Cows Can Heal the Land!

Cows Can Heal the Land!

Plants! – They are the millions of little pumps, pumping life into the soil on our farm.  The basis of that life is carbon – it is the building block of all things living.  Plants take if from the air and make plant sugars with it via photosynthesis.

Plants use these sugars to grow, and also push some sugars out the root systems into the soil, where they feed the microbiology of the soil -the fungi, bacteria and more. The soil microbes use these carbon rich sugars to build healthy, living topsoil.

Having groundcover on our soils – as living plants or as mulch (trampled to the ground by our cows), helps to keep the soils cool and moist, which protects those amazing bugs that are so integral to the building and regeneration of soil. The trampled mulch is also another source of carbon to the soil ‘bugs’ – to complement the liquid carbon sugars that come from the plant roots.


Lots of groundcover here after the cows have left the paddock


The thing is, to have these actively growing plants, pumping life into the soil, and to have this groundcover of litter, protecting the soil, we need livestock.

Livestock to graze the plants – that they will grow, and regrow, and pump life into the soil as they do.

Livestock to trample plant material – that it will be laid down and form a mulch on the soil surface.

Livestock – to add manure and urine to the soil.

This is farming in cinque with nature. The wild herds of Africa and America grazed, tightly bunched and moving. They were bunched together because the predators (lions, wolves etc) forced them to do so – the grouping and high numbers of the herd offered some protection. They kept on the move because the high number of animals meant that the grasses not consumed were either trampled to the ground or covered by dung and urine.

This is the basis of our grazing management. Aptly stated by Alan Savory, founder of these grazing principles – “We must use livestock, bunched and moving, as a proxy for former herds and predators, and mimic nature.”

I liken us to the wolves. In the environment of our farm, we are the wolves – controlling animal movements with our fencing and water points.  We have created more and smaller paddocks – to ‘bunch’ the animals and move them on to fresh pastures more regularly.  We have portable water troughs that mean animals move back to a different point in the paddock to drink each time they are in the paddock, preventing bare soil areas around the trough from regular tracking of the animals.

trough on plain with cows

The planning part of the grazing is critical – and yes, involves a written planning process. It is flexible and dynamic with the seasons and the animals and with our observations of what the plants and nature are doing.

Planning grazing - derek on bike
Assessing paddocks back in April, for our current grazing plan. (Lots of calculations!).

There is much rangeland in the world that is simply not suitable for growing crops or vegetables. The option here is livestock. Food is produced and when livestock are managed well, the land can be improved.

This planned grazing we practice is part of Holisitic Management and you can see Alan Savory’s TED talk, explaining it’s impact and how animals can heal land.  (It’s about 20 minutes). Be careful – you might just be inspired and have great hope for the future!

Derek and I are doing our best to heal the land and soil, and we’re producing nourishing food for you while we do it! You’re always welcome to visit our farm and hear more about what we do. Just give us a call to arrange a time.

If you’re interested in one of our grassfed beef hampers, you can learn more here.