Meeting the Challenges of Management-Intensive Grazing and Direct-Marketing Meat, Part 2

| 12/31/2015 10:55:00 AM

Tags: sustainable agriculture, organic farming, pastured meat, raising livestock, direct marketing, grazing, local food, John Clark Vincent, Oregon,

Daniel by fence

Daniel O'Malley, owner of Sweet Home Meats, pauses at a gate which connects his barn to one of the grass pastures where he uses management intensive grazing practices.

Read Part 1 of the Sweet Home Meats profile.

Daniel O’Malley feels like he always has had an affinity for nature, and he learned holistic management techniques from his dad that should enable him to continually improve the quality of his farm’s natural resources. When working for Sweet Home Farms, Daniel learned the practice of Management Intensive Grazing (MIG), which requires the regular movement of livestock from one area of grass to the next. He also learned to rotate different types of animals through the various fields to create positive symbiotic relationships that result in organic soil improvements.

“The land is always doing its thing, but we’re trying to get higher levels of production by keeping things holistic and organic,” Daniel explained. “When you use synthetics, you actually deplete soil microorganisms and other benefits. So you’re actually losing something… it’s a false gain. Whereas what I’m trying to do is make it a real gain. It’s still a little early to tell on this farm, but over at my dad’s property you can easily see how much more grass there is… how much more variety of plant types there are. Their dry matter per acre has to be five or six times what it is on neighboring farms that use synthetics. A cow can be on that acre five times longer, which means we can put extra weight on the animal. So we just made money by improving the land naturally.”

Daniel went on to explain that natural soil improvements begins with grass, which grows in an “s” curve – a slow-growing first stage, a fast-growing second stage, and a slow-growing third stage, which includes the seed production that leads to dormancy. If a grazing animal eats the grass during its fast-growing stage, the grass goes back to its first stage because it can’t photosynthesize as well and the roots take a little shock. Some roots are actually killed. When those roots die, small air pockets created. Then, if the grass is allowed to return to stage two growing, new roots will retake those air pockets and also make new ones. Repeating this process over and over results in aerated soil. In turn, aeration results in better water retention and allows both more grass and other plant types to grow.

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