Grazing animals create extraordinary environments—witness the Serengeti plains and tall grass prairies of the United States. Where original grasslands are still intact, they are abundant lands with carbon-rich soils. They benefit from the activity of migratory herds that cluster tightly for protection; munch grasses to the crown; disturb the soil with their hooves, intermixing their urine and feces; and then move on.
Managed grazing imitates these herbivores, addressing two key variables: how long livestock grazes a specific area and how long the land rests before animals return. There are three managed-grazing techniques that improve soil health, carbon sequestration, water retention, and forage productivity:
- Improved continuous grazing adjusts standard grazing practices and decreases the number of animals per acre.
- Rotational grazing moves livestock to fresh paddocks or pastures, allowing those already grazed to recover.
- Adaptive multi-paddock grazing shifts animals through smaller paddocks in quick succession, after which the land is given time to recover.
Improved grazing can be very good for the land and sequester from one-half to three tons of carbon per acre. However, it does not address the methane emissions generated by ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.), which ferment cellulose in their digestive systems and break it down with methane-emitting microbes.
Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.