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Grazing Sustainably

Grazing Sustainably

Written by Adam Baldwin for Pineshine Farms, September 3rd, 2021

Over time, farmers realized that growing one type of plant in one area for too long would exhaust the soil in that area, likewise, their herds would deplete the pasture of their natural food source; however, when the herd moved, they saw that the land left behind would grow more robust from the nutrients left behind by the herd’s droppings.

The average adult cow eats on average 25-30 pounds of grass daily. Here, at Pineshine Farms, we typically maintain a herd of anywhere from 75-100 head of cattle at all times. Doing a bit of math tells us that’s approximately 3,000 pounds of grass eaten daily. That’s an incredible amount of grass. The problem for any farm becomes how to sustain the food supply for even a moderately sized herd of grazing cattle. The solution? Regenerative grazing.

What is regenerative grazing? This is a concept relating to pasture-raised animals that graze on foraged grasses rather than eating hay or feed — grass-fed farm animals. It is a specialized area of the larger concept of regenerative agriculture which, believe it or not, has been around for a long time. Suffice to say, when we farm a plot of land, we are essentially mining nutrients from the soil which causes soil degradation and eventually death of the soil. If you work in agriculture or an industry adjacent to it, you’re well-versed in this concept, for the leman, you probably read about it in your history class. Going back to medieval Europe, farmers have engaged in the practice of crop rotation. As farms in those days were not quite so specialized, farmers that grew vegetables and grains also tended to raise cattle or sheep. Over time, farmers realized that growing one type of plant in one area for too long would exhaust the soil in that area, likewise, their herds would deplete the pasture of their natural food source; however, when the herd moved, they saw that the land left behind would grow more robust from the nutrients left behind by the herd’s droppings.

This realization led to a process known as crop rotation. For instance, a farmer might break their acreage into four plots, they would grow two different crops in two of them, graze their herd in one, and leave the fourth to fallow. While one incentive for the unused land was to avoid crop surpluses, it also allowed the land time to replenish and thus to produce greater yields in the next growing season.

Regenerative grazing works in very much the same way. With all the science we have today to analyze soil content and create nutritional feed for cattle, we, at Pineshine Farms, defer to the conventional wisdom of those farmers of the past by moving our cattle every few days. With a herd that devours about 3,000 pounds of grass per day, we cannot afford to leave them in one pasture for too long; otherwise, they would begin to pull the roots of the grass from the ground leaving the land barren. Thus, the only sustainable method for managing our herd’s food source is to keep them moving.

Regenerative grazing is all part of our plan to run an organically sustainable farm. Our cattle grass and leave dropping in the pasture. As cows are not shy about where they relieve themselves, the pasture is filled with nutrient-rich manure within a few short days. When the cattle move to another pasture, the insects, and rain help to break down the manure, depositing nutrients back into the soil which, in turn, helps to grow a naturally nutrient-dense food source for our cattle. Not only does this save the farm loads of money in feed and land management expenses it’s also what makes for healthy, happy cows. We wholeheartedly believe that grass and Florida sunshine make for superior beef.

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