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Articles Home > Category: Management

Regenerative Grazing

 

Regenerative Grazing


           The concept of sustainable agriculture has received increasing amounts of attention in recent years; there is wide spread realization that much of modern agriculture has become an extractive process with production being taken at the expense of losses in soil health and increasing amounts of inputs from outside the system. Loss of soil organic content and soil erosion are common on most of our cultivated land and these degraded soils require ever greater quantities of fertilizer, energy and irrigation to maintain good production.   There are a number of factors contributing to the loss of soil health but one of the prime culprits is that animals have been removed from the farm. A farm without animals loses the manure that for centuries has been the basis of soil health – the manure is now generated at feedlots and confinement housing where it becomes a waste product with a disposal cost. Without animals to convert crop residues into food for soil life and give value to pasture and cover crops, the loss of soil organic matter and the soil life that this material sustains increases with each passing year. The movement of animals off of the farm was done in the name of efficiency of production and while a farmer can sell more bushels of grain off of a farm than when much of a farms production of grain, hay and pasture was sold through animals, it is debatable as to whether the farmer is better off under the new system.

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Romancing the Clover Gods

How to establish and keep forage legumes

Walt Davis 2007

Published in The Stockman GrassFarmer

     In the early 1970’s we were running Davis Ranch in southeastern Oklahoma as a high tech beef cattle, pecan and crop operation and were following all of the land grant college recommendations as to fertilization, weed and insect control. We routinely used 100-150 pounds of actual nitrogen on our cropland, almost that much on Bermuda grass pasture and were producing a lot of product. Production was high but so was the cost of production and all too often we found ourselves losing money on every pound we produced and trying to make up the difference by producing more pounds. This was the period when conventional wisdom was “get big or get out” and efficiency of scale and specialization were the buzzwords of the “agricultural experts”.  In 1974 the cattle market broke, as it had about every nine years for over 100 years, and we found ourselves in serious financial trouble. After ten years of trying to “do it right”, we had the choice of changing the way we operated or going broke. A look through our books made it crystal clear where the money was going; fertilizer, machinery upkeep, chemicals, fuel and labor expenses were all much too high.

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Diary of a Serial Killer (Retired)

First published in Acres USA

        For much of my working life, I spent a lot of time and energy killing. I grew up on a west Texas ranch in the fifties and as soon as I got old enough to work, a regular warm weather job was finding, catching and treating cattle, sheep and goats that were infected with screwworms. This took a lot of time since the animals were running in large brushy pastures and a sick animal’s instinct is to hide. If we did not find the infected animals and kill the screwworms, the animals would die. The worms would literally eat the animals’ alive, one tiny bite at a time. We used a variety of noxious materials in the attempt to kill the screwworms and to prevent the mama cattle, sheep and goats from licking the worm dope off of their babies.

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