grazing than this in winter and 
spring must be avoided in order to minimize damage by cattle to 
hardwood seedlings. Grazing management of bottom-land hardwood 
areas should aim to assure vigorous growth of the forage plants and 
reproduction of valuable tree species. 

Poisonous Plants 

Poisonous plants, widely scattered throughout the Coastal Plain, 
cause many cattle losses on heavily grazed ranges. The most 
dangerous species include Carolina jessamine, black cherry and com- 
mon chokecherry, lambkill kalmia, spotted waterhemlock, crow poison, 
and poisonous mushrooms. Although there is much to be learned 
about these plants in the southern Coastal Plain, it is generally agreed 
that cattle seldom eat them when good forage is adequate. There- 
fore, the most practical way to avoid stock poisoning is to see that the 
cattle always have plenty of palatable forage and other good feed. 
In some cases, it is feasible to get rid of the poisonous plants by cutting 
or grubbing them out, or by fencing them from the main part of the 


Cattle have real value in forest protection as they reduce the fire 
hazard through eating and trampling the forage plants which com- 
prise part of the highly inflammable ground cover. Also, grazing often 
brings about a change in plant cover, such as the invasion of carpet 
grass, which burns less readily than other types of range vegetation. 
In the switch cane or reed type especially, cattle trails facilitate the 
fighting and control of fires. Even light grazing measurably reduces 
fire hazard. Moderate grazing, as recommended in the above 
grazing- capacity estimates for the various forest range types, may 
reduce the grass '"rough" and consequently the potential fuel by as 
much as 50 percent. 

Prescribed Burning 

Fire is a deadly enemy of young trees, and must be kept under the 
strictest possible control. In the longleaf pine type, however, it may 
be practical for a forest owner to divide his forest into several parts 
and prescribe-burn a different portion each year to remove excessive 
rough and fire hazards, prepare a seedbed for pine, control brown-spot 

disease, and furnish fresh, easily accessible forage for the livestock. 
Prescribed burning is burning to attain these desirable ends without 
endangering timber production. Before undertaking prescribed burn- 
ing, the stockman should consult the nearest State or Federal forest 
official, to check regulations regarding the use of fire. 

Longleaf pine reproduction needs to be protected from any burning 
until it is in its second year of growth and from the time the buds are 
6 inches high until the seedlings are 5- to 8-feet high. If there is slash 
pine reproduction intermingled with the longleaf, it is best for slash pine 
to be 12- or 15-feet tall before the area is burned. Under prescribed 
burning the fire should be set in the late afternoon or early evening, 
in late December, January, or February, closely following a rain, when 
much of the vegetation is still damp. Burning should be done against 
a steady, light wind. Under such conditions the fire will burn so slowly 
that one can step over it almost any time. An adequate system of 
fire breaks should be provided and burning done in small units. 

Figure 4. — Cattle grazing in early spring on burned longleaf pine range. Careful 
winter burning in such timber stands holds fire damage to a minimum. Acreage 
of burned range should be sufficient and cattle should be excluded from the range 
until adequate new forage has grown. Bigrning is not recommended outside the 
longleaf pine forest type. 

Burning is not recommended outside the longleaf pine forest type. 

The new succulent forage on burned range in longleaf pine areas 
attracts cattle, and they spend most of the time there (fig. 4). On an 
experimental tract near Tifton, Ga., for example, 80 cattle spent as 
much time in the early spring on 116 acres of burned range as they did 
on 1,460 acres of unburned range under the same fence. It is 
important, therefore, to provide sufficient burned range for maximum 
cattle gains. As a rule, it takes about 5 acres of burned range per 
head of cattle for spring and early summer grazing. Even though a 
sufficient acreage is provided, the cattle should be excluded from 
burns until the forage has made enough growth to maintain them in 
good condition. 

In the switch cane or reed type, intentional burning to freshen the 
forage is not advisable — for several reasons. First, burning delays 
the grazing season from 1 to 4 weeks because new growth is easily 


Q- 5 


Requirement 9% 





Q: o .151- 

^2 05 


Requirement .23% 







Requirement .14%*-^ 


Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. 

