One of my pet peeves is the assertion — that I read so often in the writings of well-meaning but poorly informed people commenting on the food system – that livestock production is wasteful of land, water and resources badly needed to feed people.
I know they have read some diatribe by a militant livestock opponent about the number of people who could be fed on the amount of corn and soy being consumed by an American beef cow at a typical feedlot. Not only do they not question the healthfulness of feeding people on so much soy, nor the wisdom of exposing these imagined starving people to a diet of 100% GMOs engineered by Monsanto, they don’t even conceive that the feeding of large amounts of grain to ruminants is unnatural, a product of modern industrial farming, and as much anathema to friends of livestock as to their opponents.
Grazing is the subject of this issue. We pick it because, properly done, it sequesters atmospheric carbon long-term, builds the productive capacity of soil, enables the storage of large amounts of water, and increases the number of people who can be healthily fed from the world’s landmass. It also is an important part of agriculture in our region.
Areas like the northeastern United States are well suited to grazing. Our rolling terrain often makes annual crop production difficult – use of machinery is limited by slopes and rocks, and tillage on hills can result in erosion. But perennial grasses are ideally suited to our generous precipitation while four-footed herbivores are well adapted to hills and rocks.
So in this issue we try to give state of the art information discussing grazing theory, grazing practice, and the sometimes counterintuitive thinking about responsible management which leads to grazing success. We hear from experts, experienced practitioners, and relative novices — garnering their wisdom and observations about raising grass for a living. We hope it helps you rethink your farming and buying decisions.