Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Everybody Poops

My apologies, but that video just made me laugh. And strangely feel like I’m at work. Anyway, today we’re still talking about grazing. How awesome is that? Okay, not very for those of you who came here for lit stuff, but hopefully a fun read nonetheless.

Grass-fed beef has one really amazing side benefit: it’s good for the environment. Grazing is one of the most fuel-efficient processes available. Sunlight makes grass grow. Grass makes cows grow. And cows make us grow. All with just proper pasture management. No inputs and totally renewable if properly managed. It really is beautiful when you think about it.

On confinement operations, such as ones available at most dairies (wink wink), animals are confined in limited spaces, feed is moved to them, rather than them being moved to food, and the feeds are chuck-full of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, and are planted and harvested with heavy equipment, which require, you guessed it, fossil fuels. Or bio-fuels, which I’m not really qualified to comment on.

Manure is also a point where management practices differ. In confinement operations, workers burn fossil fuels manually moving manure away from the livestock. In grazing operations, the animals are left to distribute their manure over the land they graze, where it transforms to organic fertilizer. Manure and sunlight make the grass grow, the grass makes the animals go, and… well, you see where I’m going.

While grazing needs more knowledge and management, the animals are the ones who do the work in this situation. There’s less stress on the animals since they’re only doing what is natural to them.

I do have to share this story, even though it’s of the “my-kid-did-the-cutest-thing” variety. My cows calve out on approximately twenty acres every fall. Our job as caretakers is to go out and treat the calves after the cows have calved, essentially giving them their well-baby shots. This year was unique in that after calving the cows hid their babies in the tall grass and we couldn’t find them for sometimes five days. At first, this concerned me greatly, thinking the babies might be in distress. But when they emerged from hiding, they were healthy and strong, ready to join the herd. I realized eventually that this behavior, in fact, was my cows reverting to their natural behavior. In the wild, deer mothers will hide their offspring, returning to them only once or twice per day, in order that predators don’t scent the young ones. The cows were behaving in much the same way, not even their body language revealing where the calves lay. Once I realized this, it was very cool and exciting to realize that the environment I raised my animals in allowed them to revert to what was natural for them to do, without me having to do a damn thing to “help” them.

So I guess the moral of all this, is that confinement operations are necessary in this high-production world. Who would feed the masses otherwise? But grazing is amazing in its simplicity and the lifestyle that it promotes, for livestock and humans alike.


Anonymous said...

Excellent! And the video was funny! Imagine where our society would be had we stuck with nature from the beginning. :)

Ax said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by. There will be lots more "getting back to nature posts" in the future. Hope to see ya here again!