March 2013 Archives

The world has a water problem.  More and more of the landscape in temperate zones is turning into desert.  The planet is warming due to greenhouse gases.

Now along comes Allan Savory, the founder of holistic grazing management, claiming that herds of livestock can reverse these trends.  It sounds a little too good to be true, but Savory makes a convincing case.

My wife and I heard Allan Savory speak at the Quivira Coalition conference last October.  Now everyone can hear him speak at the TED Talks website.  It’s way worth twenty minutes of your time.  And his photos of transformed landscapes are stunning.

David J

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Here at Sylvan Dale we are using cattle to help build up organic matter and carbon content of our soils.  The technique:  planned, rapid rotation grazing.  It turns out this also helps the soil conserve water.  Here’s a post from Dr. Roy Roath, CSU Professor Emeritus, describing a grazing experiment he conducted on range land in Northern Colorado:

In a program implemented north of Fort Collins in a ‘short grass prairie” receiving an average of 10-12 inches of annual precipitation; we implemented a grazing program designed explicitly to greatly increase water capture and retention. This requires a designed rotational grazing program to allow use, foster tillering and plant recruitment and management for growth and regrowth to full recovery in every pasture every year. In doing this we were able to increase forage on offer, leave greater residual cover and increase the diversity of the stand including greatly increasing the forb component. What we found is that the “short grass prairie” was really a mixed grass prairie suppressed by years of inappropriate grazing. We soon had major increases in cool season grasses and forbs and many tall warm season grasses that were not evident and not even thought to be a part of this ecosystem when we started. After five years in this program we had two dry streambeds that became streams that flowed 365 days a year and began to grow riparian vegetation the full length of their corridor. A critical part of this management strategy is to regain and manage cover on the primary terraces bordering the streambed. These are water storage areas and must have structure and cover to maintain the integrity to the stored water in the system. I can’t say that this works everywhere but I have enough experience in a variety of environments to know that one can vastly improve water capture and in doing so has a great probability of good things happening.

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Every few months, an outbreak of sickness and death caused by lethal strains of E. Coli  and other “super bugs” makes the headlines.  These bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.  Why?  One reason, according to scientists, is that unlike grass-fed beef, low levels of antibiotics are being routinely fed to industrially-raised cattle to make them grow faster and protect them from diseases caused by their living conditions.  Thousands of animals are crowded together into massive feedlots for months at a time, where they stand in their own wastes and gorge on grains that upset their normal digestive systems.  The bacteria happily seize the opportunity to multiply and evolve into new strains resistant to the antibiotics.  And they aren’t choosy about their hosts– humans do quite nicely.

Someone must be doing something about this, right?  Think again.  According to David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA doesn’t even know what antibiotics are being fed to our food animals.  Legislation authorizing the FDA to collect this data can’t get out of a Senate committee.  Too bad.  As Kessler says, the problem is rapidly becoming a matter of life and death.

David Jessup

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