March 4, 2018

Another Land-Use Debate: Feedlot-finished vs. Forage-finished

I have a hypothesis that I want to test out on this blog post: I want to find out for a fact if forage-finished beef does in fact require more land than grain-finished beef, or whether it's a load of hot air.

The common rhetoric that, "There's just not enough land to produce grass-fed beef for everyone," is a common mantra repeated by several groups, more strongly the anti-livestock animal extremists, as well as the conventional agriculture promoters. And personally, I'm tired of hearing this rhetoric again and again without having some ammunition myself to debunk such claims. This ends now.

Have you ever done a Google search to even find out if there has been such an analysis done by anyone? I have, and the results are disappointing, to say the least. There is only one article (and this phrase is repeated by other articles, nothing that is original) that gives a very ambiguous comparison, supposedly from some unpublished research paper that hasn't even been cited in the article itself, which claims that, "a grain-fed cow will require three acres of land, while a grass-fed cow requires nine acres."

I'm sorry, but that's just pathetic.

And what makes it worse, as a major caveat, is that the very article claims that the author of that unpublished paper is partnered with a pro-CAFO (which includes feedlot production) company. That will certainly create a huge influence on land-use analyses and resulting data obtained.

So I think it's time I pulled back my sleeves and dug out my calculator and my formulas I used in my other blog post I had a lot of fun creating, to take a really good, hard look at just how much land is actually required by both forage-finishing and grain-finishing cattle, and to test the hypothesis that it is true that "grain-fed" actually do require less land than "grass-fed." As I write this out, this will be both an adventure for myself, and for you to read though!

Key Points on Feeds, Forages and Cattle

Before I begin, there's several key things to understand.

  1. Grass will grow back after being grazed, provided it's done so when those plants have not yet reached full maturity (i.e., seeds out and ready to be dispersed). Grain crops do not grow back after being harvested for grain or feed; not to the same yield that was first obtained at first harvest. So unlike with pasture, cropland needs to be broken up and re-seeded again in order to get another crop.
  2. Both forage and crop yield and quality will be dependent on precipitation, temperature (i.e., the weather), and species used. Conditions unfavourable to any forage or crop species will make for unfavourable yields; the opposite is also true. I will not be accounting that in the calculations below, however.
  3. Forage and feed quality is not static. They are always prone to change based on various factors from stage of maturity at harvest, storage conditions, weather conditions, how they're managed, and soil quality. For the purpose of this exercise I'm using expected average quality of the typical feeds I've chosen for both types of feeding operations, particularly for the grain-finished side. 
  4. Forages mean both grasses and forbs (including legumes). I have a pun-intended beef with the term "grass-fed" despite it being so widely used because cows and cattle voluntarily eat far more than just grass. Pastures should not be exclusively grass, as that flies in the face of the opportunities, benefits, and need for biodiversity in any plant stand that can be used to graze livestock on. Hence my insistence on using the term "forage-finished" instead of "grass-finished" or even grass-fed. 
  5. To compare forage-finished with grain-finished more accurately, I'm eliminating the time period before weaning. I don't think it fair to include the amount of feed and therefore land for a cow-calf pair when the start of both forage- and grain-finished animals is very similar. There might be a date when I'll come back and take a second look at this post, and change my mind.  
  6. Animal type and breed is going to really determine age and weight of finish. There are a lot of different breeds out there and a lot of different ways to get them to the right slaughter weight/age. For the purpose of this blog I'm purposely using a smaller-type, British-type beef breed like Angus or Hereford that starts at a smaller weaning weight than the larger breeds like Simmental or Charolais. The latter breed-type could have the potential for larger land-use numbers because of their size and demands for higher-quality feeds. 
Now that that's out of the way, the best way to do this comparison is to start with a scenario of a typical grain-finished animal versus a forage-finished animal. Both virtual steers used in this post  are of similar breeding (British-type), as mentioned above. The significant differences between them are carried forward below.

The Typical (Canadian) Grain-finished Steer: 

I start with a weaned calf weighing 500 pounds. I work through some different "step-up" diets from when he enters the backgrounding phase. The first five months is feeding through winter, and the next four months (the last half of the backgrounding phase) is continuing feeding in a drylot/feedlot situation, or the option for when he goes on pasture. He then gets sent to the feedlot when he reaches 1050 pounds, and is fed up over four months until he reaches target weight of 1425 pounds. All that is assuming that he was weaned and brought into the backgrounding phase when he was 6 months old, was 15 months of age when he entered the feedlot, and was sent to slaughter by the time he was around 19 months old. 

Note: I understand that there's lots of times where beef cattle have been finished and sent slaughter at a younger age, like around 12 to 14 months old. But because I'm working with a British-type breed, that backgrounding period is needed for growth. If he were a Continental-type animal (like a Simmental or Charolais), he wouldn't need that backgrounding period and could be sent to begin the feedlot-finishing process almost immediately after weaning. Reasons are Continental-type beef cattle have different metabolic requirement where they need more higher-quality feed for bodily maintenance, growth, and (for cows only) lactation than British-type. Continentals are less likely to put on a lot of fat if put on a high-energy diet than British types when growing, because they reach maturity at a later age. 

The Forage-finished Steer:

For the grass-fed/forage-finished steer, the weaning age and weight are significantly different. This steer is weaned at 8 months of age (born in late May, weaned by end of December), and weighing about 700 pounds. Target slaughter weight for this steer is going to be around 1100 pounds. Age at slaughter will be around 18 months of age. 

Note: Depending on the animal's frame size, finishing weights will differ for forage-finished animals. Typically you'd want smaller-framed animals than the larger-framed ones, as they take less land and less forage to feed and finish up, and you tend to get more meat from more smaller animals than fewer larger ones. Also, animals with larger frame sizes and more later-maturing breeding, such as Simmentals or even Brahman-type cattle, tend to take longer to reach a decent finishing age on forage than early-maturing animals, such as Angus, South Devon, Hereford, or Shorthorn. Where an Angus or Shorthorn may take 18 to 20 months to reach finish on forage, a Simmental, Charolais or Limousin may take 24 to 30 months, and Brahman-type may take 30+ months to be ready for slaughter. This link from Grass-fed Solutions explains more. 

What is being fed?? 

Before I launch into the feeds I've laid out for this post, I have to mention again the importance of understanding that forage/feed quality is never static and is always prone to change from season to season, year to year, farm to farm. I've chosen to go with average feed/forage quality values to prevent potential skewing the results from choosing instead from either extremes of best quality to poorest quality possible. 

For forage-finished animals, I have to assume that the land is being managed as best as is possible with management-intensive grazing that is holistic in approach and adapted to forage quantity and quality. This is a significant difference from the grain-finished steer, which when given the option to be on pasture, is instead put in the typical conventional, continuous-grazing form of pasture management that purposely forces more acreage per animal on the landscape. You'll find interesting to note that, because the grain-finished steer is fed grain while on pasture, the amount of pasture he has access to is going to be less because at least a quarter of his feed requirements are met by the inclusion of grain in his diet, compared with if he wasn't fed grain during this pasturing period. 

Diet of the Grain-Finished Steer

For the Canadian grain-finished steer, I've started him off with alfalfa-grass hay, barley grain, and eventually barley silage. Throughout the backgrounding phase, his hay is decreased and silage and grain increased. By the time he's in the feedlot, he's almost completely off the hay and fully onto grain and silage. The last 22 days he's been put on a finisher diet of mostly grain and silage. He is put on a "step-up" program of feeding, where changes in feed occurs every 50 to 60 days, up to that last 22-day final finishing period. This is based on the link Feedlots 101 - Alberta Cattle Feeders Association

I figured I'd do an American feedlot-finished steer simulation as well, to satisfy the inquiring minds of my American audience (you're welcome). I just substituted the barley grain and barley silage for corn grain and corn silage. Rations are the same as with the Canadian feedlotted animals, and according to this link: Rations for Beef Cattle: University of Wisconsin Extension. You'll be interested to note the differences in amount fed, as well as land use results from what I have calculated. 

Diet of the Forage-finished Steer

Coming up with the diet for a forage-finished steer was a bit more challenging. There are a lot of reasons why this would be made more challenging, and these range from different management practices to differences in climate as well as differences in forage species available for a forage-fed/finished animal to eat. 

I would also like folks to understand that grass-fed has (and still does) gotten a bad rap largely because of poor management practices that encourage a continuous grazing system on pasture--just like what I did with the grain-finished steer above--leading to degraded pastureland. 

So instead, I have chosen to have this steer in a well-managed system that encourages healthier soil with greater organic matter which feeds the plants and provides more nutrients to the plants, more biodiversity in the pasture stand, and therefore higher quality and quantity forages for grazing that you wouldn't find in a conventional operation. This well-managed system encapsulates high-stock density grazing (or mob grazing) with daily moves, with over double the stocking rate of continuously-grazed pastures. This way, in essence, I am purposely comparing the best way to feed and finish a grain-fed steer versus the best way to feed/graze and finish a forage-fed steer. And because there is such enormous variances in the types of forage to graze, I thought it best to come from two different climate type examples.

The first climate example is in a drier area (14 to 18 inches [350 to 450 mm] annual precipitation) in a more northern climate where the growing season is only from April to September (~5 months), and the rest of the year plants are in dormancy, often under the cover of snow. For this forage-finished steer, grazing is going to start mid May, and ends at the time when he goes to slaughter. However, since he is weaned by January, he's going to be on good quality legume-grass hay (or bale-grazed, using hay from that farm), until he's put on good quality legume-grass mixed pasture. 

