In June, VC2 partnered with the Greenbrier Valley Pasture Network and NCIF to conduct a grazing management class for WV livestock farmers at Swift level Farm in Lewisburg. Jim Gerrish, the leading expert in the study and practice of Management-Intensive Grazing (MIG) taught a two day course about MIG, a method of sustainable land use for pasture raised livestock. This in depth training explained how rotational grazing of livestock can actually improve pastures over time rather than deplete the soil as conventional continuous grazing methods have proven to do.
MIG refers to managing the length of time livestock is left in a defined area so as to maximize animal nutrition, grass regeneration and soil conservation. Though the idea has been around since the 1960’s, it hasn’t caught on to the main stream farmer.
For the farmer, assuming they are able to put the added time into moving the herd, it’s a no-brainer. MIG maximizes weight gain for livestock because the animals are continuously eating the most nutritious part of the plant. The farmer’s pastures are healthy due to minimal damage to the soil structure and vigorous plant growth, and pastures produce more forage therefore less money is spent on hay.
For the environment, this practice is reported to help combat two elements of climate change; CO2 emissions and desertification.
Compared to conventional farming, just raising steers on grass only as opposed to grains saves 2.3 metric tons of CO2. But more importantly, managing grassland using MIG practices helps sequester CO2.
Dr Rattan Lal, a leading expert on soil carbon stated that available agricultural land has “the maximum potential rate of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) sequestration high enough to almost nullify the annual increase in atmospheric concentration.” Some say that he is exaggerating the benefits, but many agree that managed livestock may be one solution to combat global climate change. Recently, environmentally responsible corporation, Patagonia, and The Nature Conservancy teamed up with the Wild Idea Buffalo Co. in South Dakota and Ovis 21 in Argentina to promote the benefits of managed grasslands.
Andrea Malmberg, Director of Research and Knowledge Management at The Savory Institute, proclaims this agricultural practice to be capable of stopping desertification.
“We offer that an increase of properly managed livestock will be needed to accomplish the immediate crisis of stopping desertification and the associated loss of soil carbon.” she stated. “It is acknowledged that the management of livestock by humans will have to drastically change. It is the duration of grazing episodes and their frequency (the time needed for the recovery of plants and soils) that needs to be managed.”
Large scale ranchers in aren’t the only ones who can benefit. She believes it is “possible for small scale herders and livestock raisers to not only participate in carbon markets and benefit from the ecological services they provide, but lead the fight to revert the current trends of global climate change”.
VC2 is proud to support WV livestock producers on the leading edge of sustainable grassland management.