Back in 2010 I did a Science Circle presentation on sustainable farming and I thought I might revisit that topic today some twelve years later.
Academically, I am interested in human behavior. My interests in farming are personal as I live in rural Texas on my family’s land. We use a number of sustainable methods but I’m not an expert in agriculture. I do have friends who are experts however and I think because we all eat, that food crops and products are of interest to us all. So, today we will re-examine the role of science in one area of modern food production.
I want to give an example from the dairy industry. I have farmer friends who are implementing these methods on their family dairy farm and I have directly observed their practices. In order to both reduce erosion on the land and improve the health of their cows, my friends divided 30 acres into 25 paddocks. All divided by solar-powered electric fences. These paddocks were planted in grasses and legumes and allowed a year to rest. No pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used.
They let their herd of dairy cows graze in each paddock for a day. During that day the cows eat and deposit manure and tramp around. Then, that paddock is left alone for 24 days to re-grow the grasses and process the manure. This creates a self-sustaining environment. Some acreage is also planted in the same manner, but cut and stored for Winter. When it is very cold, the cows need to go to the feed lot to stay warm and are fed the stored hay. This process of managed grazing results in lowered costs, healthier animals, and, in the end, an organic glass of milk.
- The Science of Natural Farming, D. Oh, Science Circle presentation, November 2010.
- My friends received financial support for their project from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Rotational pasture management to increase the sustainability of mountain livestock farms in the Alpine region, Silvia Baronti et al, Regional Environmental Change, March 2022.
- Raising Animals Sustainably on Pasture, Foodprint, March 2021.
- Pasture Management on Organic Dairy Farms: Managing for Pasture Plant Health, Sarah Flack, eOrganic, March 2013.
- Return to Grazing Benefits Soil, Study Shows, Domenico Tavano, Hobby Farms, March 2013.
- Land-strapped Farmers Turn to Mob Grazing, Domenico Tavano, Hobby Farms, July 2012.
- A mechanistic model for predicting intake of forage diets by ruminants, T. Hackmann & J. Spain, Animal Science, 2010.
- The Stockman Grass Farmer – Recent articles include: Grazing dairies economically competitive with confinement operations, Pastured dairies really shine with higher oil prices, Managed pig grazing can improve hardwood timber stands while producing an artisanal pork product.
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, US Department of Agriculture.