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More Farmers Are Winter Grazing

By   /  January 30, 2017  /  2 Comments

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This story comes to us from Civil Eats, a daily news source for critical thought about the American
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About the author

Caroline Abels is a journalist, essayist, and editor focusing on issues related to local agriculture and the humane treatment of farm animals. She lives in central Vermont, where she also practices Zen Buddhism. From 1997 to 2003, Caroline worked at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she was the paper’s first cultural arts reporter. Following that, she earned a master's degree in Environmental Advocacy and Organizing from Antioch University New England. Since 2007, she has been the founding editor of the quarterly magazine Vermont’s Local Banquet, which covers local food and farming issues. In 2011, she launched Humaneitarian, a website that inspires people to find and eat humanely raised meat. She is also a freelance editor, available to assist individuals and organizations with editing or writing projects, large or small. Her goal as a writer and editor is to produce work that is viscerally felt, meticulously investigated, and consistently honest. Caroline has worked on an organic dairy farm and two small-scale livestock farms in Vermont. In 2009, she joined with six other Vermont residents to establish the Vermont State House Food Garden, the first public vegetable garden planted on the lawn of an American state capitol in modern times.


  1. John Marble says:

    Thanks for this, Caroline.

    As to the idea of “entire winter” grazing, I just returned from my final hunting trip for the year, where I saw plenty of cows that will spend the rest of the winter “out”. They live in low-moisture, high-elevation country where the snow cover is modest and there is lots of dead, dry grass. They are essentially competing with the elk. The management on this land is extremely non-intensive: small numbers of cows wandering vast tracts of landscape, most of it publicly-owned. Cheap wintering policy, but likely not repeatable for most graziers.

  2. Chuck Petersen says:

    Interesting winter grazing practice applications to say the least! For one Nevada sagebrush steppe-style winter grazing result, see excerpt below from Petersen, et al. Rangeland Ecol Manage 67:78–87 | January 2014 | DOI: 10.2111/REM-D-13-00038.1
    “MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS: Our research and the findings of others suggest that grazing by livestock in fall and winter can be effective, biologically and economically, and can increase grasses and forbs while decreasing sagebrush. In contrast to chemical and mechanical treatments or prescribed fire, integrating livestock grazing into landscapes is a way to fashion systems of management in which locally adapted animals use sagebrush and other shrubs as fall and winter forage to reduce the costs of feeding and to enhance the growth of grasses and forbs during spring and summer.”

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