It’s OK to Trample!

“Graziers need to get beyond the paralyzing paradigm of wasting grass if we want to be truly sustainable.” Those are the words of Ian Mitchell-Innes, a South African farmer, philosopher, punster, and no-nonsense, world renowned educator of grazing farmers, and wanna-be graziers all over the planet. On this particular day he was speaking at a Grazing Workshop held at the Larsen Farm in Wells, Vermont.  He was sharing his philosophy that success means capturing solar energy and using it to feed cattle, and then leaving ungrazed, trampled forage to feed the soil. "We are in the energy business:  Energy is money, money is energy, and time is money,"  Mitchell-Innes says. "One day we will be recognized for our organic matter building capability by consumers around the world and be justly paid for sequestering carbon” His timing was spot on for those hearing his blunt words.  As I travel around the state, and visit with farmers seeking to develop a good grazing system or improve the one they have, I find this is one of the most difficult of concepts to get rearranged in the mind.  There is a lot of fretting going on about “all that wasted feed”. But is ungrazed feed really wasted? Not in the minds of those that promote and p

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2 thoughts on “It’s OK to Trample!

  1. It’s great to hear someone with a louder voice and large audience can get more Northeast grazing farmers to listen and question their grazing management decisions. Our neighbor farmer lost massive amounts of top soil in the last gully washer (5 inches in a hour) – we didn’t loose any on our fields. It was soaked up. We call that a good day!
    We tall graze and reaping the benefits. High weight gains on our steers, lush thick diverse pastures, lots of earthworms, and that’s just the start. We don’t just raise animals for meat we grow soil too.
    We call tall grazing “confusing the neighbors and other farmers”. But when you see well fed – and all GRASS FED cattle grazing the pastures it’s obvious something is being done right.

  2. Very good to hear this strong emphasis on leaving un-grazed residue-litter. Texas rangelands, especially in the west half of the state are still trying to recover from the 2011 drought of record. Still lots and lots of bare ground that needs a covering. I’ve always told ranchers that grass left un-grazed is seldom wasted. The water cycle is dysfunctional on lots of grazing land because soils lack litter, good OM content, porosity and structure. All of these are dependent on un-grazed grass being returned.

    One thing that complicates the issue of trampling grass litter to the horizontal position is the need to retain standing vertical grass clumps for nest cover for grassland birds. Those livestock producers who also want quail and other ground nesting birds will have to find a way to leave adequate standing cover. For quail, it is recommended that 300 to 400 clumps per acre be retained with each clump being about the size of a basketball. These clumps must be retained from previous years growth.

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