Raising animals for livestock is a hot topic these days, as it’s under the microscope for reasons of animal welfare, air pollution, water usage, and soil compaction. Long story short, raising animals can be cruel to animals and bad for the environment. There are numerous recent examples highlighting the consequences of poor animal agriculture, including water issues in North Carolina, air pollution in Iowa, and caged chicken operations in Georgia. Sadly, animal processing plants are also some of the worst places for labor violations. In short, animal agriculture represents some of the worst aspects of our culture.
But that doesn’t mean it all has to be this way. Grazing animals are critical for maintaining landscapes, which many of them did just fine before we cleared all of them off the land because we decided we knew better. Animals can help build soil and increase carbon sequestration, when they’re allowed to live more like they would in nature as opposed to in some kind of cage or factory.
Here are some examples of regenerative grazing.
Under rotational grazing, only one portion of pasture is grazed at a time while the remainder of the pasture “rests.” To accomplish this, pastures are subdivided into smaller areas(referred to as paddocks) and live-stock are moved from one paddock to another. Resting grazed paddocks allows forage plants to renew energy reserves, rebuild vigor, and deepen their root system which reduces soil erosion.
According to USDA, Silvopasture is the deliberate integration of trees and grazing livestock operations on the same land. These systems are intensively managed for both forest products and forage, providing both short- and long-term income sources. Potential livestock choices include: cattle, sheep, goats, horses, turkeys, chickens, ostriches, emu, rhea, or game animals such as bison, deer, elk, caribou, etc. Trees can supply valuable fodder or mast such as acorns and honey locust pods for livestock. One of the main advantages of silvopasture systems is reducing heat stress in livestock, which improves animal performance and well-being.
Multi Species Grazing
Multi species grazing is two or more animal species in a pasture-based system. Each species of livestock is unique in the manner in which they graze and in what they prefer to graze. Multi-species grazing can improve pasture utilization, increase pasture quality, increase the carrying capacity of the land, control weeds and brush, and decrease gastrointestinal diseases.