I got one response to the article in Drovers. Interesting. The one response didn’t like the questions or the answers. Interesting.
Stockmanship and Stewardship are my passion. Actually Stockmanship is really a part of Stewardship. Actually Stewardship is all about soil health. That’s what was very interesting to me in the article. They were not talking about removing animals, but using manure to improve soil health.
If we go back in to what we can imagine through history, biblical or caveman times, we had grazing animals and predators, as well as weather events. This created a system that kept the soil pretty healthy. As a hunter, man played a role in this as well.
In my part of the world we had huge herds of bison, and predators such as wolves, bear and Native Americans. Fire, natural and Native set played a role in soil health.
Flooding distributed silt and soil from the higher elevations to the valleys to create very fertile valleys. Grazing animals grazed, predators kept them bunched and moving, insects forced them to higher elevation, and all the while they were fertilizing the soil with manure and urine, and disturbing the soil with there hooves.
This changed when we built fences and stopped or changed the natural movement of animals, both predators and grazing. Dams have had a huge impact on flooding and fertilizer in the form of silt. Farming has changed the game as we mine the soil with crop production and don’t put back all the nutrients that happened when grazing animals (termites in humid areas)broke down the cellulose in plants and redistributed it through waste or death of the animals.
With fences we control the movement and grazing of the animals. It can be good for soil health or bad, depending on the how it is done.
We are learning as we go. If you are focused on soil health, you will learn to manage your grazing to improve soil health. If it is not important, you will focus on what is important to you.
I am seeing more composting and utilization of waste around the confined animal feeding systems. Many farmers in the Midwest are learning that by feeding animals they can really improve soil health and production and therefore profit potential from marketing crops through livestock and benefiting from the natural fertilizer it creates.
I was just in the desert near Las Crusas, New Mexico. Soil health from grazing is achieved from proper grazing. Cattle need to spread out more there than in my part of the world. Rest periods need to be longer in the desert than In real humid fertile high rainfall areas that cattle need to be bunched and graze often. As I head to Mississippi, the benefits of grazing for soil health will be achieved in a different way than in the desert I just left.
Mother Nature used to do this naturally. We as stewards of the land need to observe and understand what happened in the past, and recreate it in the future.
We must take on the part of predator and grazier and understand the benefits of both, because of our control of the movement of animals, and the type of animal we choose.
This is where the Stockmanship comes in. The human has replaced the wolf and the bear as the predator. Our method of harvesting animals is much more humane than other predators. If you have ever seen a live animal with part of its body eaten or its guts hanging out compared to an animal properly loaded in a knock box and euthanized quickly and humanely,you know what I mean.
The buffalo has been mostly replaced by the cow. They have been bred and selected to adapt to fences and feed and have a much easier life(like the humans that raise them) with much less fear of death in the life they live while rebuilding our soils.
I feel we all need to understand the importance of soil health and work together to create it. City folks depend on us country folks to create it and country folks need the city folks need to pay us so we can keep improving the soil. It’s a great system and we shouldn’t be at odds.
We all need the same thing, we just don’t always know it, and if you don’t know you need something, how can you try to get it?
This is why I believe stockmanship is so important to stewardship, and Stewardship is so important to us all.