Meat production is arguably one of the most damaging agricultural practises in terms of environmental impact. This is due in part to methane production: a byproduct of raising cattle, as well as the affect of cattle on the quality of soil. These issues can be mitigated by ensuring your grazing practises are designed to enrich the soil, rather than damage it.
Rotating your pasture is a simple and effective way to help your soil recover, while maintaining the level of production you’re used to. This simply means alternating which part of the land you allow your cattle to graze on. This means you’ll never use the full potential of your land all at once–however, it prevents the nutritional qualities of the soil from being depleted as quickly.
Stocking rate refers to the number of cattle that you have per acre of land: in other words, grazing density. Your goal is to keep your stocking rate as low as possible, while maintaining farm productivity.
The type of grass used for grazing is another important factor. You must have grass that will keep your animals fed and healthy, while also protecting the soil’s nutrition. This is where local grasses come in handy. Resilient, nutritious grasses include Indian grass, switchgrass, Little Bluestem and side-oats grama.
Winter grazing is often needed as a supplement to other resources, and is usually accomplished through purchasing plants that you actually need instead of allowing cattle to winter-graze in pastures. In areas where winters are not harsh, cool-season plants can suffice for winter grazing. These include Texas Wintergrass, and stockpiled standing forages. Use of these crops could cover up to 40% of your winter grazing costs.
Grazing your cattle in a responsible way adds significant market value. An increasing number of customers are looking for food made in responsible, sustainable ways. There are customers who will seek your services solely because your cattle are grazed in an eco-friendly way.
Grazing your fields in a responsible way is something every modern farmer should consider. It creates added value to your products, and allows you to tap into a new market that shows great promise for the future.