The second example is in an area that receives ~40 to 50 inches of annual precipitation, in a much milder area than above. Grazing is able to be done year round, with stockpiled forages from November to early April, and grazing green growth the rest of the time. 

So, How Much are the Grain-Finished and Forage-Finished Steers Eating?

If anyone is trying something different from what I'm doing, what I need to caution you on is to never assume that a grain-fed nor a forage-fed steer eats the same amount from weaning to the point of slaughter. We are dealing with a growing animal that experiences changes in nutrient requirements and the amount need to be consumed on pretty well a monthly basis. In other words, what that steer is going to be eating just after weaning will not be the same amount a few months later. You'll see what I mean when you  read more below.

I saved myself a lot of extra math and arithmetic by doing this first section on grain-fed/finishing by using a beef ration balancing computer program called CowBytes. I selected the feeds I mentioned above, and based on the step-up program used for transitioning weaned calves to all the way through to the final finishing phase I was able to come up with some fairly accurate values for how much to expect a steer to eat on a daily basis based on various parameters I set the program to account for. That means you don't have to see a bunch of complicated formulas posted here, just the values I came up with. 

Barley (Canadian) Finished Steer Rations and Daily Feed Intake

For a post-weaned, 6 month old 500 pounds steer to have an average daily gain (ADG) of 2 lb per day upon being put into a backgrounding ration, he would be fed:
  • 9 pounds of alfalfa-grass hay, and 6 pounds of barley grain per day.
  • 450 pounds of hay and 300 pounds of grain over 50 days.
For a 600 pound steer to have an ADG of 2 pounds per day, he would be fed:
  • 9 pounds of hay, 6 pounds of grain, and put on 4 pounds of barley silage per day.
  • 450 pounds of hay, 300 pounds of grain, and 200 pounds of silage over 50 days.
For a 700 pound steer to have an ADG of 2 pounds per day, he would be fed:
  • 9 pounds of hay, 10 pounds of silage, and 6 pounds of grain per day.
  • 450 pounds of hay, 500 pounds of silage, and 300 pounds of grain for 50 days.
For an 800 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.2 pounds per day, he would be fed if he continued to be fed in a feedlot:
  • 5 pounds of hay, 11 pounds of silage, and 10 pounds of grain per day
  • 250 pounds of hay, 600 pounds of silage, and 500 pounds of grain over 50 days.
For an 800 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.2 pounds per day, he would be fed if he were put on pasture but supplemented with grain, he would be fed:
  • 5 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 62 pounds of grass per day.
  • 250 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 3100 pounds of grass over 50 days.
For a 910 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.3 pounds per day, he would be fed if he continued to be fed in a feedlot:
  • 4 pounds of hay, 15 pounds of silage, and 10 pounds of grain per day.
  • 240 pounds of hay, 600 pounds of silage, and 500 pounds of grain per day.
For a 910 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.3 pounds per day, he would be fed if he were put on pasture but supplemented with grain, he would be fed:
  • 5 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 77 pounds of grass per day.
  • 300 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 4620 pounds of grass over 60 days.
Upon entering the feedlot and the start of the finishing phase, a 1050 pound steer to have an ADG of 3 pounds per day, he would be fed:
  • 2 pounds of hay, 25 pounds of silage, and 13 pounds of grain per day.
  • 100 pounds of hay, 1250 pounds of silage, and 650 pounds of grain over 50 days.
For a 1200 pound steer to gain 3 pounds per day, his finisher ration would be fed:
  • 27 pounds of silage and 14 pounds of grain per day.
  • 1350 pounds of silage and 700 pounds of grain for 50 days.
For a 1350 pound steer to have a ADG of 3 pounds per day (until he reaches a finishing weight of 1425 pounds), would be fed until being shipped to slaughter:
  • 10 pounds of silage and 22 pounds of grain
  • 250 pounds of silage and 550 pounds of grain for 25 days.
The totals over this 12.5 month feeding period for this single steer are as follows:
  • Alfalfa-Grass Hay: 1940 pounds (0.97 tons or 0.88 tonnes)
  • Barley Silage: 5550 pounds (2.775 tons or 2.52 tonnes)
  • Barley Grain: 
    • a) 3850 pounds if continuously feedlotted (83.3 bushels), or 
    • b) 3300 pounds if pastured (71.88 bushels)
  • Pasture: 7720 pounds
Corn (American) Finished Steer Rations and Daily Feed Intake

For a post-weaned, 6 month old 500 pounds steer to have an average daily gain (ADG) of 2 lb per day upon being put into a backgrounding ration, he would be fed:
  • 9 pounds of alfalfa-grass hay, and 5 pounds of corn grain per day.
  • 450 pounds of hay and 250 pounds of grain over 50 days.
For a 600 pound steer to have an ADG of 2 pounds per day, he would be fed:
  • 9 pounds of hay, 5 pounds of grain, and put on 6 pounds of corn silage per day.
  • 450 pounds of hay, 250 pounds of grain, and 300 pounds of silage over 50 days.
For a 700 pound steer to have an ADG of 2 pounds per day, he would be fed:
  • 9 pounds of hay, 12 pounds of silage, and 5 pounds of grain per day.
  • 450 pounds of hay, 600 pounds of silage, and 250 pounds of grain for 50 days.
For an 800 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.2 pounds per day, he would be fed if he continued to be fed in a feedlot:
  • 8 pounds of hay, 12 pounds of silage, and 7 pounds of grain per day
  • 400 pounds of hay, 600 pounds of silage, and 350 pounds of grain over 50 days.
For an 800 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.2 pounds per day, he would be fed if he were put on pasture but supplemented with grain, he would be fed:
  • 5 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 62 pounds of grass per day.
  • 250 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 3100 pounds of grass over 50 days.
For a 910 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.3 pounds per day, he would be fed if he continued to be fed in a feedlot:
  • 6 pounds of hay, 12 pounds of silage, and 9 pounds of grain per day.
  • 240 pounds of hay, 600 pounds of silage, and 500 pounds of grain per day.
For a 910 pound steer to have an ADG of 2.3 pounds per day, he would be fed if he were put on pasture but supplemented with grain, he would be fed:
  • 5 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 75 pounds of grass per day.
  • 300 pounds of grain while expected to graze and consume 4500 pounds of grass over 60 days.
Upon entering the feedlot and the start of the finishing phase, a 1050 pound steer to have an ADG of 3 pounds per day, he would be fed:
  • 2 pounds of hay, 23 pounds of silage, and 12 pounds of grain per day.
  • 100 pounds of hay, 1150 pounds of silage, and 600 pounds of grain over 50 days.
For a 1200 pound steer to gain 3 pounds per day, his finisher ration would be fed:
  • 27 pounds of silage and 14 pounds of grain per day.
  • 1350 pounds of silage and 700 pounds of grain for 50 days.
For a 1350 pound steer to have a ADG of 3 pounds per day (until he reaches a finishing weight of 1450 pounds), would be fed until being shipped to slaughter:
  • 10 pounds of silage and 20 pounds of grain
  • 250 pounds of silage and 500 pounds of grain for 25 days.
The totals over this 12.5 month feeding period for this single steer are as follows:
  • Alfalfa-Grass Hay: 2210 pounds (1.105 tons or 1.002 tonnes)
  • Corn Silage: 4970 pounds (2.485 tons or 2.254 tonnes)
  • Corn Grain: 
    • a) 3440 pounds if continuously feedlotted (61.43 bushels), or 
    • b) 3100 pounds if pastured (55.36 bushels)
  • Pasture: 7600 pounds (as-fed) 
    • Dry matter content is (7600 lb x 20% dry matter =) 1520 pounds DM
It wouldn't be fair if I posted the land-use results now.

Let's see now about how much a forage-fed/finished steer would eat from weaning to slaughter.

Northern (Canadian Prairie Provinces) Forage-Finishing Steer Consumption Levels

For a post-weaned 700 pound calf that is bale-grazed on good legume-grass hay, with an expected ADG of ~1 pound per day (slow growth in the winter is advantageous because it allows the calf to still grow good bone and muscle, and not develop too much fat), would be fed:
  • 17 pounds of hay per day.
  • 1700 pounds of hay for 100 days.
Because the now-800 pound steer (with the same target ADG of 1 pound per day) isn't going to go on pasture for another 68 days (since this last feeding period took us to a third of the way through March), the steer is continued on with bale grazing. The amount he would be fed during this time is:
  • 19 pounds of hay per day.
  • 1292 pounds of hay for 68 days.
The ~870 pound steer, now with an expected ADG of 2 pounds per day, is moved from bale grazing into a grass-legume pasture. He should be consuming:
  • 96 pounds of forage as-fed (19.2 pounds dry matter) per day.
  • 6240 pounds of forage as-fed (1248 pounds dry matter) over 65 days
For a 1000 pound steer, with an expected average daily gain of ~2 pounds per day, is moved onto high quality annual polyculture pasture of legumes, grasses, and some brassicas, about the same quality as the high-quality perennial legume-grass pasture he was on previously. He should be consuming:
  • 92 pounds of forage as-fed (18.4 pounds dry matter) per day.
  • 4600 pounds of forage as-fed (920 pounds dry matter) for 50 days.
By the time this pasture is done grazed, which would be around mid-September, the steer will have reached the target weight of 1100 pounds and be ready for slaughter. 

