The Art and Science of Grazing: How Grass Farmers Can Create Sustainable Systems for Healthy Animals and Farm Ecosystems

review by Josh Pincus

The Art and Science of Grazing, by Sarah Flack, is a wonderful and thorough examination of our current thinking on managing pastures for livestock. The book is both an essential introduction to the theories that guide pasture management as well as a detailed assessment of the science behind these prac-tices. This blend of breadth and depth makes this book an essential addition to the reading list for any aspiring or practicing grazer.

The Art and Science of Grazing is written in four parts. The first is Laying the Groundwork, where the author introduces some of the general ideas that overarch grazing and pasture management as a whole. The second section, Grazing from the Plant’s Perspective, focuses on how the actual plants in the pasture live and grow, how they react to different types of grazing, and the vital role that the soil beneath the grass plays in the process. In the third section, Grazing from the Animal’s Perspective, Flack focuses on rumination, how ruminants graze, how their gut generates the nutrients they need from the forage they consume, and some of the many challenges that grass based livestock can face. The final section of the book, Designing and Managing a Grazing System, takes a close look at how to actually put all of the previous ideas into practice out on the pasture. Every section is full of clear and helpful pictures, graphs and charts that help make the clear writing even better.

This book has many strengths and the writing is clear and concise, but the short real-world examples that the author includes periodically are some of her best ad-ditions to the text. These examples, like The Art of Good Grazing from page seventy nine to eighty one, take the reader onto the farm, show us how farmers are actually using theory to manage their farms, and most importantly, inspire us to try some of these things ourselves. In this section we read about Thistle Creek Farm, and George Lake’s experiences working toward an extended grazing season and pasture improvement. This exposure to another farmer’s experiences, challenges and successes has always been one of the most valuable learning opportunities for both new and seasoned farmers, and reading about the here-and-now on a farm helps the reader imagine how they might apply these great ideas on their own farm.

The Art and Science of Grazing is an essential collection showing the breadth of the author’s understanding of grazing and pasture management. Like the title says, the book dives deep into both the science of how pasture, ruminants and grazing work, as well as the art of managing this dynamic relation-ship. This book is an inclusive look at the whole practice of grazing, and it has just the right depth to explain the underlying principles that drive the ru-minant/pasture relationship.

There are insights here that speak directly to the foundations of grazing theory and the details of management. Flack has here written the best summary of where we are in grazing, but this book collects more insights than it breaks new ground. I look forward to her further work in driving the field forward