“having the effect of making something develop or grow stronger”
- Minimize soil disturbance, i.e., tillage
- Maximize diversity
- Keep the soil covered
- Maintain a living root year round
- Integrate livestock
The richest most nutrient dense soils known to man were not formed by man nor were they formed using chemical inputs, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, poisons, etc. They were formed over thousands of years by large grazing herds of ruminants moving across the land eating, fertilizing naturally, trampling, and moving on, not to return to the same areas until the plants were fully recovered and ready to be grazed again.
Man domesticated the animals and built fences to prevent migration, chose the food for the animals and trained them to eat it, and in more recent times added harmful chemicals to the mix as a band aid for the symptoms that have resulted from going against nature.
In a conventional grazing system, cows are confined to a single large area. Cows prefer some grasses and other forages better than others. Since the cows have constant access to the entire area they will return to the same plant and areas. This leads to overgrazing of some plants, and the over rest of others, resulting in the degradation of the pasture and environment.
The constant eating and trampling in the same areas do not give the plants adequate time to fully recover or evenly distribute nutrients back to the soil. Eventually, without human intervention, reseeding, and in most cases chemical fertilizers, the more desirable plants are killed out leaving the less desirable, less nutritious plants, i.e., weeds to take over. This leads to additional human intervention and application of chemicals (herbicides, fungicides, & pesticides) to control the weeds and other undesirable outcomes.
Unadapted, Sick Animals
This highly managed plan has resulted in cow that will not eat most plants, has lost the instinct to keep with the herd, has no immunity to the natural pests, such as flies and parasites, land that will not grow a crop without the addition of chemical fertilizers, and undesirable plants that are resistant to the chemical herbicides. The benfifcial bugs are missing from the pasture, the flies run rampant without the use of insecticides and the cows cannot get bred, nurse, and maintain their health without harvested grain or other supplementation.
The Herd Effect
Plants and Animals Evolving Together
Plants and animals evolved together. Cows need live growing forage for their health and plants need the cows (or other large ruminants). When a cow takes a bite, it leaves saliva on the plant. Studies have shown that plants harvested by grazing animals are healthier and recover more quickly than plants that are mechanically harvested.
Conventional grazing allows the animals to split up into mini-herds. The smaller herds provide less protection from predators and less benefits for the soil. The larger the herd, the more protection they can provide for each other and their young and the greater the herd impact will be on the land. Managed properly, the herd effect greatly benefits the soil microbial life, water cycle, mineral cycle, and in turn forage quality.
Ruminants & Predators
Herd animals evolved to roam across the land, eat the nutrition, trample in the fertilizer, and move on, not returning until the area was recovered. Plant health and soil microbial life are dependent on this animal impact and migration cycle. Predators kept the herd in check and constantly moving. Predators have been reduced or killed off and domesticated ruminants have lost their instinct to stay together. Gone are the days where large ruminants and large predators roamed together freely across this land. Left unchecked in a pasture environment, herd animals will stay in the same place over graze, therefore reducing the plant health or killing it all together. Reduced plant health leads to reduced animal health.
Wire or Wolf?
The natural model mimics the migration of herding ruminants by dividing a large area into small paddocks, and moving the animals across the farm frequently. This is accomplished by using a single strand of polywire acting as the predator keeping the herd together.
Reducing the paddock size, increasing the stocking density, and the frequent moves increases the herd effect on the land. The herd effect is essential to the regeneration and health of the land. This also helps the animals rediscover their natural herd instincts. It re-teaches the animals to consume a variety of plants, eliminating “weed” issues. When cows are kept at a higher stock density, (more animals in closer proximity in the same paddock), they will regain the instinct to consume the forage that years of continuous grazing on a monoculture has eliminated. The cows will cycle this forage in manure and urine, fertilizing naturally and trample the rest of the uneaten plants, covering the ground before being moved to a clean area. After moving, the cows are not allowed to return to this area until plants are fully recovered.
Frequent paddock moves keeps the cows and calves healthy and clean, allows the plants to fully recover from grazing and develop a deeper root system before being grazed again. A deeper root system will aid the plant in utilizing the nutrients located deeper in the ground yielding a more nutrient dense forage, which in turn results in a more nutrient dense animal, which results in healthier, happier people.
Clean & Healthy
Implementing the natural model and regenerative grazing, we have been able to use the animals to improve the soil and the plant nutrition without applying chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides etc.) to our pastures. Proper management allows the cows to heal the soil naturally.