The totals of amount consumed overall are as follows:
  • Alfalfa-grass hay (bale-grazed): 2992 pounds (1.5 tons or 1.35 tonnes)
  • Legume-grass Pasture: 6240 pounds as-fed (1248 pounds DM) 
  • Annual Polyculture Pasture: 4600 pounds as-fed (920 pounds DM)

South-Eastern USA Forage-Finishing Steer Consumption Levels

For a post-weaned 700 pound steer calf, with an expected ADG of 1 pound per day, the amount consumed is:

  • 18 pounds per day of stockpiled grass pasture
  • 1800 pounds of stockpiled grass pasture for 100 days
For an 800 pound steer now being put onto good-quality pasture by the end of the first week of April, and with an ADG of 2 pounds per day, the steer is going to be consuming:
  • 90 pounds of forage on pasture as-fed (or 18 pounds dry matter) per day.
  • 4500 pounds of forage on pasture as-fed (or 900 pounds dry matter) for 50 days.
For a 900 pound steer moved onto high quality grass-legume pasture, he is expected to consume:
  • 95 pounds of forage on pasture as-fed (or 19 pounds dry matter) per day
  • 4750 pounds of forage on pasture as-fed (or 950 pounds dry matter) for 50 days
For a 1000 pound steer still on high-quality grass-legume pasture, he's expected to consume:
  • 100 pounds of forage on pasture as-fed (or 20 pounds dry matter) per day
  • 5000 pounds of forage on pasture as-fed (or 1000 pounds dry matter) for 50 days
By the time the steer is at 1100 pounds, he should be ready for slaughter, which would be around mid-September. 

The total amounts of forage consumed over this period (250 days) are as follows:
  • Stockpiled grass pasture: 1800 pounds 
  • Early grass pasture: 4500 pounds (900 pounds DM)
  • Grass-legume pasture: 9750 pounds (1950 pounds DM)

The Land Use Comparisons of Feedlot Finished versus Pasture-Finished 

For this next section with regards to calculating the land-use values for raising grain-fed cattle, I purposely used the averages for the amount of hay, silage, and grain produced to feed feedlotted cattle both in Canada (primarily Alberta), and the United States, to get an albeit more accurate representation of the amount of land that is going to be used. The sourced data is linked below for both countries.

For the pasture option, I also purposely created it so that it represents what is done conventionally, which I mentioned above as being continuous grazing. 

However, for calculating land-use values for the forage-finished/grass-fed cattle section, I was also being deliberate with choosing to go with the best quality pasture to be expected under a well-managed, mob-stocked, multi-paddock grazing system. Also of importance is what I just mentioned: That the steer is not continuously grazed, but managed under a management-intensive, mob-stocked multi-paddock grazing system (or however you want to name it, because the name doesn't matter, only the management does), as I feel that is the best representative of producing forage-finished grass-fed beef.   

Make sure you're sitting down when you read this next part. Because I was just as shocked as you when I plugged in the numbers. 

Grain-fed Land Use Values: Canadian Barley-finished Feedlot Steer

Average yields of the feeds used to formulate this steer's ration:
  • Hay (Alberta average 2017 results via Stats Canada table HERE:): 1.9 tons/acre (1.72 tonnes/acre)
  • Barley Silage (Alberta average 2016 results found HERE): 6.99 tons/acre (6.34 tonnes/acre)
  • Barley Grain (Canada average 2017 results found HERE): 64.00 bushels per acre
  • Barley Grain (Alberta average 2017 results found HERE): 71.80 bushels per acre
  • Pasture (Alberta averages no annual data found): 1.25 AUM per acre
Taking the total amounts of hay, silage, grain, and pasture used, the amount of land used for each type of feed is as follows:
  • Hay: 1940 pounds = 0.97 tons ÷ 1.9 tons/acre = 0.51 acres
  • Barley Silage: 5550 pounds = 2.76 tons ÷ 6.99 tons/acre = 0.39 acres
  • Barley Grain: 
    • (feedlotted) 3850 pounds = 80.2 bu ÷ 64.0 bu/acre (Canada) = 1.25 acres
    • (feedlotted) 3850 pounds = 80.2 bu ÷ 71.8 bu/acre (Alberta) = 1.12 acres
    • (pastured) 3300 pounds = 68.75 bu ÷ 64.0 bu/acre (Canada) = 1.07 acres
    • (pastured) 3300 pounds = 68.75 bu ÷ 71.8 bu/acre (Alberta) = 0.96 acres
  • Pasture: @ 1.25 AUM/acre, producing 2,000 lb/acre with a 50% utilization rate, and an average 855 lb steer expected to consume the same amount as a 535 lb steer (because of the inclusion of 5 lb/day of grain), over 110 days, land used is: 1.54 acres 
The Grand Total of land used for the Canadian Barley-fed/finished Feedlot Steer is: 
  • Feedlotted Only: 2.15 to 2.02 acres
  • Pasture Included: 3.51 to 3.4 acres
Grain-fed Land Use Values: American Corn-finished Feedlot Steer

Average yields of the feeds used to formulate this steer's ration (all data came from THIS LINK):
  • Hay: (USA average for 2017): 2.44 tons per acre
  • Corn Silage (USA average for 2017): 19.9 tons per acre
  • Corn Grain (USA average for 2017): 176.6 bushels per acre
  • Pasture: (no data overall): 1.25 AUM/acre
Taking the total amounts of hay, silage, grain, and pasture used, the amount of land used for each type of feed is as follows:
  • Hay: 2210 pounds = 1.11 tons ÷ 2.44 tons/acre = 0.45 acres
  • Corn Silage: 4970 pounds = 2.66 tons ÷ 19.9 tons/acre = 0.13 acres
  • Corn Grain: 
    • (feedlotted) 3440 pounds = 61.43 bushels ÷ 176.60 bu/acre = 0.35 acres
    • (pastured) 3100 pounds = 55.36 bushels ÷ 176.6 bu/acre = 0.31 acres
  • Pasture: @ 1.25 AUM/acre, producing 2,000 lb/acre with a 50% utilization rate, and an average 855 lb steer expected to consume the same amount as a 470 lb steer (because of the inclusion of 5 lb/day of grain, making up about half of the steer's energy intake), over 110 days, land used is: 1.36 acres
The Grand Total of land used for the American Corn-fed/finished Feedlot Steer is:
  • Feedlot Only: 0.93 acres
  • Pasture Included: 2.25 acres
Forage-fed Land Use Values: Northern (Canadian Prairie Provinces) Grass-fed Steer

I used the same average yield for hay as in the Canadian feedlot example above, which is 1.9 tons/acre

As far as pasture is concerned, I'm going ahead and saying that it's a very highly productive pasture, above that for hay (as hay is an average value). While the value I came up with for pasture productivity under management-intensive mob-stocked multi-paddock grazing seems pretty high, let's not forget that for one, these values are always prone to change, but too I'm trying to aim for a scenario that is under great management, and is thriving because of it. 

In this case, the pasture is producing just above that of the average hay yield, at 126 cow-days per acre (or 4500 lb/acre with a 65% utilization rate). To put things into perspective, a hay yield of 1.9 tons per acre is 3800 lb/acre, which, if grazed at the same utilization rate, gives us 98.8 cow-days per acre. To also put things into perspective, it isn't uncommon for a lot of areas in the Prairie Provinces where hay yields are a bit higher than 1.9 tons/acre! 

Finally, this steer is being finished on a high-quality annual polyculture pasture, which gives a nice high yield of 240 cow-days per acre (or 8000 lb/acre at 75% utilization rate)

For the actual amount of land used, the values I came up with are as follows:
  • Hay: 2992 pounds = 1.496 tons ÷ 1.9 tons/acre = 0.751 acres
  • Grass-Legume Pasture = 126 cow-days per acre for 65 days = 0.49 acres
  • Annual Polyculture Pasture = 240 cow-days per acre for 50 days = 0.21 acres
The Grand Total then for the amount of land used to raise this steer in this area up to slaughter is:

1.451 acres

Forage-fed Land Use Values: South-Eastern USA Grass-fed Steer

For this steer, because there's a bit more moisture than with the northern example above, there's going to be expected even higher productivity over all with the same management principles around mob-stocked multi-paddock grazing.

The stockpiled pasture should yield about 200 cow-days per acre (or 6670 lb/acre with 75% utilization).

The early grass pasture can be expected to yield a little less, at around 150 cow-days per acre (8340 lb/acre at 45% utilization rate)

The legume-grass pasture in this environment is expected to perform at 275 cow-days per acre (10,580 lb/acre at 65% utilization rate).

The land use values I came up with are as follows:

  • Stockpiled Pasture: 200 cow-days/acre for 100 days = 0.35 acres
  • Spring Grass Pasture: 120 cow-days/acre for 50 days = 0.34 acres
  • Grass-Legume Pasture: 275 cow-days/acre for (50 days for 900 lb steer + 50 days for 1000 lb steer) = 0.17 acres + 0.19 acres = 0.36 acres
The Grand Total for the amount of land used to raise this steer in this area up to slaughter is: 

1.05 acres


While the results that I calculated definitely are surprising and most certainly dispells the myth that you need much more land to raise grass-fed cattle than grain-fed, I implore on EVERYONE who read this to remember that the numbers that I came up with are not static

Every single one of those values that I used are prone to change. There is always going to be the fact that more or less of the amount of feed and pasture, and the amount of land required to grow this feed and pasture will change for greater or for less than what the values that I came up with. That will all depend on annual environmental influences (such as precipitation), the vegetation being grazed, and the management. 

