Managing Livestock to Increase Natural Capital
REGNERATIVE GRAZING SERVICES
We understand. You want a beautiful, vibrant and healthy landscape. You want to look out and see invigorated grasslands and healthy woodlands. You want more biodiversity, healthy soil, increased natural capital and decreased invasive plants like thistles and poison oak. You know that properly managed herbivores can help you move the needle in this direction. At Grounded, creating rich healthy landscapes to the best of our ability is our goal. From an understanding of ecology, the intricate infrastructure necessary, to animal husbandry, stockmanship and the realities of the cattle market, we have the experience necessary to handle the hundreds of details and nuances necessary to help you get traction on your vision. Contact us below to set up a meeting to discuss your vision for your landscape.
Observation and Mimicry
We can’t possibly know how to make vegetation on this landscape healthy on our own. No one can. However we can study the missing components of our ecosystem for answers, and dense herds of large animals are the most conspicuous missing piece. What we focus on is managing livestock so as to mimic the way large herds used to move over the landscape. Our philosophy is rooted in observation, humility and mimicry.
Well managed large herbivores effect the land in a nuanced way that encourages a beautiful open matrix of grass, trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Since this type of open matrix prevailed over eons of evolutionary time, these are the conditions that foster most of the species and biodiversity in our landscape, from butterflies to wildflowers to fish. But also humans.
We haven’t lost our sense for a healthy landscape. Our human response to these landscapes is just as ancient as that of those other species. We gravitate towards landscapes with grass that is especially green, trees and shrubs that have a particular shape, and streams that are clear and flow in a certain way. When we find those things, we don’t want to leave.
A philosophy isn’t something you can dream up. It has to be discovered. We discover ours by looking out at the landscape and asking what it has to teach us. When we do that we see ourselves reflected back.
Ecological Management Focus
Focusing on the Cycles of Nature
Our overall management focus is one of working with the cycles of the natural world. Our goals are to heal broken relationships and in doing so unleash the inherent value present on your landscape. We focus on improving the energy cycle on a property as it expresses itself through the capture of sunlight and the growth of vegetative matter. We work to improve the cycling of minerals on the landscape as plants move through the herbivores and into composted manure which in turn helps grow more grass. This in turn captures more carbon out of the air, and puts it into your property's soil bank. This leads to a healed water cycle, where increases in organic matter store water in the soil much more effectively. This all in turn leads to increased biodiversity across your landscape. We focus on these ecosystem processes of energy cycling, mineral cycling, and water cycling to increase overall land health and biodiversity.
As we stated in our philosophy our approach is one if observation and mimicry. The relationship between herbivores, grasslands, and predators are millions of years old. Grasslands co evolved with grazing animals and predators and their fundamental health is built on this relationship.
Conventional cattle management has destroyed this relationship by fencing in the large herbivores, killing the predators and putting an end to the migration and rest that grasslands need for their ecological health and inherent beauty. By mimicking ecological relationships we step in as the nouveau predator, using temporary electric fencing to assist us in mimicking the density and migration of herbivores that grassland health was built on.
We temporarily divide a property with electric fence into a many number of small spaces and move the cattle everyday. As soon as the cattle have left an area, we remove the electric fence and give the grassland time to rest, recover, and express its natural beauty and health.
Stock density is the number of animals in an area at a particular moment. When one watches herds of herbivores in the wild you see high stock densities. Many land managers have seen amazing restorative effects on their grasslands when reconnecting herbivores at high stock densities to grasslands using electric fence as the nouveau predator. Our management protocols call for the highest densities that are feasible for labor costs, ecological results and animal health.
Animal impact is everything large animals do physically to land except graze. It includes dunging, urinating, trampling, rubbing, wallowing, salivating, etc. It most often refers to trampling and dunging, which have the most restorative effect on rangelands. High animal impact is generally achieved by herding animals at high stock densities to produce herd effect. It is important to have animals at the highest densities you can so that they can more uniformly create animal impact across the landscape.
An additional tool that we will use is graze period. Overgrazing happens one plant at a time. When cattle graze a grass plant, the lush regrowth is highly palatable to cattle. If left in a paddock long enough, a cow will eat the regrowth produced by that grass plant. This severely hurts the plant and it is important to make sure that the cattle are not in any one paddock for too long.
Just as important as the graze period is the recovery period. Conventional wisdom states that having too many animals in a pasture causes overgrazing. Managers try to stop overgrazing by reducing animal numbers. Overgrazing is not related to animal numbers. It is strictly a function of time: the length of time animals are allowed to graze a pasture (the graze period), and the length of time the pasture is allowed to recover after grazing (the recovery period). So we make sure to address time in both areas.
Overall we do our best to mimic what we observe. We don't believe we have this “figured out”, by any stretch. We know we will be wrong from the outset. However we do our best to plan, interact, observe and monitor. As we we review the results from our observation we recorrect our path to try and match the information we are receiving. And so far this focus on processes and mimicry has helped us move the needle in the right direction.