I’ve been watching several environmental documentaries on Netflix. Whatever the focus, every documentary seems to be built upon the theme of “human impact is horrible for the environment – we just can’t help ourselves”. It’s hard to disagree with this theme when so many U.S. examples are staring at us in the face – the decimation of 75 million-strong herd of Great Plains buffalo, the 1930s Dust Bowl, the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the paving of paradises for strip malls, and on an on. One interviewed gentleman discussed the impact of cities on the environment but said, “Well, people returning to the land isn’t an option either, because that would result in even more land being destroyed.”
A few years ago, I would’ve been nodding my head in complete agreement. But now, I know there’s another path. Humans have the resources to provide extraordinary benefits to the environment – healing the land, reversing desertification, and stopping climate change. I’m not talking about millions of small farms/gardens. I’m talking about humans using a very low-tech and often vilified tool: livestock.
Allan Savory, founder of the holistic livestock management framework, has proven that correctly managed herds of livestock can completely heal the land. It’s all about time management. The land is pulsed with very high animal impact for a short amount of time and then moved on. The herd returns months later after the grass has recuperated. The herd provides another grazing pulse and is again moved on. Grazing, intense hoof trampling, and manure stimulate grasses to thrive. Growing grasses extend their roots deeper into the soil profile and take CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it into the soil. Plant roots slough off after each grazing pulse, which puts even more carbon into the soil. High carbon (organic matter) soils hold water and improve the landscape’s water cycle, which attracts more plant and wildlife diversity. Land on the brink of desertification is restored to beautiful bio-diverse savannah that sustains human communities. What work is more noble than this?
U.S. folks like Greg Judy are using Savory’s principles with management practices called mob-stocking. This video is very inspirational and demonstrates how land can be amazingly improved via high intensity livestock grazing. At the end, Greg Judy states that mob stocking can be scaled down all the way to two animals – good news for our small farm.
The housing collapse has delayed our plans for livestock farming for a disappointing several years now. We’ve been trying to make the best of the delay by cover cropping to improve our farmed-out soil. The organic matter has increased by 1 to 2 percentage points, and we feel super good about that! But, we can’t wait to quit our desk jobs and get started with high intensity grazing and watch our soil improve even more. Thanks for reading!