The biggest caution I have is with the pasture values for the forage-finished steer. I may have angered some people or caused them to immediately question how and where I came up with these numbers and so on and so forth, but again these are based on the very, rather approximate values that I have found among those graziers who have significantly changed the way they have managed their land from the conventional way to the way that is much more holistic and accounting for the plants and the soil, not just their animals. 

I tell you though, I am just as shocked and excited as you to see these numbers. These give me hope and reason to believe that there's a lot more benefit to forage-fed cattle (and therefore forage-finished beef) than we realize now. Like the simple fact that grass often will regrow to be ready to graze again anywhere from 1 to 4 months later, meaning the same land can be used again for grazing, unlike with annual crops when having to harvest for grain and/or silage. 

I guess it's safe to say here that forage-fed beef and cattle really are better for the Earth! 

January 22, 2018

Lies, Damn Lies, and Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. It can tell a story. But that story can be easily changed, depending on who's sending the message, and what kind of message they wish to send.

And sometimes that message is completely different from what the picture is actually telling you. Those who don't know what they're seeing are more easily fooled than those who see the photo for what it is.

Obviously you're wondering why I've gone all philosophical this far into 2018. It's not because of some radical New Years' resolution, no we're well past that point. It's rather because of a radical extremist beast full of a scant few nutters that is making a seemingly desperate attempt to fool the agriculturally-incomprehensible innocent people into believing something shown in a photo to be what it is actually not, at least to folks like me who are a whole lot more agriculturally-literate than, oh, about 98% of the population.

This is nothing new, though, folks. It was just last year, around the same date (coincidence??) that a small farm with Highland cattle got nailed by a bunch of snivelling, no-account, "compassionate" extremists for being "cruel" to a newborn Highland calf for just merely showing a piece of twine tied around it's neck. The whole affair was a complete joke. You can read my opinion, and some farm facts, on the matter here: Cute Newborn Calves vs. Vegan Advocates

I will not bother pointing fingers at who is to blame for this libellous act, more because I've no clue, and second because I don't really care, but I want to show the photo and the message attached to it to see what I'm going to be blogging about today.

Now, here's a simple exercise for you to do.

1) Rid your mind of any preconceived notions, negative thoughts, etc. Next: 2) Take your right (or left) hand, and just cover that black wordy piece. Now, 3) take a good, close look at the photo.

For 4), have a look at this next photo below. (If you've already figured out what's actually going on in the above photo, you can skip this step. But for the rest of you, pay close attention.)

Have you figured it out yet? When you've uncovered the wording to the first photo above, you should now realize that the message in the black box is nothing more than a bare-faced lie.

This isn't where I get on a big rant about libel and deliberately lying for an extremist agenda, but I think you'll get the gist after you finish reading this post.

The angle of the photo can throw people off. I get that. But the angle of the supposed "cap-bolt gun"–for purely theoretical purposes here–is positioned where penetrating bolt will not penetrate into the spinal column like it's supposed to if properly positioned right on the center of the forehead, as this next picture clearly shows.
Location for proper euthanasia on a calf
Improper stunning means that the animal is sure to suffer, no matter if it's a young calf or an old cow. The cap-bolt–or even a bullet–must penetrate not just into the brain matter, but also into the spinal column for fast, effective euthanasia. The only way to do that is as demonstrated in the above illustration.

And that is if a calf needs to be euthanized for whatever health and welfare reasons permit it.

When you look at the second photo above, you can see the disbudder is placed where the horns of a bovine grow from.
Calf with horns beginning to form
So that's the first big clue to realize that the "baby" calf in the memed photo isn't being killed. 

The second big give-away is the restraint on the calf. Any bovine that is going to be euthanized or killed via cap-bolt does not require a nose-halter attached to the chute. There is simply no logic behind it, because the whole process of stunning via cap-bolt is much quicker than the time required to disbud or dehorn a calf. 

A bovine needs to be restrained for dehorning both for the safety of the animal being dehorned, and for the person doing the dehorning or disbudding. Two primary things can happen if a calf's head isn't restrained when using a disbudder: The calf can get a nasty burn on the eyes or any other part of the face, causing pain, and two, the person doing the disbudding can also injure themselves when the tool slips and may land on the hand or arm. 

And when you are handling an animal that is neither anything close to being a pet, and an albeit uncomfortable--or very painful if no local anaesthesia is used--procedure is being performed on them, things can get very interesting (and I say that quite liberally) very quickly. Patience and a calm demeanour is highly recommended when working with such critters. 

Third give-away that is less noticeable to most is the tool being used. I did a Google Image search on "orange disbudder" and I'll be damned if I didn't come up with the exact same tool as being shown in the photo above. Instead of showing you a possibly copy-righted photo, it's best if I show it in this video:

That tool is a bit different from an actual cap-bolt pistol which looks a whole lot different than the dehorner being used above. 

I made sure to include a picture of the two different tools, but of the same colour, just to show the stark differences. 

Why dehorn cattle? 

It's largely a safety issue, both to those who are handling the animals, and to the animals themselves. Horns are an increasingly a significant danger when animals are in a confined situation, particularly in dairy or intensive beef operations, where risk of injury to other cattle and people is high. 

Horns serve more or less an aesthetic purpose for different breeds, though they serve an even greater purpose when livestock are basically range animals that are not in confinement so much as they are exposed to predators. The need to have something beyond a protective attitude when dealing with bears or wolves that want that calf is really important. 

But a cow or bull with horns needs to be respected. Those animals are very strong and quick, and it doesn't take much of a swing with their head to hit you or even puncture your skin, take an eye out, whatever. Even cattle can hurt and even kill each other if they get into a spat that turns ugly. Dehorning at a young age is one solution to that potential problem, or tipping an older cow's horns. 

If the dehorning wasn't done properly when the animal was young, those horns could grow right into the head of the animal, causing more suffering than the short-term suffering that comes with dehorning. If the horns are not removed in time, the animal may need to be euthanized. 

Horns will keep growing. They don't stop once the tips reach bone. And that will cause undue stress to an animal.

Dehorning is necessary for a lot of reasons, but not for all operations or everyone owning cattle. Dehorning needs to be done for a reason, and when done, performed properly. 

December 31, 2017

Veganuary: It's A Poor Time of Year

While I normally don't get much into the whole veganism thing, I thought I'd say a short little piece on this whole Veganuary thing that came to my attention recently.

Veganuary has the facade of a "global campaign that encourages people to 'try vegan for January,'" and is a push for making veganism as a "lifestyle choice and an established social norm" (which is paradoxical, to say the least), and is veiled behind the innocent setting of a charity event, the true purpose behind this "campaign" is to satisfy corporate interests that control the entire aspect and beast that is industrial agriculture.

As a matter of fact, it's one of those little proofs that veganism is well and truly corporate-sponsored. It does not have the best interest of any farmer (or even rancher) in mind, particularly those who purposely produce food for locals within the municipality or even province or state, and particularly those who strive to be regenerative, sustainable, truly ethical for the environment and for animals in their care.

"Control the food, and you control the people." That's what the corporations have in mind, to have everyone dependent on them as the sole providers for sustenance, not local farmers, not individual gardeners or horticulturalists that do not grow food to satisfy the corporate engine. And the vegan bandwagon hysteria fits in well with this narrative, because it drives a wedge into the ever-deeper crevice that already exists between the people and the true source of our existence: Nature, and the Earth.

It's easy to go vegan because of these corporate bodies being so easily able to offer dairy-free, egg-free, meat-free, factory-made, well-travelled crap at the supermarket. It's easy to go vegan because of the globalization of agriculture, and because much of the food that supplies many supermarkets and grocery stores are monoculture mass-produced food heavily reliant on fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and in particular, there exists this incredibly huge disconnect between people and where their food actually came from and how it got from the industrialized farm to the supermarket.  Labels never tell the whole story!

But, January is the worst time of month to promote veganism. For one, for all countries in the Northern Hemisphere that have what is called "winter" that severely hampers any vegetative growth for several months of the year, plant foods of anything from carrots to bananas need to be shipped thousands of miles to supermarkets within these climates, using a lot of fossil fuel energy to do so. Only those few that are fortunate enough to have a good greenhouse or solarium on the sunniest side of their house could make a go at growing some or most of their produce as locally as local can get. The sad reality is that there are very few of those around. 

So, as a second point, the "fresh" fruits and vegetables that are made available via the supermarket aren't even in season. Not even the organic produce. The stuff that comes in the grocery stores at this time of year is just not the same good quality, good tasting food like what comes around come May all the way to October. Why would anyone want to try veganism during a time when vegetables and fruits are at their poorest quality is beyond me. 

I could tell a lot of why you should never try veganism out this January, despite the false sense of security and fallacious, guilt-inducing messaging they try to lure you in with. I've made several posts on here on some of the reasons why veganism is not what it appears to be, from animal ethics to the environment. I certainly could repeat myself again, but I would encourage you to take a bit of time to read some of my thoughts in previous posts to help guide you in the right direction.

But, I will say that you will not save the environment, save animals, protect nature, or any other humorous propaganda that Veganuary uses to "encourage" people to "try" veganism. The only way you're going to help the environment and help animals is to choose local. 

