THE KANSAS FLINT HILLS

Not many ranchers know about the Kansas Flint Hills -- the only remaining tall grass prairie in the country. (1) The area was originally recognized by Zebulon Pike in 1806 when he coined the name in his journal ---“we passed through very ruff flint hills”--- on the plains of Kansas. There, he found American Indians by the hundreds and buffalo by the tens of thousands. By the mid 1800ʼs, homesteaders tried to convert Great Plains prairie grasses into farmland. They succeeded in all areas from North Dakota to Texas except for this thin strip of Kansas land now called the Flint Hills -- a 200 mile long and 20 mile wide strip of land extending from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The shallow rock formations of limestone and chert prevented any farming leaving cattle ranching as the only economically feasible business. The soil is ideally suited for tall grasses -- bluestem, Indian and switch grass -- perfect grazing grasses for cattle. These grasses can grow up to 6 feet tall and contain 16-18% protein in the summer (2) making this location a paradise for horn growth in longhorns.

(1)Klinkenborg, Verlyn (April 2007). "Splendor of the Grass: The Prairie's Grip is Unbroken in the Flint Hills of Kansas". National Geographic
(2) Anderson, J. 2002. USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov, 18 January 2004). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge.