Category Archives: cattle

Doing it Right in Argentina: Raising Cattle on Grass

Forgive me for romanticizing raising cattle the old fashioned way, folks, but this video is downright charming. The word is gaucho, which means “A cowboy of the South American pampas”.

This is yet another artistically done, excellent film from The Perennial Plate, which helps educate us about how farming is done around the world.

The Haydown on Cattle

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the number one cattle feeding county in the world or maybe it’s because the family farm that I hail from has always used cattle for rotational grazing which is still one of the most sustainable farming systems that there is, or, maybe it’s because I think Nature knows best and Nature put large herbivores on the continents back before this era of the Anthropocene when we’ve removed them because we think that “we” know best.

Because I’ve never bought into this cattle are our worst enemy idea, the “wrong” way to “feed 9 billion people by 2050.”

So, today, I was happy to discover this newly published analysis about cattle out of the Journal Nature.

The authors of this study, while they would like to see the current trend of less beef consumption continue, believe that most negative reports about cattle fail to take their benefits into account, which are many. The authors are mostly from Britain, and the title of the publication is “Agriculture: Steps to sustainable livestock – With improved breeding and cultivation, ruminant animals can yield food that is better for people and the planet, say Mark C. Eisler, Michael R. F. Lee and colleagues.” PDF LINK HERE

Topics covered include: most sustainable sources of food for ruminants, cattle genetics that make the most sense, keeping livestock healthy, and giving them smart plant based supplements. (Just as there is much discussion today about how human gut bacteria affect our health, the same is true of these ruminant animals. The right combinations of food/supplements can be used to decrease their methane releases.)

The study urges us to eat less meat, but higher quality meat, tailored to the culture and the region in which it is raised.

There is much wisdom in this writing, so I highly encourage you to read the study.

3 Picks: SD Cattle Catastrophy, Japan’s Groundwater, Sustainable Barn


Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Catastrophic Early Snowstorm Kills Thousands of Cattle in South Dakota: By Chet Brokaw. “‘It’s the worst early season snowstorm I’ve seen in my lifetime.’ Early estimates suggest western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle. Some individual ranchers reported losses of 20 percent to 50 percent of their livestock.’ …”

2) Japanese Municipalities’ are Creating Initiatives to Conserve Groundwater: By Junji Hashimoto. In Japan, where they have been using more groundwater since the 2011 earthquake, farmers and municipalities are working together and creating ordinances to use groundwater in conjunction with monitoring recharge rates. Through methods of cooperation, and a recharge calculation formula which reduces water fees when greater amounts of groundwater are recharged, they are smartly planning for the future.

3) UK’s Award-winning eco-build slashes thousands from farm’s running costs: “…by combining modern technology with traditional materials like sheep fleece and straw, it is possible to create a sustainable rural building that not only has a very low carbon footprint it is also saving many thousands of pounds in running costs. … Materials used in the construction and for running the building were sourced from the fields of the Allerton Project farm, including straw for the walls and sheep fleece for insulation. Wood chip harvested from the estate’s own woodland provide fuel for the biomass boiler to heat the hot water and the thermostatically zoned under-floor heating. Rainwater is collected for the toilets and showers, while sixteen roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels provide electrical power to the building…”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Photo credit: Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Savory Institute Conference

Last Thursday and Friday I was privileged to attend the first ever annual Savory Institute International Conference right here in my home town of Boulder, Colorado. The title of the conference was, “Transforming the Landscape: Using Holistic Management to Create Global Impact.”

Over the next week, or so, I’ll be making a series of posts reporting on and inspired by that conference.

If you don’t know who Allan Savory is, check out his TED talk here. This TED talk from earlier this year went viral and has now had over 1.3 million views!

Born in South Africa, Savory has spent his life trying to combat desertification, a problem covering large regions of the globe, through the integration of holistically managed livestock systems. To clarify, overgrazing which destroys roots causes desertification, whereas Savory’s holistic management approach is a system of regenerative grazing.

“It helps to think of soil as a living organism covered with skin like a human. We can live with a certain percentage of our skin damaged, but if too high a percentage is damaged, we die. So, too, does soil and thus most life…” —— Allan Savory

When I arrived at the conference I knew I’d come to a special gathering. The Boulder Theater room was filled with the energy of people who were friendly, enthusiastic, and optimistic. By a show of hands, there was a strong showing of people under age 30 — something that is unusual in Ag these days. There were many cowboy hats and boots, an indication that quite a few people attending were from the real world.

Representatives from Savory “Hubs” were there from all over the world to tell us what was happening in their particular hub — along with some history of why their hub was created. We heard a wide variety of stories about broken lands, broken farming systems, and the resulting broken humans — followed by the process, the hope, and the success of holistic repair and regeneration.

There was a wide array of audience attendees. I met a newly retired Cal Poly professor who’d taught holistic management most of his teaching career, and an Australian rancher and agricultural instructor who brought his son with him. I sat next to a young lady from Chile, who told me that though she grew up in Georgia, she’s now managing the property that her grandfather purchased in Chile in the 1950′s. She is in her first year of using holistic management practices on that land, running 40,000 sheep and 4,000 cattle across the property. I also met a college student from Tennessee who was there to find out more about how land use impacts climate change, and a Massachusetts Mom who was working in the organic and eat local food movement in her community.

There was a great speaker line-up to teach us about soil, carbon sequestration, holistic systems, grasslands and rangeland management, the enormous challenge of gathering data and being scientific in complex systems, the limits to growth, broken monetary systems, hope, and challenges for the future.

Allan Savory’s talk which kicked off the event contained one prized quote after another.

Stay tuned.

(NEXT POST HERE: Allan Savory: Agriculture is More Destructive than Coal Mining)