Have a Regenuary Instead! Here's What You can Do: 

Support your local farmers by buying locally from them. Learn how to start growing your own food, even if you have a few pots of plants in your apartment near the sunniest of windows or with a grow light. Invest in a vermiculture unit for taking care of your food waste. Lobby your local municipal government and gather support for more people to be able to have some chickens and rabbits and a garden plot in their yards. Learn about the soil health and its biology, about Regenerative Agriculture, Holistic Management, sustainable farming methods, etc. There are plenty of good books out there I recommend you read, from Salad Bar Beef and Folks, This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin, to those by David R. Montgomery (such as the Hidden Half of Nature and Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations), Judith D. Schwartz, Nicolette Hahn Niman, and Simon Fairlie's Meat: A Benign Extravagance. I also highly recommend to watch some videos on regenerative farming/ranching methods and principles as explained by folks like Gabe Brown, David Brandt, Allen Williams, Ray Archuleta, Elaine Ingham, Dr. Christine Jones, and others Find some local farms in your area who are practicing sustainable/regenerative, non-industrialized practices and visit them during the summer. I could go on!

There are many things you can do this January, as a better choice this January. Make your New Years resolution a means to learn more about this lesser-known third option of Regenerative Agriculture, of Ethical Omnivorism. PLEASE understand that veganism is NOT your only alternative option you have if you're sick and tired of having to continue to support the massive pro-GMO, soil-destroying, anti-animal, and environmentally-disastrous industrialized agri"culture".

Again, educate yourself about all aspects of agriculture, because you eat too, and like all humans on this planet, food is a very, very important thing, and should never be treated as some sort of inconvenience to "more important" things in your life. Being a more ethical omnivore is a difficult path to take, but it's one that you will be more grateful for as you learn, unlearn, and relearn the various things you never thought possible or even existed before. Please, for your sake, both for your body, your soul, your mind, and your health, don't get sucked into the veganism hysteria. But don't give up either on the path to finding better food for yourself and your family.

I wish you a happy and healthy New Year of 2018 as we are launched into the final hours of 2017. I will leave you with this TED talk of Gabe Brown for you to watch.

Happy New Years everyone!

December 18, 2017

Misinformation and Misunderstanding II: An Activist Cannot Understand the Roots of the Problem... Literally

I had to jump in to give this ARA (animal rights activist) I mentioned from the last blog post Misinformation and Misunderstanding: An Activist Confuses Grass for Grain for Cattle a bit of a lesson on what regenerative grazing meant as far as soil health and the environment is concerned. All in an attempt to help Rich the farmer/producer out.

His response I received definitely left a lot to be desired, but was nothing short of amusing, to say the least!

So here's what my short-version rebuttal was to him (as a kind of summary to what I wrote about last time [see link above]):
"Cows don't need grain to survive let alone thrive. And cattle grazing, when done right (via the human aspect), is not damaging to the landscape. Management-intensive cattle grazing is a way to help heal the land, not hurt it. Converting grassland to crops, though, definitely is [harmful to the landscape]."
Now, brace yourself for the ARA's "rebuttal" because it may make you fall out of your chair:
"Cattle eat over 20 pounds of grass each every day. This tears out the soil roots and causes erosion and runoff. Growing crops, on the other hand actually adds roots and binders to the soil, keeping it in place."
If you're the first thought that flew through your head upon reading that was how in the hell can anyone be that f***ing stupid to think that, you and I would be in the same boat. Needless to say, I had a great laugh at that.

But now, it's time I use the space here to shoot that argument down to the point that only pieces of it are left scattered about.

Again, for those of you who aren't as agriculturally-inclined as I am, never fear, I'll do my best to explain the concepts and context as to why this ARA (or even 99% of all ARAs, for starters) is not one you want to rely on for any agriculture-related piece of information.

Cows Eat Lots of Grass

I can understand that for the average Joe/Jane that 20 pounds of grass seems to be a lot, but I guarantee you that it's actually not, particularly for a cow.

The only animal that comes close to eating that much per day is a sheep. A 160 pound sheep (most likely an ewe, or a female sheep), to be exact, if I do the calculations backward, and assume the moisture content (amount of water) in grass is particularly high...

But for an average-sized cow, which in North America is around 1400 pounds, assuming the moisture content for grass is about 80 percent (or 20 percent dry matter [upon feed analysis, a feed sample is dried until all the moisture is removed, then weighed to determine "dry matter content"]), the amount of grass consumed is a lot closer to 175 lb of grass consumed per day, on an "as-fed" basis.

Hehehe, and the ARA thought he'd try to scare me with the 20 pound-of-grass-consumed tactic! Yeah, again, if you're raising sheep or even goats, buddy!

Thing is, though, don't let those numbers scare you. They're just numbers, and are meaningless when you understand that grass does grow back after being grazed. Unfortunately for this ARA, he's got himself convinced that that isn't the case at all.

Cattle Grazing Rips Up Plants Out of the Ground... Or Does It?

According to our little "knowledgable" ARA on cattle grazing, it "...tears out the soil roots and causes erosion and runoff."

And I say, bullshit.

You see, the only time that cattle may tear plants out of the ground, or as he puts it, "tears out the soil roots," is if cattle are put out to graze a freshly seeded pasture where plants are just a few weeks post-germinating and haven't yet established much of a root system. Their root systems are much like annual weeds, which are fairly easy to pull out of the ground when young.

When a cow grazes, she wraps her tongue around a grass-plant or "sward," if you will, and bites down and pulls at the same time. That pulling action may rip out that newly germinated plant, or annual weed.

But when we're talking about established pastures with tame forages that have had much time to develop an extensively deep root system over just a couple generations, the chance that those plants will be torn out completely by a grazing cow is extremely slim to impossible.

To the ARA that says this, he needs to realize that cows are mowers, not rototillers.

If you want to tear up a pasture, get a few pigs. That'll solve your problem; they'll tear up a pasture in no time.

But cows? Come on, give me a break.

I can easily demonstrate this to you; actually, you can do the demonstration yourself, because it's very easy: One of those Do This At Home exercises!

If you ever get a chance in the spring or summer time, if you happen to go walking and see some grass growing nice and tall somewhere on a nature hike or in a ditch or wherever, here's what you do:

Take your dominant hand (if you're a lefty or righty), and grasp a handful of grass lengthwise, just like you'd grasp a handful of spaghetti, but make sure where you're grasping is not at the base, but at the top four to six inches of grass height. Next, with a half-twisting action, tear out the grass.

What you get, obviously, is a handful of grass. But that's not all, and not even the most important part!

Do you know what else you get?

For one, you get the same amount of grass that a cow would grasp and pull into her mouth. Second, the amount of force you exert to pull that handful of grass is the same amount of force that cow uses to get that same mouthful of grass.

Are you with me?

Now look at the base of the very parts of the grass plants that you pulled up. How much root and soil of those grass plants did you happen to pull up?

If your answer was none to only one or two, with barely any root showing, and no soil whatsoever, then you have just proved that the ARA's claim above is dead-wrong.

Pretty amazing, eh?

But now I wonder... I wonder if this young ARA was confusing what happens when horses graze versus how cattle graze?

See, horses graze have top incisors, something which all cattle lack (sheep, bison, deer, goats, elk also lack upper incisors), so they can select with their lips, then bite and pull up grass right at the base--particularly when it's quite short--to the point where grass plants certainly can be pulled out.

And I can't trust an ARA to know the difference between a horse and a cow...

How Cows Graze... MiG Style!

You see, when a cow grazes, she's not interested in pulling up grass plants by the roots--and this is the exact same for all classes of bovines, including bulls, heifers, and steers--she's only interested in the top few inches of the best part of the plant, which is primarily the leaves or the inflorescence (flowering part of a grass plant). A cow will never ever reach down to the very base of a sward of tall grass plants to pull up the entire plant like a human often will do, no matter the height of those plants. A cow only has a vested interest in the most tasty and palatable part of any plant, and stems are not included in this interest whatsoever.

What she and her herd do not graze, they will push down with their bodies and trample the grasses with their hooves, and poop and pee on it as well. A herd of cows will take one bite and move on to the next plant; the only time they take a second bite is if they've taken that one bite out of every plant they could before being forced to go back for more.

The beauty of mob-grazing, or MiG that I mention in the quote above, is that cows get into this awesome competitive, yet surprisingly orderly mentality of eating as much grass--getting that first bite of good, high-quality forage--as each cow can before one of their neighbours steals a bite before they do. Occasionally there may be a little bit of pushing around, mainly by the more dominant cows, but otherwise the grazing that happens when a herd of cows are moved and confined to a small piece of pasture to eat grass every day is such that each animal ensures each plant gets a bite taken from it, gets trampled and pooped on, before being moved to the next fresh patch of ground.

Cows that are mobbed up are not likely to be so picky about what they eat. They get into this mentality of competitiveness such that they will eat just about anything in front of them; what they don't eat will get trampled down and pooped on. Again, I stress the importance of moving those animals soon before they take more forage than they should.

This is biomimicry: Moving cows often in a dense herd on a regular basis mimics the mobbing behaviour of large wild ruminant herds (elk, bison, antelope...) across the grassland landscape in response to the ever threat of predators.

How do Cows Really Turn Grass into Dirt? 

This doesn't indicate that cows will tear up grass plants and turn the pasture into a dirt lot. Not especially when they're moved in time before they get that second bite, or third bite, or move around so much that their hooves tear up the earth.

This is where I can legitimately say that the only time cows will literally tear up a piece of ground is if it's a very high-traffic area where an excessive amount of "hoof traffic" or trampling impacts the plants to the point that it kills them and turns the area into dirt. Do you see that part about hoof traffic? Yes, you read that right, HOOVES. Not mouths, not grazing, no: The Feet of Cows.