Figure 5. — Crude protein, calcium, and phosphorus in wiregrass forage in relation to 
the requirements of breeding cows and growing animals. These nutrients ore 

particularly deficient in native forage during the winter. 


damaged even by light grazing. Second, the foliage produced after a 
fire has low frost resistance the following fall and the leaves drop 
earlier than on unburned plants. Third, the amount of forage avail- 
able during the first growing season after a fire is less than on un- 
burned areas and a larger acreage is needed for each animal. 
Fourth, it is not only difficult, but usually impossible to control fires in the 
switch cane type because of the speed and severity with which they burn. 


Cattle on forest range in late fall and winter need protein supple- 
ments. It is during this time that the forage is most deficient in 

Figure 6. — Cattle eating supplements on forest range. When cattle are on range in 
winter they should be fed protein concentrate supplements. Mineral supplements 
should be available throughout the year. 

nutrients (fig. 5). Experiments in southern Georgia show that cattle 
on range, fed cottonseed meal or cake as a protein concentrate 
supplement, go through the late fall and winter in much better condi- 
tion than animals without supplements. Cows on typical wiregrass 
range there (fig. 6), fed 2 pounds of cottonseed meal per day in late 
fall and early winter, made an average gain of 24 pounds per head 
during a 55-day period. In contrast, cows on similar range but 
without protein supplements averaged a loss of 44 pounds — a dif- 
ference of 68 pounds per head. 

Cattle on forest range need mineral supplements yearlong, espe- 
cially phosphorus. Chemical analyses in nearly every State from 
Texas to North Carolina show that the native forage is deficient in 
essential minerals, as indicated in figure 5. A mixture of two parts 
steamed bonemeal to one part salt, which usually takes care of most 
mineral deficiencies, should be provided cattle at all seasons. 


Permanent and temporary improved pastures on farms, for use in 
conjunction with forest range, make for greater production of beef per 
animal. They also make for better seasonal use and less danger of 
damage to trees on forest ranges. Such pastures provide high- 
quality forage to keep the cattle in good productive condition when the 
native plants in the forest are of low palatability and nutritive value. 
This in turn boosts calf crops, insures rapid growth of animals intended 
for sale or slaughter, and avoids starvation losses. Good improved 
pastures also assure needed nourishment for replacement heifers or 
feeder calves after weaning. 

Desirable permanent, improved pastures contain one or more of such 
forage species as DaUis grass, clovers, and Bermuda grass. Temporary 
pastures may include velvetbeans and field aftermath (fig. 7), cover 
crops such as oats, rye, barley, ryegrass, and wheat, or a combination 
of these. 

Figure 7. — Cornstalks and velvetbeans furnish good temporary pasture in fall. They 
help provide adequate yearlong nutrition for beef cattle grazing on forest range in 
spring and summer. 


It may be necessary to provide harvested feeds, such as hay, silage, 
and concentrates, in a dry lot, especially during winter. However, 
this practice is generally less economical than grazing cattle on range 
or pasture, with supplements, and should be used only when such 
supplemented grazing is not sufficient to maintain animals in a 
reasonably good condition. 


Fenced control of cattle is vital in good range management. Cattle 
can be grazed during suitable seasons and in proper numbers only if 
the range has the necessary boundary and cross fences. When the 
range is fenced it is also possible to get full use of good bulls, whereas it 
is impossible, except on a very large scale, to carry on a good breeding 
program on unfenced range. Also, high-guality cows can be grazed 
on fenced range without being bred to scrub bulls such as are found 
on nearly every open range. 

