grazing cows

Grazing cows could help prevent desertification.

We know that global warming is melting our polar ice caps and causing super-storms around the globe.  It may feel overwhelming to try to figure out solutions.  However, there is one solution that is easier than you would think.  It deals with the way cows save soil.

It would stand to reason that too many cows could eat up all the grass and end up destroying soil.  However, it turns out that it’s just the opposite.  The outcome depends entirely on proper management.

In order to stop large patches of grassland from desertification, ranchers have sought out various solutions.  They wanted to find out how to keep all the water from evaporating.

In eastern Colorado, ranchers found out they just needed to keep the cows moving.  They are calling the practice holistic management or planned grazing.

“Plants actually respond to grazing. It actually stimulates growth in some ways,” said William Burnidge, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy. Burnidge runs the Conservancy’s Colorado grassland program, which includes a 14,000-acre nature preserve and working commercial cattle ranch, the Fox Ranch.

“When I learned about it, that style of grazing, the basis was everybody was producing more grass,” said Andrews, a fifth-generation cattle rancher in eastern Colorado. “It’s hard, as a producer, to argue with more grass. Because we never have enough grass.”

With demand for food growing along with the population of the planet, farmers and ranchers are seeking out any sustainable solutions they can to keep up.  With planned grazing, ranchers make a plan at the beginning of the year.  They map out the areas with the best grass so the cows can stay there longer.  Yet, they move on before eating all the grass.  They keep moving.  While they inhabit a particular area, they plod the land with their feet.  That’s what ends up holding the moisture in.  It’s so simple, yet it is extremely effective.

One term people are using to describe the process is “mimicry.”  In other words, it mimics the way herds of animals would roam the vast grasslands in the past.  It is reminiscent of the herds of bison, buffalo and horses. Who would have guessed that cows could save soil?

Sometimes the simplest solution works best.