Just a walk up from Spring House at Fox Haven are the healthy pastures dedicated to rotational grazing of the Holterholm Farms’ cows (part of the Organic Valley Cooperative).
What is rotational grazing?
Rotational grazing is a management scheme that involves the daily movement of ruminant livestock from paddock to paddock in a fenced pasture. The cows are moved onto a small area to graze when the pasture plants are 12-18″ high, and taken off when that paddock to an adjacent one when about half the vegetation has been eaten (there is still leaf surface for photosynthesis to continue to put energy into the plants’ roots for rapid regrowth). Raising animals on pasture under rotation requires knowledge about the soil’s health, plant diversity and nutritional quality. Rotational grazing mimics the movement of wild ruminants (bison, antelope) that built the deep soils of America’s great prairies.
Why are pasture-raised cattle better than grain fed?
Nearly all the meat available in supermarkets comes from animals that are fattened on grain, soy and supplements and raised in highly mechanized Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). These feed lots, or “factory farms” come with a host of social, economic and environmental problems: animal stress and abuse, use of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs unnecessarily, air, land and water pollution, low-paid farm labor, loss of small family farms and ultimately food with less nutritional value (eatwild.com).
The alternative is to keep the animals on a pasture where animals are not treated with hormones or fed growth promoting additives. The animals grow at a natural pace, live with less stress and generally don’t need drugs or antibiotics. Products from pasture grazed cattle contain higher levels of vitamins A, D, E and F, of beta carotene, Conjugated Linoleic Acid than cattle raised on grains. Plus pasture fed cattle have a nearly perfect ratio of omega 6:omega 3.
Rotational grazing and environmental benefits: CO2 sequestration, manure management and nutrient cycling.
Its no mystery that excess carbon in our atmosphere is fostering changes to weather and climate patterns. Rotational grazing sequesters carbon faster than any other agricultural practice. Increased carbon improves the water cycle and more water soaks the soils nourishing plants instead of letting the water run off fields and into streams.The nutrients absorbed by the plants ultimately contribute to animal health. As soil microbe activity increases so does the mineral cycle. Water infiltration helps with manure management as well. In a pasture the animals spread their manure over the soil and it becomes a natural source of organic fertilizer that attracts beneficial insects for the health of the soil and pasture grasses. Consider the alternative. Factory farms where the excrement builds up in feedlots, fouls the air with ammonia smell, pollutes the soil with excess nutrients and ultimately leaches nitrogen and phosphorus into the ground water or into streams and rivers.