Supplemental feeding is easier on fenced than on open range and 
death losses are not as high as where the animals are allowed to graze 


on highways and railroad rights-of-way. Livestock handUng, includ- 
ing branding, vaccinating, castrating, dehorning, and caring for sick 
animals, is also much easier when the herd is under fence. Further- 
more, fencing offers a measure of fire protection to a landowner 
because the incentive is removed for others to burn his forest range to 
improve grazing for their cattle, as is the custom on the open range in 
parts of the South. Finally, fencing is a strong deterrent to timber 
trespass, thus aiding further in timber management. 

Although free range is still common in many sections of the southern 
Coastal Plain, better-grade livestock and higher prices for animals are 
encouraging a steady trend toward fencing. Caution is advisable, of 
course, to avoid overinvestment, but a minimum of boundary and cross 
fences is indispensable to good management. 


Good range cattle management includes use of good bulls. One 
good bull can improve the guality and value of the calves from a herd 



Figure 8. — Cows and calves grazed on untimbered switch cane or reed range in 
eastern North Carolina. Calves produced on such ranges are generally in good 
market condition at weaning time in November. 

of 20 to 30 cows. In addition, herd improvement can be accomplished 
by systematically culling each year the old and barren cows, those 
that may not produce the type of calf wanted, and other undesirable 
animals. In this way the forage available for grazing can be used 
more effectively by the remaining herd. 

It is desirable to dispose of the normal increase of calves each 
year about weaning time, when they are in the best condition (fig. 8) . 
It will seldom pay to graze them through the winter on forest range 
even with protein supplements. If harvested feeds can be spared, it 
may be practical, of course, to hold the calves and fatten them during 
the winter. Anyhow, ''Sell a crop of beef each year," is a good range 
cattle management motto. 



Abundant forage, its effective use, larger calf crops, lower death 
losses, and more marketable cattle all play a part in producing, from 
southern forest ranges, greater annual income and the meat and hides 
so vitally needed during the war and post-war period. Experience 
has shown that the man who follov/s the best grazing management 
practices will, in the long run, be the most successful. 

If further information is desired on various phases of improved 
forest range grazing, timber growing, supplemental feeding, or 
improved and temporary farm pastures, see your county agent or com- 
municate with your State extension service. 


Recent publications bearing on management of southern forest ranges: 

Washington 25, D. C. 

Growing Pine Timber for Profit in the South. Misc. Pub. 24. 
Forage for Fall Feeding. AWI-62. 

Market Your Range Cattle in the Best Condition. AWI-55. 

Effects of Fire and Cattle Grazing on Longleaf Pine Lands as Studied at McNeill, 
Miss. Tech. Bui. 683. 


Beef Cattle Production in the Blackland A.rea of North Carolina. N. C. Agr. Expt. 

Sta. Bui. 310. Raleigh, N. C. 
Forest Grazing and Beef Cattle Production in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. 

N. C. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 334. Raleigh, N. C. 
Some Stock-Poisoning Plants of North Carolina. N. C. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 342. 

Raleigh, N. C. 
Forest Grazing and Beef Cattle Production in the Coastal Plain of Georgia. Coastal 

Plain Expt. Sta. Cir. 8. Tifton, Ga. 
Native Forage Plants of Cutover Forest Lands in the Coastal Plain of Georgia. Coastal 

Plain Expt. Sta. Bui. 37. Tifton, Ga. 
A Study of Range Cattle Manaaement in Alachua County, Florida. Fla. Agr. Exot. 

€ta. Bui. 248. Gainesville, Fla. 
Forest Grazing in Relation to Beef Cattle Production in Louisiana. La. Agr. Expt. Sta. 

Bui. 380. Baton Rouge, La. 
The Chemical Composition of Forage Grasses of the East Texas Timber Country, 

Tex. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui, 582. College Station, Tex. 

Prepared by R. S. Campbell, Southern Forest Experiment Station, and H. H. Biswell, 
Appalachian Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service. In cooperation with the Bureau 
of Animal Industry and Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering, 
U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, 
Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Georgia Experimxent Station, North Carolina 
Agricultural Experiment Station, North Carolina Forestry Foundation, and the Noi 
Carolina Department of Agriculture. April 1945