Acknowledge the Challenges

| 9/6/2011 3:54:46 PM

My wife and I love watching our land flourish. Raising livestock in a natural way on our little piece of native prairie has enmeshed us in a web of relationships with the millions of living things that share our property. With careful management, keeping the livestock on pasture, we have seen the soil improve each year as the animals help stimulate the natural processes that make the native prairie one of the most productive biological systems on earth. Previous owners cut hay and hauled the nutrients and energy off the land. Since we began grazing it, the land has become much more fertile. A pasture that four cows grazed off in five weeks a few years ago has this summer carried 15 full-grown animals for four months and the forage is still excellent, probably good for another four to six weeks.

Photo by Bryan Welch 

“Watching grass grow” metaphorically defines boredom for a lot of people but if you’re a rancher and that grass supplies your sustenance, watching grass grow gets a lot more interesting.

And watching it die – destroyed by overgrazing – can be devastating.

The main thing a rancher manages is population.

Conscientious ranchers maintain intricate, attentive relationships with their habitats. Temperature, precipitation, sunshine and many other variables affect our pastures. Properly husbanded, the prairie is perpetually productive. Natural prairie can survive extended periods of drought, floods, snow cover and sub-zero temperatures. But its health can be destroyed by a few weeks of acute overpopulation. Overgrazing devastates grasslands in ways that can take decades to repair, even with expert human intervention. In arid regions overgrazed grasslands become deserts.

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