“Desertification is a fancy word for when the land that is turning to desert and this
happens only when we create too much bare ground, there is no other cause”
– Allan Savoy
While I know the subject of livestock is a touchy issue, especially for those committed to a vegetarian or vegan diet, the science behind holistic managed planned grazing offers results too beneficial to ignore.
As more countries declare a “climate emergency” across the globe, our responsibility as environmentalists is to look at the most effective solutions available in reversing global heating and aiding in their implementation.
By now, most of us understand that desertification is a problem, one caused by livestock overgrazing, tilled land, bare soil, and insecticides, pesticides and herbicides poisoning the ground.
What most of us don’t know, is that by shifting how livestock grazes, while simultaneously putting a stop to land tillage, covering bare soil with plants, and halting the use of chemicals in our agriculture, we can reverse global heating and climate breakdown rapidly.
HOW DOES GRASSLAND DESERTIFICATION OCCUR?
The way healthy grasslands developed, orginally, was through herds of grazing animals which were kept on the move by packs of hunting predators. Grazers would help grass defoliate (the same thing leaves do in fall) then dung, urinate, and stomp them, creating a natural compost which fueled healthy plant growth.
Currently, about two-thirds of the world is desertifying, causing a myriad of problems across the globe. Bare soil lacking in organic matter is susceptible to both flooding and drought because rainfall is unable to absorb into the ground and instead runs off silting our waterways. In addition, uncovered earth allows carbon to escape into the atmosphere as, without any cover crops, there are no plants to suck carbon in, nor living organisms to transform its surplus into humus (bonded by surplus carbon, humus contributes to soil’s retention of moisture and nutrients).
In grasslands specifically, the natural lifecycle requires grass to decay biologically before a new growing season can occur, if the grass doesn’t decay naturally (with the help of planned mob grazing) it starts to oxidize, smothering all life below and releasing carbon into the atmosphere as it goes. Traditionally, humans have dealt with this dead grass by burning it, but burnt grass gives way to bare soil, allowing carbon to escape and releasing, per hectare, as much pollution as 6,000 cars.
WHAT IS HOLISTIC MANAGED PLANNED GRAZING?
One of the key aspects of soil regeneration and reversal of desertification is something called holistic managed planned grazing (also known as managed grazing, cell grazing, mob grazing), which mimics the natural movement and behaviour of wild herbivores. This ‘re-discovery’ is so beneficial, that if we mob grazed just half our world’s grasslands, we could reverse global warming back to pre-industrial times. In fact, a third party sustainability science firm recently validated that White Oak Pastures, a farm in Georgia, is storing more carbon in its soil than its pasture-raised mob crazed cows emit during their lifetime, proving livestock managed responsibly can be carbon negative.
In addition to the climate breakdown reversal, planned grazing minimizes financial inputs, meaning it is an easy cost-effective way for farmers and ranchers to transform degenerative habits to regenerative without risk, making it an approchable and sustainable transformation which can be practiced by farmers across the world.
From an animal welfare perspective, mob grazing provides a solution to factory farming, as animals are no longer are fed in confinement off fossil-fuel intensive grains monocrops. Instead, they receive nutrients naturally available on diverse grasslands. Because of these nutrients and living a ‘nomadic’ life outdoors, the animals require no antibiotics either, increasing their health and overall wellbeing.
Since the animals control the weeds through their grazing, the land requires no chemicals either, detoxifying the plant’s soil, surrounding waterways and air.
In addition to having plant life which draws carbon down through the grass’s double-sided stomata (grass have little mouths on both sides to suck carbon in feeding life below ground), the strength of soil aggregates is greatly increased, preventing flooding and drought.
The healthy soil aggregates create increased nutritional value in the soil as well, offering food and nutrient security to all living things above and below ground.
HOW TO SUPPORT GRASSLAND REGENERATION?
Nature is incredibly complex, to save her, we have to learn to listen to her needs and wishes, understanding it is us that has to compromise, not her.
Try to eat regeneratively and seasonally, supporting your local economy. You can support the regenerative movement and grassland regeneration by purchasing regenerative meat or dairy from local farmers in your area. Type into your search engine: “Regenerative Agriculture (your state / province / country)”. You can also find regenerative fruit, vegetables, pulses, and grains this way!
Questions to ask farmers at your local farmer’s market are:
1. Do you practice no-till agriculture
2. Do you use cover crops?
3. Do you use synthetic fertilizer, fungicides, or herbicides?
4. Do you rotate crops?
5. Do you pay your workers fairly?
6. Do you use holistic managed planned grazing?