Why do you think feedlots remain as dirt lots with regular groups of cattle remaining in those lots for weeks at a time, and can never grow a blade of grass? It's not because cows have soft feet of kitty cats; nor is it entirely because grass is dead and gone and will never grow back (yes, it's dead and gone from those lots, but it certainly can come back in if given sufficient time). No, the hooves of a cow, coupled with more of her herd mates, are sharp and hard enough to damage grass plants if continuous, heavy physical stress applied by those hooves are then applied to those plants. Horses, sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, bison, elk, deer, any cloven-hoofed animal are just as capable of tearing up a piece of ground in the same manner as one or more bovines can.

Speaking of horses... here's a great way to ruin a good pasture, if you don't have pigs. Put horses on it. Or even sheep.

But wait! Hooves actually aren't all bad. The hooves of grazing animals are actually very beneficial--again, under the right kind of management that utilizes MiG and moving animals often in a dense mob--because they push seeds into the ground, break and crush stems, and opens up the canopy to allow some sunlight to penetrate into the soil surface for more seeds and tillers to germinate and grow.

So, where does the erosion and runoff take into account into all this? I think from this point it's fairly easily to see how, but I like to take the time to explain more.

How Erosion and Runoff Occurs on Pastures

When excessive hoof traffic turns grass into dirt, there's no plant material to stop rain drops from hitting the soil surface. Just like with tilled fields, when that rain drop impacts that soil, it has no place to go other than downhill. Some water soaks in, but not a lot. What doesn't get soaked in rolls off the surface, bringing nutrients with it down into the lowest parts of the land, which continues to flow beyond the corral, beyond the fields, and into water ways and wetlands.

I don't think I've taken much time to explain about erosion on conventional cropping fields as I may have elsewhere, but now's not the time. Basically, bare soil in corrals acts the same way as bare soil on cropland as far as erosion and runoff is concerned.

Erosion and runoff from pasture, though, is another problem. The ARA still doesn't know Jack from Adam when it comes to that and the difference management practices have on how water "behaves" when rain hits a continuously-grazed (CG) pasture versus an adapted multi-paddocked (AMP) pasture, the latter based on holistic management practices that are regenerative in nature.

What I found out is that runoff (moreso than erosion, but I'll get to that soon) definitely occurs on a CG pasture. This photo of a rain simulator test to compare a CG pasture versus two relatively similar AMP pasture pans tells a whole lot:

If you have never seen the rain simulator test, I highly recommend you check it out.

Anyway, each pan of soil + plant matter in the rain simulator test has two jars each for collecting water that has either run off (front row) or infiltrated (back row). Notice how the CG pan has contributed far more runoff than the long-recovery period or rotationally grazed pans, and the reverse is true for infiltration.

Why is this?

There's obviously some erosion that occurred with the amount of water that ran off the CG sample, however the amount of water that has run off from the CG pan above hasn't taken nearly as much soil with it as what would happen if that ground was bare, with no cover, like that from tillage. Like in this photo:

The reason for such a remarkable difference is because of overgrazing.

Now, I already explained in this post that overgrazing is not about too many animals, as most dictionaries and range science has lead far too many to believe, but rather about plants receiving an inadequate (too short) rest period between the first and second bite to be able to re-establish energy reserves, making it a function of TIME, again, not about too many animals.

Overgrazing does a few degradational things to plants and the soil.

For one, the roots are shortened. Remember this phrase: "What is above, so below." In other words, a short grass plant above ground reflects a short root system below ground. Inadequate rest for the grass plant means that roots are going to be bound closer to the surface, and not allowed sufficient time to grow deeper. Smaller, shorter grass plants are going to have less litter covering the surface, and potentially also more soil exposed between plants.

Severely overgrazed pasture - springtime.
These calves should not be on at this time of year.
With overgrazing comes excessive trampling, as mentioned above, which also invites compaction. Cows are heavy animals, and with a large number of them on a piece of ground for a long period of time (such as all grazing season), coming back again and again to their favourite grass patches, the ground can get packed down enough to impact the plants growing there, even if that piece of ground hasn't turned into dirt--yet. Cows aren't the only animals that can cause a pasture to become hard-packed if mismanaged: Horses are just as bad.

A nice rule of thumb to remember is this: If you can see their hooves and their poop piles, your pastures are overgrazed.

Compaction is especially a problem in pastures that have been "renovated," or cultivated to break up and old pasture then reseeded again. Tillage is often a disastrous method pasture rejuvenation because it breaks up existing soil structure, and breaks soil aggregates into finer particles that makes it more difficult for water to permeate through. Instead, water runs off more than it will soak in. I will talk a little more on this later on about crops.

The other problem associated with overgrazing is the significant lack of "residue" or "litter" cover protecting the soil surface. The above photo is a great example. Rain drops are not slowed down when it impacts the surface with very little litter and green material cover. Plants should act as a kind of multi-canopied "umbrella" for the soil in capturing and slowing down rain drops so that they gently trickle onto the soil enough for the water to quickly soak, not strike with such an impact that they bounce off and begin rolling on downhill, taking soil particles and other nutrients with it.

If you wonder why creeks and rivers get so full and become sediment-heavy after a rainstorm on surrounding pastures (and cropland), it's actually not because the ground has become saturated, but because of a serious water infiltration problem that is a result of poor management practices.

With regards to more arid regions of the world that used to be largely grassland, but have now turned into a lot of shrub brush, bare ground, and patches of heavy-graze-tolerant grasses and forbs, erosion and runoff is a significant problem for the reasons that overgrazing has been misinterpreted as "too many animals" for so long. These arid regions are suffering from overgrazing in such a way that there are just too few animals on the landscape that are too spread out, and are allowed to come back to their favourite grazing patches too often and too soon.

Those plants that have gotten too far ahead of the animals have produced dead plant material which is unpalatable to the individual animal. In arid regions, conditions are just too dry and hot for many soil microbes that normally can survive in more moist and cooler conditions, so that dead plant material simply cannot break down on its own. Instead, it oxidizes, and remains on the parent plant, impacting tiller growth of subsequent daughter plants coming from that same bunch. Eventually the bunch of multi-generational grass plants just dies, suffocated by it's own death of ancestors that couldn't otherwise be removed by grazing animals.

Allan Savory of the Savory Institute and Holistic Management calls such environments "brittle," because not of lack of moisture (even though these arid environments do receive less than 10 inches of precipitation per year), but because of how unpredictable and irregular moisture events are, compared to non-brittle environments, such as the tropical rainforest.

Nothing takes the place of those grasses that die out. More bare soil comes up, to be eroded away by wind and rain. More heat is generated from these areas because of the incredible solar radiation capacity of bare soil; surface soil temperatures can get very hot, upwards of 110 to 140ºF or more (43 to 60ºC). That alone impacts weather and climate events to degrees that I don't think many of us have figured out quite yet. And folks wonder why our climate is changing--at least for those who don't have the wool still pulled over their eyes?

As in the case of our ARA friend who made the blanket-statement, tool-blaming move of claiming cows are the problem, he's only partly right, but he completely misses the boat when the reality is that, as Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Defending Beef put it, "It's the HOW, not the COW."

I laugh at those who like to blame cows for things like climate change and desertification. I like to tell them they're like the self-proclaimed "handyman" that tends to blame his tools for doing such a shit job with his building projects rather than the man (or person, sorry ladies) who's wielding them!!

Reminds me of Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertan's song, "Hard on Equipment."

Anyway, I'm getting off course here. And I believe I've made myself crystal clear that it's the management (i.e., the human brains) behind the cows that is the problem, not the cattle themselves.

Just like the human brains that can make up some pretty stupid bullshit, like crops being better for the soil than well-managed cattle grazing.

Crops Degrade the Soil Too

"Growing crops, on the other hand actually adds roots and binders to the soil, keeping it in place."

Just so you know, there's no such thing as "binders" in regards to what crops supposedly are adding to the soil, according to this "knowledgeable" ARA.

This blanket statement holds a very dangerous assumption which blatantly ignores several important details: Use of tillage, and use of biocides and fertilizers. Also, growing crops does not occur during all 12 months of the year for most locations with arable land, particularly North America.

Crop plants actually only add roots and bind the soil for 3 to 4 months out of the year.

And heck, there's still a lot of farmers that will fallow fields; by "fallow" I mean grow nothing on them, and keep them all bare via what I call "recreational tillage" or spraying herbicides, or both.

Ain't gonna be no crop on those fields to bind the soil and keep it in place!

Really, the only time that crops are going to help the soil is when no tillage, and very little to no biocides and petroleum-based fertilizers are used. Crop rotations use more than just one or two species, and also incorporate cover-cropping practices that keep the soil covered and a living root in the ground at all times.

But hey, all-knowing ARA, 98% of all cropland in North America doesn't even use these practices!

Why? Because of something I keep hitting on something called MANAGEMENT; i.e., "The HOW."

Most farmers only manage the land according to what the agro-chemical companies "recommend" they do, what the agronomist who has no concept of soil health and soil biology is going to tell them to do and grow, and what their neighbours are also doing. That's their management. But is it any good to the soil, better than managed grazing? I answer that further.

Sure, the growing of crops (i.e., the event that once the seed is planted, the plants begin to sprout and grow up right to maturity) are going to add some roots. But not much. Most roots that do grow are often short, sparse, and staying close to the surface where most of the nutrients are within easy reach. I'll talk a little more later on why that is. Keep in mind, though, that industrial agriculture is of the mind to treat soil like it's nothing more than just a growing medium for plants.

