The Benefits of Rotational Grazing
How Rotational Grazing Benefits Cattle and Consumers
Part of Acabonac Farms’ commitment to producing grass-fed, pasture-finished beef includes the use of environmentally friendly ranching practices.
The two issues go hand-in-hand. Producing 100% grass-fed beef means providing customers with a healthier, tastier product. In accomplishing that, Acabonac Farms focuses on soil conservation, sustainable agriculture practices and pledge to maintain - even improve - the natural beauty and health of pastures.
Part of that commitment involves the use of rotational grazing. It’s a process used for many years in places such as Australia and New Zealand. Acabonac Farms has brought it home to the East End of Long Island.
The Importance of Grass
To understand the need for rotational grazing, it’s important to understand the critical importance of healthy forage for cattle.
Not all grass is created equal. The grass and other forage of the East End derives from the rich, loamy soil of the area. The vitality of the soil creates a wealth of regenerative grasses for cattle, including rye and clover.
Cattle are perfect grass-powered marvels. Their systems are equipped to absorb all the nutrients rooted in the grasses of our pastures throughout the East End.
They include Omega-3s, vitamins and antioxidants that provide health benefits both for the cattle and the people who buy our beef.
All this is a far cry from the grain-fed industrial beef produced from large cattle operations. That approach produces less healthy beef because cattle are fed what they usually would not eat (done to bulk the cattle up quickly). This practice also does not sustain the land on which the cattle are raised.
Further, industrial cattle operations often require giving cattle growth promoting antibiotics to combat sickness because their physiology is not designed to consume grains. This is something never done at Acabonac Farms.
Part of the strategy in producing healthy beef is providing cattle with a variety of forage. This is accomplished through rotational grazing.
At Acabonac Farms, cattle are moved frequently, sometimes several times a day, to various areas of pasture land. This serves two main purposes. It offers the cattle a variety of forage as the herd roams freely across the pasture. Second, it keeps the herd from overgrazing a particular batch of land.
Cattle are moved using a system of temporary posts, fencing and spools wound with one strand of electrified fencing. The timing of the rotations is governed by a system developed and monitored by Acabonac Farms that evaluates the forage needs of the herd and the quantity and quality of forage in different areas of the pasture.
Why Use Rotational Grazing
As noted above, the better the grass, the better the beef. Maintaining the integrity and vitality of pasture land is essential to producing quality, healthy beef.
Rotational grazing also helps the environment in many ways.
Forage production. Pasture land that is well-managed through rotational grazing will increase quality production of forage by as much as 70 percent annually. By minimizing overgrazing, Acabonac Farms allows each section of the pasture land - sometimes referred to as paddocks - the chance to recover from grazing. Given a few weeks (rather than just a few days) to recover allows grass and other plants to retain the root mass and energy needed to regrow.
Soil fertility. Through rotational grazing, cattle manure is spread across the whole pasture and fertilizes the soil. Also, as mentioned above, overgrazing leaves forage with less energy and root system mass, which also results in less organic matter in the soil. Rotational grazing prevents that, meaning there’s less need for fertilizers to increase forage production and soil health.
Resistance to drought. Because of better soil and forage health, there is a reduced amount of runoff during heavy rains. Water is retained more evenly across the entire pasture. That helps strengthen the land and shield it from the effects of drought.
Carbon sequestration. This term refers to the capture and storing of carbon dioxide that can potentially help offset the effects of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. A University of Wisconsin study found that managed rotational grazing was the only cattle ranching technique that led to carbon sequestration.
Rotational grazing is one element in Acabonac Farm’s approach to cattle ranching. There is wisdom in how beef was produced many years ago. Acabonac Farms has taken those techniques, added the advantages of today’s technology, and created a cattle ranching operation that is better for cattle, consumers and the land.
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Cattle have a bad reputation among some in the environmental movement. They’ve been targeted as one of the main contributing factors to global warming, producing methane that has more impact on the greenhouse effect per kilogram than does carbon dioxide.
So, let’s just get rid of all the cows! Problem solved.
Not so fast.