Content Critters = Content Herdsman
Livestock, plant eating animals used to produce food and fiber, have been a part of many cultures since humanity transitioned from hunter-gatherer to farming, thence to urbanization. In fact our western landscapes co-evolved over thousands of years with impacts of mega-fauna (mammoth, mastodon, elk, bison).
Grazing sheep, cows, goats and pigs on our foothill environments offers a biologic style of improving land health and bringing food products to market.
Herbivores provide services to landowners by removing invasive plant species, reducing fire hazard surface fuel load buildup, and enhancing the aesthetic of their home ground.
Working with biology eliminates adverse impacts of mechanized devices, whether it be tractor or weed eater, and reincorporates organic material into the soil, through the action of an herbivore's hooves, that would otherwise oxidize.
This improves the water-cycle function, for organic material in the soil retains moisture, which supports soil microbes, perennial plants, and reduces soil erosion.
Each livestock species offers a grazier different capabilities, from heavy to refined impacts, to meet a holistic goal.
Cows have a beneficial impact on altering dense landscapes populated with heavy brush and like material. Their sheer weight is needed to break down tough branch structure and their hoof action will effectively incorporate crust buildup, from oxidized organic material and rain compaction, more deeply into the soil than lighter animals such as sheep or goats.
They trample more than they eat in these conditions, putting plant material next to the soil, and they leave dung plops that contribute to nutrient cycling in the soil.
Goats are legendary for their industrious climbing and eating habits. A grazier will use them in our foothill environments to battle invasive Himalayan Blackberry, brush, and other woody plants to help mitigate encroachment into carbon soaking grasslands.
They are useful in areas inaccessible to mechanical equipment, are often accompanied by a guard dog, and due to their curiosity and inventive ability to find a way outside portable fencing are forever a challenge for the grazier.
Pigs are soil churning dynamos, requiring careful attention, but quite valuable in the right place at the right time. They root up grasses and forbs that surface browsers won’t attend to, important in regenerating oaks in savannah and woodland conditions.
Pigs can be used in combined herds of sheep and goats on unhealthy riparian areas with a high percentage of bare ground, vertical drainage banks, and invasives, where they go straight to denuded vertical banks, brake down the ridges, followed by sheep and goats acting like a finishing rake to transition the area back to a rich natural condition dominated by native grasses.
Sheep, an important tool for the grazier, have a more refined impact on improving land condition than cows. With more mouths per acre than a cow they have a more uniform effect on pastures, dry or irrigated. They eat more than they trample which is helpful when trying to remove thatch and some invasive species, and can be used where lighter impact is needed in sensitive forage conditions.
Sheep have a different pallet than other herbivores, which a grazier with knowledge of plant species, can put to good use. Their dung is more evenly distributed and host different gut organisms. And they are easier for a grazier to manage in rougher topography while still having the impact of churning organic material into the soil.
Elster Ranch works solely with natural grass environments, uses no hormone integrated feeds, and antibiotics are used solely for the health of an individual animal in need. Low stress handling and management practice is the protocol on the ranch, no hotshots or other harsh controlling devices, mommas birth their calves in the oak woodlands or savannah areas of their choice, have fresh air, good water, and ample shade for their resting periods. Working with these principles is healthy for animals and grazier alike.
Great ResultsPasture based protein, along with wild game, has been an important part of the human food cycle. Many consumers now want to know that animals are raised locally with low stress methods, not subject to growth hormones, managed to improve land health, and eager to have a conversation with the rancher.
Thanks to the relentless march of science, especially in health and nutrition, old paradigms are being dispelled: raw meat with its tendency for high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol does not have adverse effects on blood cholesterol and heart disease.
The Stockman GrassFarmer reported on a presentation Dr. Susan Duckett, Ernest Corley Endowed Chair, Department of Animal and Veterinary Science
at Clemson University, made at a Grassfed Exchange Conference about the similarities and differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef.
Each had similar levels of protein and cholesterol, as well as tenderness. Differences lie in levels of antioxidants where grass-fed animals had much higher levels, especially in the long chain omega-3 fatty acids. Ruminant animals are unique in making this healthy form of omega-3, with 60% higher levels attained by grass-fed animals.