Last week I attended and spoke at R.P. Cooke’s grazing/ranching school in Tennessee and it reminded me there are several things in the world of controlled grazing that need to be reiterated.
Some are new knowledge and some cannot be reiterated often enough.
Tall grazing--If you truly want to improve soil health, you're going to need short graze periods and some very long recovery periods; meaning up to a year or more, depending on your location. (That's a shocking concept to many folks, I realize...) This is because soil life needs copious, deep, multi-species roots in the soil and moderate soil temperatures to be the most productive. Soil life is the engine that drove the prairie soils and made them so prolific for thousands of years before we came along with monoculture crops and grasses, and with artificial fertility.
Multiple species--Many species of plants together in the same location is nature's model, and they all produce different compounds and nutrients, which they share through the underground web of soil life. They can also share these many nutritional and medicinal compounds with livestock above ground, which lowers our costs my making livestock healthier.
Mycorrhizal fungi--This amazing creature seems to be a keystone species of the soil life. It can grow connect plants across literally thousands of acres into one huge, interrelated community. Plants share a variety of nutrients through mycorrhizal fungi and a host of soil microbes interact with and share nutrients back and forth through this network. Mycorrhiza also create much of the "glue" that builds healthy soil structure. Deep and copious roots and multiple plant species boost the presence and health of mycorrhiza.
Cattle that fit--To be the most profitable, cattle should be able to perform and reproduce with optimal inputs with your management and in your environment. We have written a lot about this over the years in Beef Producer and will continue to do so. In all this, remember that reproductive efficiency comes from a host of traits. Walt Davis discusses this in his column this month.
More profits--The key to all this is to manipulate the natural system to make more money, keep more money. You can lower your costs and increase your output. Then your job is to "keep that stack of money weighted down," as Mississippi grazier Gordon Hazard puts it.