I raise lambs for meat. Cute, wooly, bouncy lambs that eventually become leg of lamb roasts and juicy lamb chops.
Over the years, I have been asked how I can do that, more times than I can count. Usually I just shrug my shoulders, not wanting to embark on a lengthy explanation.
In 2020, however, scapegoating of farmers and ranchers started being a regular occurrence in the media.There is a campaign to show that raising livestock is responsible for our existential crisis with regard to climate. Fake meats and vegan diets are among the solutions being proposed to reduce greenhouse gas production attributed to the production of meat animals.
All of this is a great over simplification of the nuanced world that is agricultural production. It also fails to account for the economies of industrial production of faux meat proteins from plants and artificial nutrients.
Management-intensive grazing of ruminants has the potential to improve the water-holding capacity and productivity of the soil – soil that has, in many cases, been depleted of life and nutrients by chemical agriculture, over-grazing and excessive tillage. Building soil life combined with the pressure of heavy grazing animals in short rotations, greatly increases the soil’s water holding capacity and its carbon storage potential. This reduces runoff from heavy rains into surface water, reduces drought potential and improves the productivity of the soil.
Water that previously escaped begins to return to landscapes that have shed every drop and then suffered with summer droughts. Ponds return to strategic points on the land, allowing water to be stored for crop and livestock watering.
Planting perennial crops and trees into those fertility-enhanced soils can produce future forage for both humans and animals who benefit from fruits, nuts and plants as they grow. Perennial crops also provide shade for livestock and soil organisms, turning functional deserts into thriving permaculture systems.
In addition to those benefits, management-intensive grazing produces high-quality proteins that store well ‘on the hoof’ and can be processed locally at a scale appropriate for the community that consumes them. No added ingredients need be transported into our communities to make this food available to residents.
So before you jump on the bandwagon of synthetic proteins, learn more about how management-intensive grazing, combined with perennial plantings can transform the landscape where you live. For additional reading:
Support a local grazier by feeding your family locally-produced grassfed meats, eggs and milk. Your Earth will thank you.