What's more, compared with any kind of natural system that has plants covering the soil, the square footage between each plant in a crop field is so much larger than what you'd find in most forests, all grasslands, and pretty well any pasture there is. In such ecosystems, there is literally little to no space in between plants; and if there is some space in between, it's covered by a layer of plant residue.

But not with crops, and that's no matter if we're talking corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, peas… There always has to be a bit of space between each cropped plant within rows and between rows. The soil beneath will get some coverage by the leaves of the crop, but not enough to completely cover the soil. Enough sunlight gets through to the soil below for the other "undesirable" plants which are called "weeds" to germinate and grow up to try to cover that bare soil left alone.

You know what, though? Weeds are considered bad, and competitive with the crop for sunlight, moisture, and nutrients--which is truth, by the way--so what does a farmer do to keep his crop clean? Use chemicals to kill them all except the crop itself. Gardeners and those with lawns who've also been taught to rely on chemicals and man-made fertilizers for their plants see no different.

Yet that bare soil left in between each wheat or corn plant is bare and naked. And Nature abhors bare soil, no matter where it is, be it under a corn plant or a tree.

So those weeds will just keep coming back, no matter what is done repeatedly year after year.

Another important caveat completely ignored by our ARA pal is that crops aren't like your front lawn that stays as-is for as long as the house is standing. Cropped plants die and don't grow back, and their deaths are actually what bring the harvest--the grains, oilseeds, pulses, etc. They ain't gonna grow back after harvest. And when the above-ground part of the plant dies, so does the roots.

What's left is called "stubble." Now that stubble may remain as-is over winter, or it may get cultivated after harvest. It depends on the farmer. Some farmers have no-till drills that can drill seed right into the stubble without having to cultivate, but some crops make it extremely challenging to do even that without causing problems. If a farmer grew corn or canola the previous year, chances are he's going to be needing some kind of tillage--unless he purposely sows in between the rows of last year's canola--to break up those tough, thick stems to be able to sow in an even crop of wheat, as an example.

Now, tillage breaks up both above- and below-ground biomass; stalks and roots. That physical stress that a farmer is putting on the soil no longer enables those roots from that previous crop to bind that soil and keep it in place. That soil is now loose as fine sand, and much more liable to blow away in the wind, or be washed away with any kind of moisture event.

Does that sound good to you? I didn't think so.

Just like what happens when you allow a bunch of cattle beat a pasture all to hell and turn it into dirt, tillage invites the same problems: Soil erosion, runoff, extreme heating of the soil which kills microbes, dries it out, and is possibly what's causing a lot of climate issues; water infiltration issues; and most of all, a significant decrease in organic matter. That's right: Those roots and stalks that get incorporated into the soil don't amount to jack as far as organic matter is concerned.

This young ARA would be surprised to know that most cropland under industrial plant agriculture has very little organic matter; most range from 0.2% to barely 1% organic matter. That's piss poor compared with well-managed pastures that can have at least 4 to 7% organic matter. Why is that? Well…

Copiotrophic or R-strategist bacteria, found in all soils, quickly consume that organic matter and stimulate a primary-succession event by dying and releasing plant-available nitrogen into the soil. That nitrogen is for the weed seeds that have been sitting dormant for decades to use upon germination to quickly grow up and cover the soil, and protect it.

Weeds are actually Nature's first-line of defense in protecting bared soil. And you thought they were bad!

And what about chemical fertilizers and biocides? Well, fertilizers make plants lazy, as well as the microbes in the soil. The plants find they don't need those microbes to do all the work for them when they have enough NPKS from the pellets the seed was sown with to grow and use all season long. The microbes die out because they have no food source; the plants won't give them food when the plant doesn't need them to get the food for the plant. Make sense?

And as for the roots, as I already mentioned, the roots don't amount to anything because they're so short and stubby that the only purpose they serve, really, is to keep the plant upright and rooted in its place during a wind storm. They don't add much to the soil when there's not much root growing there in the first place, and when plants aren't made to utilize their natural mutual partnerships with microbes. In a natural ecosystem, plants have microbes working for them in a bartering system so that they can find and export nutrients and moisture from soil particles and soil aggregates, and transport them back to the plant in exchange for "liquid carbon," their energy food source.

With biocides, they kill everything. Every single living thing in and on the soil, be it a plant that came up between the wheat stems, or insects or a species of fungus rotting away the root system. Everything dies, except the crop itself, and except for the occasional passers-through bug or deer that may (or may not) get enough biocide to cause much damage.

All in all, growing crops the conventional, petrochemical, agrochemically-reliant industrial way is not better than grazing cattle and sure as hell is not anything close to being better for the soil. I've yet to be proven that deep-rooted perennials are better than shallow-rooted annuals. The only time shallow-rooted annuals work is if they are replaced by deep-rooted perennials for the long-term. That or, if the current methods of producing crops are replaced by a much more regenerative system that promotes more life and building of good things, such as a diverse crop rotation, use of cover crops, incorporating animals, and following basic biomimicry principles such as keeping the soil covered at all times, keeping a living root in the soil at all times, and reducing or eliminating unnecessary physical, chemical, and biological stresses (tillage, biocides, and overgrazing), respectively.

Otherwise I've just proven that this ARA is, yet again, full of crap and doesn't know what the hell he's even talking about.

I know the ARA is desperately trying to find a way to justify the means of being vegan and creating a sound cause for more people to become vegan, but God damn it, the kind of asinine drivel that folks like him keep pushing are only making them look stupid and all other vegans horribly ignorant and selfish.

This whole post was about the stuff beneath our feet, the kind of stuff that most of us find disgusting, not worth thinking about, and totally not sexy. It matters to ALL of us, regardless of diet, belief, ethnic, or nationality. And if we can't get our act together and our heads out of our sandy asses and understand what's going wrong with the soil and why, there's no hope of stopping this runaway train headed for a 10-foot thick fortified wall.

December 7, 2017

Misinformation and Misunderstanding: An Activist Confuses Grass for Grain for Cattle

It's funny how animal rights activists pride themselves in how they believe that they know everything about animal agriculture and livestock, from the history of agriculture to digestive physiology to grazing management. They believe that they know it all so much that they feel the need to "educate" a farmer about how much "better" it would be if animals are raised a different way, or not raised at all. 

The problem is that they've got themselves so deeply convinced that they know it all--I've heard also how they quickly try to cover their asses by claiming that they don't try or wish to call themselves "experts" on agriculture, even though their contributions to a debate with me to prove me wrong make themselves appear otherwise--that they become blind to the fact that they don't know a damn thing of what they're talking about. They get so stupid that they don't even know they're that stupid.

I'm ARA bashing, I know, but there's a reason for it. About a month ago I got into a debate with one such ARA who figured he's heard "all the meat-eater arguments" and knows all the rebuttals to such arguments. But there's just too big of an elephant in the room to ignore: He honestly didn't. 

This particular activist, whose name I won't mention here nor what animal activist organization he's a part of (although he's a part of one of those organizations that condones the actions of stealing or "liberating" animals as a means to "rescue" them), thought that he could provide a good rebuttal to some of the farming arguments that actual farmer or agriculturally-literate folk were providing. I kept a few of his gems to talk about on here to make a couple more posts on. 

The first one he made was in response to this, by my farmer-friend "Rich":
"How do you propose to grow crops in areas that are very arid, and feed people? Without massive amounts of irrigation, YOU [CANNOT]. [It's] not even sustainable, let alone regenerative. However you can grow livestock (they can walk to water sources, plants can not) and the livestock have been shown in many cases to improve arid grassland areas and reverse desertification. Remove animals from an ecosystem and [you're] doomed to failure."
Here's the young know-it-all ARA's comedy-gold response that I want to talk about today:
"Re: Growing crops in arid environments is not possible, but raising animals is: It's not possible to raise animals without growing crops as well. To produce one pound of cow flesh, you must feed ten pounds of grain. People who live in arid environments and choose to raise animals are forced to either import feed or grow it themselves, with much difficulty. It would be much more sustainable to directly eat the grain."
To me, who comes from a farm and has immersed herself quite a bit into regenerative agriculture and grazing management, this response from the ARA is quite amusing, to say the least. For those of you  who aren't as knowledgable about farming and grazing practices who may not share my thoughts and may start thinking that the ARA is making sense, then let me take you further to explain why this young activist is proving himself to be the poster-child for the Dunning-Krueger Effect.

And, you get to see why I don't like ARAs very much.

The Assumption that Cows Need Grain 

While I do realize that Rich could have been a little more clearer about the fact of the matter that cows need and eat grass more than they do grain, the ARA here has clearly made the assumption that cows require grain all through their life, including the cum hoc ergo propter hoc (with this, therefore because of this) argument that "it's not possible to raise animals without growing crops as well."

Unless I make an argumentum ad logicam (argument to logic) fallacy, the ARA is creating the kind of fallacy that assumes that, because raising animals and grain production occurred around the same time agriculture first started, therefore it must be that animals need grain to live. The logic he was making was mistaking correlation for causation.

That is assuming that the definition for "crops" in the context of the ARA's argument/statement above, is primarily that of short-lived plants grown for the harvest of seed (i.e., grain, oilseeds, pulses) on arable or cultivated land. Thing is, to be really technical, pastures and hay lands could also by lumped under the much broader definition of crops which is the growing and harvesting a variety of plants for food and feed purposes of people and animals, further brought together as "forage crops" or even "perennial forage crops." However, since the ARA's statement is directly correlated to cultivated annual crops, I wouldn't be making an argument-to-logic fallacy.

