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Animal Health Notebook
Calves on severely grazed range Alan Newport
These calves are standing in severely grazed range, a good practice that requires long recovery periods.

What is the Natural Model? Part II

Seven key ideas about land management can help you recalibrate your paradigms.

Ray Bannister of eastern Montana has studied natural model principles for better than 40 years and so he has some wisdom to share.

He started shortly after a national champion bull he had bred and raised broke down as a 3-year-old. About the same time he noticed that his land was deteriorating or not providing enough "feed." He realized weather changes and markets were going to take him out if he kept going in the same straight line.

Bannister is an astute observer, and so in the ensuing years he learned some valuable lessons. Here are seven key ideas from his wisdom list:

  1. No gain without pain. The weeds have a function to the soil and are regularly good food for adapted cattle. System-adapted cattle handle the environmental swings without tremendous inputs.
  2. Use it or lose it, but use it wisely. Pastures and forage require cattle. The ecosystem also includes the soil, plants, other animals, mankind and the air we breathe. When the plant life has matured something is going to take it out. It might be fire, grasshoppers or drought, but it is going to leave. Fast and severe grazing is by far the most rewarding, and is by design.
  3. Life requires death and recycling. Severe weather changes and patterns were taking out millions of buffalo for centuries. The wolves were never able to control the buffalo numbers, only their movement.
  4. In drought, the animals leave or die first. The plants will return unless the animals are fed and left on the pasture.
  5. Take care of the land or starve. In the Bible, the Hebrews were warned that they would eat their offspring if they failed to follow God's ordinances, which included care of their land. It is recorded to have happened several times to them, and many times to other cultures.
  6. Severe grazing is natural, and all species have a niche. Weeds and brush are forced to a small niche following severe grazing and trampling with adapted cattle. Conversely, there is nothing natural about take half and leave half.
  7. Complete recovery is natural. The buffalo were forced to move following grazing due to the fouling, filth, flies, grasshoppers, wolves, water, and more. They seldom returned prematurely. The solutions mostly come from getting the right animals to the right place at the right time for the right reasons. In order to be correct the right decisions are required.
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