Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Busy Ants Make Big Hills

I mentioned yesterday that one of the biggest obstacles that we are facing in our pasture renovation are the ant hills. When I tell people that we have ant hills I don't think they can really picture what I'm talking about and up until we bought this place I wouldn't have been able to picture it either. But when I say ant hills I'm talking anything from 6 inches to more than 12 inches high and anywhere from 10 inches across to over 2 feet across! Ant hills this large cause a problem when it comes to making hay because a sickle mower will not make it through them!

So, what I tried to do was take a picture of the ant hills. Just imagine 26 acres dotted like this and you will have an idea of what we are dealing with here. The cattle graze around and over them, but when they get done with an area you it looks something like the picture above.

Anyone else have any suggestions? I would love to hear them.

13 comments:

Art Blomquist said...

We have the same, fascinating problem. They expand the ant domain untill the nests checkerboard the top fields. I have a drag, basically a heavy piece of pipe with chains welded to it that can be pulled behind a tractor, 4X4 or even ATV that will (A) spread the cow crap around ( I think the ants are attracted to them) and (B) flatten the ant hills. We also get help from bears in the spring and sand hill cranes.

bdinkins said...

I also have the same problem. In my front yard I went ahead and treated with pellets.

It was to close to the house and I am allergic to Fire Ants.
I don't want to use any chemicals in the pasture, and as soon as I bust them up, they form a new hill in less than a day.
So good luck. Can't wait to hear what others do.

Gizmo said...

Do chickens eat them?? If so, you could pasture raise some meat chickens (fast growing) - pest control, fertilizer and a full freezer. :)

Anonymous said...

dynamite, lol!

Mel, Foxtail Farm said...

I've just started reading your blog, so I don't know how much you've looked into chickens.

I'm sure that chickens would tear those hills apart to get at the ants, but how quickly do the ants rebuild? Chickens do best on reasonably short grass, so if the ants rebuild quickly I don't know how much help chickens would be in the areas you want to mow. If you don't mind lots of little paths through your pasture, the egg breeds or bantams might do a decent job in the taller grass. I don't think meat chickens would be energetic enough.

Rich said...

After seeing those anthills, I can see why you are thinking about 'tearing out' the existing grass and replanting.

If I had to deal with something like that, I would try to use something like a disc, chisel, or cultivator set to run just above the ground. Hopefully, with the disc set just above the ground only the anthills would be leveled and there would be enough grass left for grazing.

I'm not sure, but I think that anthills are somewhat water resistant (due to something to do with the ants), which makes the grass stop growing (waterproof means no moisture and grass needs moisture). Since the dirt in the anthill is water resistant, after the anthill is flattened, the grass might be slow to fill in the bare spot.

Applying something like lime might help 'break up' the clay particles in the anthill (due to the calcium, I think) and help with getting the grass to grow. Additionally, the increased calcium levels (I think) in the pasture might discourage the ants from rebuilding the anthills.

I'm not sure if my facts are entirely correct, but I think the solution could be found by something like applying lime (either by spot-treating the flattened anthills or broadcasting over the entire pasture) or something similar.

Scott said...

Try applying diatomaceous earth to the ant hills - it should kill them with one or two treatments.

Anonymous said...

Anteater

Jamie said...

Drag harrow, same kind as Art (above) mentioned. Drag behind tractor, if bad enough disk all of it.

Anonymous said...

Are these fire ant mounds? If so, I would think they could harm the chickens with bites. My relatives in Mississippi pour hot water on each mound in their yard. Not sure how it would work in a whole field.

Steven Estergreen said...

Ants are a natural response to too much dead grass (or any other plant fiber) left in the field. Put some livestock in the field to eat the grass. Cut and remove what they don’t eat. Feed it directly to your livestock if they're not in the field. Put some up as hay and save it for the part of the year when grass is not growing. Figure out a way to sell some of it. Pile it on some of the anthills and burn it. The ants have just been keeping your field from turning into a slimy, stinking, rotten mass of dead grass. Think of them as a family of housemaids gone berserk. Take away what they eat and they'll die or go away. If you wanted to do it really quickly, you could spray all the anthills with a petrochemical nerve agent and burn all the grass. But, I think you'll find a better (if more time-consuming) way to do this. You wouldn't want a field without ants, it would be just as unhealthy as a field with too many.

Steven said...

I understand what Steven is saying, but dead grass is one of the best things to have in your pasture. I think once you get grazing the ant problem will start to dry up but by all means don't do everything you can to get rid of the dead grass. As Greg Judy wrote in this months SGF the trampled dead grass is what feeds all the micro-bugs that make the soil. It makes the soil cheese if you will. He said that after each paddock move he has a 1 to 2 inch layer of forage that is trampled and available for the organisms to start devouring. This is how you can make it without fertilizer!

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