Therefore, the fact that the advent of raising farm animals and the growing of grain and other food crops occurred at the same time does not mean that farm animals need grain for their survival. In reality, for most farm animals--particularly cows and cattle--they really can do just fine without.

That's what Rich was trying to teach the ARA about above. Animals, particularly cattle and cows, don't need grain to survive, much less to be raised. Cattle are ruminant animals, with a four-chambered stomach specially designed for digesting and breaking down the kind of plant matter that we humans cannot eat, thanks to several million microbes living in their rumens. Because of this they can thrive just fine on grass and other edible forbs (including legumes like alfalfa) without needing that grain.

The only time cattle need grain is if the plants aren't meeting their nutritional requirements, or the cattle themselves are metabolically not suited to such a roughage diet.

It's like this: Putting a herd of Holsteins (your average black-and-white dairy cows) out on native grassland would be animal abuse because those cows are not genetically, or rather metabolically equipped or adapted to thrive on such coarse forage. They'd starve to death with their stomachs full of the stuff.

But when you get beef cattle like Herefords or Texas Longhorns on that same patch of ground, they're much more likely to gain weight and/or produce enough good-quality milk to raise some nice healthy calves. These are just two exemplary breeds of course, but other grassy-type breeds like Devons, Red Polls, Galloways, and the more hardier heritage bloodlines of the Aberdeen Black/Red Angus breed would do just as well.

The thing is, for a farmer to have their cows earn their keep on a pasture-based operation, those cows need to be able to gain and produce milk on forage (grass and legumes primarily) alone. Feeding grain should be a rarity, not a regular occurrence. If a farmer's cows are needing to be fed grain on a regular basis, then it might be time to think about a) changing the genetics of the cowherd, and/or b) take a step back and see what else may be wrong with how things are being managed.

There is No "Must" With Finishing Cattle on Grain

The fact is that the ARA completely missed the point that Rich was directly talking about raising cattle on grass. Not grain. So our ARA friend just had to throw in the parroted rhetorical strawman fallacy phrase, "To produce one pound of cow flesh, you must feed ten pounds of grain." Does that not help the ARA's stance much on this subject? No, I didn't think so. Nor does it help that the ARA's continuing on with is cum hoc fallacy arguments.

So I hope you can tell that the ARA was all over the feedlot model, not the grass-finishing model, and couldn't discern the difference. Once again, if you haven't noticed already, Rich was talking about grazing cattle on grass, not feeding them grain. Talk about taking things out of context. 

You see now how this ARA is a poster-child for the Dunning-Krueger Effect?

So once again, because cattle are ruminant animals designed to live and thrive on primarily grass, there is no "must" with feeding grain to even get a steer up to slaughter weight. None whatsoever.

The only reason you "must" feed grain to cattle is because it's a much quicker way to get finisher cattle fatter in a shorter amount of time. Grain and stored feed also ensures that a feedlot operation can finish cattle and truck them out to the slaughter plant at any time of the year. It's also been the answer since the 1950s for cheaper, more marbled (fatter) beef by an increasingly urbanized consumer population.

Grass-finishing, on the other hand, is seasonal; according to folks like Joel Salatin and Nicolette Hahn Niman (author of Defending Beef), the best time to send grass-finishers to slaughter is between the first killing frost and the leaves turning colour to get the best flavour and quality beef. It also takes longer for cattle to reach the right age and weight for slaughter.

But still, there is no "must" in feeding grain to cattle. Only if you're striving for quicker, fatter, bigger, younger and don't care much for quality of the beef.

I know I'm making a bit of a straw man fallacy here, so forgive me. The ARA is close to being right that about that amount of grain needs to be fed to get a pound of beef (actually it's more closer to 6 pounds, not 10 [which is a 1950s value]), and especially that it's not as nearly as efficient as feeding grain to pigs or poultry.

But the reality is that cattle are more healthier and happier being raised on perennial forage. I'm pretty sure that a steer would sooner be out grazing a tasty perennial salad bar full of different species of plants and getting moved to a new grazing spot every one to three days, than he would standing around in a dirt lot full of dust or mud when it rains, and having the nearly same damn feed mix to eat day after day, twice a day, for four to eight months long.

I know. I've seen how steers react when they get the opportunity to eat fresh grass over the same old hay, silage and some grain. If you had them to choose between some silage that's been fermenting and put out for them at the bunks and a sward of fresh grass, they would go for the grass first and ignore the silage. That's why for most folks who do the conventional way of feeding cattle through the winter need to keep their animals in the dry lot to clean up the silage pile before they go to grass. Otherwise, if those animals went to grass first before the silage pile was cleaned up, it would be mighty hard to get them to clean it all up in time to get the pens cleaned out in the spring.

And for the farmer, it's a lot cheaper to graze than it is to feed. It doesn't take a whole lot of money to make grass grow. But money needs to change hands if a farmer needs to get or even grow some grain to feed his cows. Same with making or buying hay and silage.

If there's more than one way to raise and finish cattle on grass to get a quarter tonne of beef per animal without breaking the bank in the long term and without causing harm to the landscape by avoiding poor management practices (like "free-ranging"), then why is there a "must" with feeding grain to cattle to get the same product when it costs a lot more--both financially and ecologically--to do so? It makes no sense!

It's Near Impossible to Grow Grain in Arid Environments

I found it very ironic that the ARA literally confirmed--repeated, more like--what producer Rich said above with this statement,"People who live in arid environments and choose to raise animals are forced to either import feed or grow it themselves, with much difficulty." But wait until you see what this particular sentence lead into below! 

It's one of those, "No shit, Sherlock!" moments that still completely missed the point that Rich was directly referring to grazing cattle grass, not feeding them grain. 

Because this ARA made the cum hoc fallacy above about can't raise animals without raising crops too, he's got it in his head that cattle can't be raised in arid environments either because they need these crops to keep them alive, which is a load of bullshit. 

Yes, ARA Sherlock, it is more difficult and costly to grow or import feed to feed to cattle. BUT, because it's not impossible to raise animals without crops (grain) and you don't need any grain to get some good quality beef, why in the hell would anyone be stupid enough to do or think that they need to grow or truck in grain to feed their animals in the first place? 

Arid environments aren't devoid of grass; they haven't been in the past before a bunch of greenies decided that cows are bad for the land, and range science has adopted the reductionist management reasoning that overgrazing means too many cows on the land (which is not true at all). And the grass that historically and naturally grew there didn't need irrigation or man-made chemicals to grow and thrive there. They needed grazing ruminant animals with their hooves, their dung, and their mouths--not necessarily in that order--to eat and trample and poop on those plants to encourage more grass to grow and feed and support even more life.

So, why in the hell does that land need to be used for growing petroleum-guzzling, resource-inefficient, ecologically/environmentally-destructive crops instead? The answer is that it doesn't!

What those arid environments need is more perennial-based systems that can support more livestock, and which is also supported by livestock and the people managing them to encourage more perennial native plants. This in turn supports more plant life and more animal life. You simply cannot get that when you replace that natural system with a monoculture of corn.

THAT is what Rich was referring to as a more regenerative way of bringing the land back to life using more livestock, not less. 

There is Nothing Sustainable about Producing Grain the Conventional Way--No Matter Where it's Grown

Let me get one thing straight: Sustainability is about maintaining a closed system. Crop production is anything but a closed system.

So how is it really "more sustainable" for people to eat the grain rather than have the animals eat the grain, when the animals in question (being cows) don't particularly need the grain in the first place, and if they do, won't need much of it anyway?

And since when are most people going to be eating lots of grain? Grains need to be processed--milled--somewhat before it's actually viably suitable for human consumption. Otherwise it's just nutrition-less carbohydrates that, for most people, make them fat and unhealthy.

Otherwise, growing grains conventionally require outside inputs in terms of fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum (fuel), and the outputs are going to be the grains with a lot of nutrients within them, as well as soil particles that get blown or washed away with the wind or rain because there is very little to no cover on the soil surface.

When grains are fed to people, there's no human manure that gets put back on the fields. No, more man-made fertilizers are made so that more grain can be grown the next year. A lot of water still needs to be used to grow these crops, and in arid environments that means having to access below-ground aquifers that could be drained down further if more grains need to be grown.

And if grains can't be grown, but other possibly more water-intensive crops can be grown, well farmers will grow them. What's grown in excess is exported to other parts of the country.

How is that sustainable again? Well, it isn't. It isn't more sustainable than raising animals on a perennial vegetative landscape that doesn't require near the amount of inputs that a lot of crops do.

And if we're going to look briefly at Regenerative Agriculture, the current industrial conventional means of producing grains and other foodstuffs today is NOT regenerative; it's Degenerative.

Yet how can someone continue to support a much more degenerative system of agriculture and claim that it's "better" than raising livestock in a regenerative agriculture that really is ever-growing?

Apparently this ARA can. Ignorance is bliss I guess, especially when you're an ARA who's only understanding of farm life comes from vegan propaganda movies and videos and misinterpreted captioned photos.

My next blog post targets this same ARA's response to my comments on cattle grazing and soil health. You won't believe until you see the kind of ludicrous "facts" he tried to "educate" me with on how annual crops were better for the soil than cows being intensively managed on pasture!!