Why It's the How, Not the Cow

August 25, 2020

Grassfed and grassfinished are hot labels these days, but just any old grass isn't enough to equate to soil and animal health.
Here is why the time the livestock are on the pasture area matters.

The above-ground part of the plant, the green part, is like a solar panel. It's job is to grab sunlight, complete photosynthesis. The plant's root underground are generally as long as it's greenery up top. When grass is eaten or clipped up top, the roots die down as well, and must recover before sending nutrients back up to the grass tops to grow again. When grass is munched too low, it's roots die down for awhile and take quite some time to recover. That means that the tops of the grass will not grow for awhile, and will take longer to regrow. Then, it will be even longer until the livestock can munch on that area of grass. The cycle slows or stops. In addition, healthy plants feed microorganisms in the soil. When the plant is unhealthy and struggling to survive, the microbes are not being nourished.

The top of the grass, the growing part, is also the most nutritious. When livestock are stuck in the same paddock for an extended amount of time, they munch off all this top grass, and then will go through again to munch whatever is left if they are hungry enough. But, this lower grass is less nutritious (as is dried hay).

Finally, livestock in the same paddock long term will eventually build up too much manure. This becomes a detriment to the soils, and the animal health in terms of parasites and bacteria.

The answer to both the livestock and animal dilemma is simple and balanced - the livestock must be moved to fresh grass daily. But not just any fresh grass, the tallest fresh grass. This keeps the grass growth cycle going, the livestock eating the best of the nutrients, and the soil rich.

So the next time you see cattle on just a few inches of pasture, think...move! Even "grassfinished" cattle in the same paddock long term are in a system of compromised soil, animal health, low nutrition, and microbe destruction.

Danielle Olson Jones

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