Grazing Livestock to the Rescue?
I was so inspired by the video that I will actually be visiting the Allan Savory Institute in Boulder at his annual conference next month and very much look forward to it. In the TED Talk above, Allan explains how we’re currently encouraging desertification, similar to what nearly occurred during the Dust Bowl. Savory believes the best way to not only stop desertification, but also reverse it, by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock.According to Savory, rising population, land turning into desert at a steady clip (known as desertification), converge to create a “perfect storm” that threatens life on earth. Desertification has long been thought to be caused by livestock, such as sheep and cattle overgrazing and giving off methane. But, according to Savory, we have completely misunderstood the causes of desertification. We’ve failed to realize that in seasonal humidity environments, the soil and vegetation developed with very large numbers of grazing animals meandering through. Along with these herds came ferocious pack-hunting predators. The primary defense against these predators was the herd size.The larger the herd, the safer the individual animal within the herd. These large herds deposited dung and urine all over the grasses (their food), and so they would keep moving from one area to the next.This constant movement of large herds naturally prevented overgrazing of plants, while periodic trampling ensured protective covering of the soil. As explained by Savory, grasses must degrade biologically before the next growing season. This easily occurs if the grass is trampled into the ground. If it does not decay biologically, it shifts into oxidation — a very slow process that results in bare soil, which then ends up releasing carbon.Savory has developed a holistic management and planned grazing system that is now being implemented in select areas on five continents. In one area, increasing grazing cattle numbers by 400 percent, planning the grazing to mimic nature, and integrating the cattle with local elephants, buffalo and giraffes, has achieved remarkable results. I encourage you to view the video, because seeing is believing.In the US, where corn and soy — much of which are genetically engineered — are rapidly overtaking native grasslands, a return to smaller-scale agriculture, complete with grazing herds, may be necessary for creating a more sustainable food system. Following Savory’s strategy, large herds could be moved across areas in planned grazing patterns, which would be beneficial for the environment, the health of the animals, and subsequently the health of humans consuming those animals.