What is Regenerative Ag anyways? Soil Health Principle 5
Principle 5 (last one) of healthy soil. -Integrating Animals
I hope you're enjoying this mini-series! My favorite principle is animal integration - for obvious reasons- I love animals, but wow, can they improve land fast!
Nature doesn’t function without animals. It's that simple. We integrate animals across our land, and it has many benefits. But HOW that is done is key.
1- When animals are grazed, it stresses the plants slightly (if appropriately grazed, it won't be too much or too little). Plants are surviving and self-protecting by nature, so they get "lazy" (the scientific term is the conservation of resources) and will only produce enough of what it needs and no more.
Grazing keeps the plants in a vegetative state, meaning the carbon (produced by photosynthesis) will stay stored in the ground longer to use when they need for growth and seed protection.
It’s a beautiful cycle of Bite/Trample >> Stimulate exudate production (carbon secretions) >> plant receives nutrients from the exchange >> Attract and feed carbon hungry microbes >> Grass grows better >> Bite/Trample.
A plant that has been grazed will photosynthesize more and pump more carbon into the soil vs. one that hasn’t.
2- With regenerative and rotational grazing, we mimic what the bison once did by building appropriately-sized paddocks each day that allow us to graze a hundred cattle across each paddock.
Once the cattle have eaten some of the grass, trampled some, and fertilized the area, they are moved to the next paddock and then the next. This practice produces profound results that prevent overgrazing and promote tremendous fertility and growth. If we focus first and foremost on the soil and restore that soil function and biology, everything becomes much more manageable.
If you are truly concerned with the environment and health of ecosystems, then you have to recognize the benefits of grazing ruminants.
As I wrap up this mini-series, I hope it was helpful learning our core beliefs and practices and that you now understand that all of our lives depend on soil and its health. We are part of the ecosystem, and everything we do can either destroy it, sustain it, or regenerate it. While we don’t claim to be perfect over here, we try to make the best decisions for our land and livestock.
I have many people that I look up to and have learned from (and still am learning from). Some are local, some are towards the west coast, and others are in Africa.
I hope that what I have learned has come through in a clear, simple, and informative way. It's challenging to put years of learning into a few little paragraphs!
We are by no means perfect at following all the principles perfectly- sometimes we undergraze, sometimes we overgraze, but we know how to fix things and what our goals are. We give ourselves grace and call it a lesson. (we have lots of lessons! Leave it to nature to humble you!) Don’t be afraid to go out and experiment and give yourself a lesson applying any of the five principles! And let me know what you learned!