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Livestock and Land: A Love Story

Livestock and Land: A Love Story

February 14, 2019

The love story between livestock and our land began a long time ago as large herds of grazing ruminants like bison roamed from coast to coast. Their natural behaviors helped shape the land as we know it.

As Dr. Allen Williams has explained, “from an ecological perspective, grazing and browsing ruminants have been an incredibly important part of every grassland, prairie, savanna, and woodland system. These ecosystems evolved under the influence of these grazing and browsing ruminants.”

After Mother Nature set them up, the animals and land flourished together, with a true give and take relationship. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a closer look at why these two are so good together:

 

Grazey 4 you

The land feeds the livestock with plant life

Grazing spurs plant regrowth and increased soil life

Historically, bison traveled across our nation in herds and would graze an area, then move on to another, never overgrazing any one spot. As the herds moved, the partially grazed plant life left behind would begin trying to regrow as quickly as possible.

To do that, the plants draw in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make sugars. They use some, and exchange some with soil microbes in exchange for important nutrients also needed for growth.

So basically, while the animals are enjoying a nutritious meal from the land, they’re also giving back by strengthening the soil. Each time they return and regraze (after complete regrowth), the process repeats, creating more and more microbial life in the soil and a variety of plant life above ground.

Got you covered

The land feeds the livestock with plant life

Livestock give the soil a protective cover

As livestock graze the land, they are also trampling the ground, creating a flattened cover of plants and grasses that protects and insulates the soil. As the trampled "mulch" of plants decomposes, more organic matter (carbon) is added to the ground. This helps build fertile and biologically active topsoil that is critical for ongoing productive and profitable farming.

The ground cover also creates a perfect environment for micro life, like bacteria, fungi, earthworms and dung beetles (all of which are important for forming new soil).

Let's grow together

The land feeds the livestock with plant life

The livestock naturally fertilize the land

As livestock graze, they digest grasses and naturally fertilize the land, giving plant life access to all the nutrients needed to grow. Healthy soil can make use of this above-the-ground fertilization very effectively, but if the soil is already degraded, with no life and no dung beetles, it's unable to carry out this natural process. 

 

More than just a piece of meat!

As you can see, the relationship between livestock and land is strong - they need each other. Aside from providing meat, livestock plays a number of critical functions on a farm. Unfortunately, in recent years, industrialized farming drove quite a wedge between them. Farmers looked to machines and chemicals to do what livestock took care of naturally, which is expensive for the farmer, leads to dependence on chemical inputs, and produces food that lacks flavor and nutrients. 

The fact is, livestock and farms belong together. In today’s world, we no longer have the natural, large roaming herds of bison that can carry out these functions. But by managing our farmland using regenerative practices, including adaptive multi-paddock grazing, we have a chance to put livestock and land back together, forever!

 For more information: 

The Secret Is Out! Cows Are Not The Problem... It's How They're Raised.

Allen Williams on Replacing Monoculture Farms with Adaptive Grazing

Dr. Allen Williams Participates In New Study Of Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing

Adaptive Grazing: So Old It's New