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What do Fukuoka and Ranching Have In Common? A lot.  RSS feed

 
Chris Stelzer
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I'm a ranching intern. I've interned with Greg Judy, the James Ranch and I'll soon be leaving to work with Ian Mitchell-Innes in South Africa on his ranch. I've been trying to relate to permies, and let you all know that ranching has a lot in common with Permaculture. At least ranching that is more focused on Holistic Management/high density and mob grazing. Traditional ranchers are ruining their ecosystems in many cases. Let's move on.

I think I have found a really good example that everyone, both permies and ranchers, can understand. I've recently been reading "The One Straw Revolution" by Fukuoka. In the first few chapters he talks about how he uses straw to mulch the ground in his fields. He says that this is very important for the health and fertility of his land. We all know this. HOWEVER, the thing that gets me excited is the fact that ranchers (not many) are trying to replicate this exact same strategy on our grasslands. The way we go about it is different, we graze our livestock (mostly cattle) at high densities. High density grazing "wastes" a lot of grass. The grass is trampled onto the soil surface by the cattle and you basically get the same effect as fukuoka does in his fields. We call this trampled grass "litter." Even though he is growing grains and we are raising livestock, the principles are the same. I just thought I would share my latest "light bulb" moment with you all.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I think ranching fits into permaculture just fine. The Designer's Manual discusses range animal systems in the Tropics, Dryland and Cool climate sections of the book.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Hi Chris, So explain to me exactly how high density grazing works. Are the animals fenced or herded? How does this system relate to wild herds of say buffalo. It seems that wild herds, that evolved in any given habitat, would have something to teach us.
 
Lawrence London
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Chris Stelzer wrote:I'm a ranching intern. I've interned with Greg Judy, the James Ranch and I'll soon be leaving to work with Ian Mitchell-Innes in South Africa on his ranch. I've been trying to relate to permies, and let you all know that ranching has a lot in common with Permaculture. At least ranching that is more focused on Holistic Management/high density and mob grazing. Traditional ranchers are ruining their ecosystems in many cases. Let's move on.

I think I have found a really good example that everyone, both permies and ranchers, can understand. I've recently been reading "The One Straw Revolution" by Fukuoka. In the first few chapters he talks about how he uses straw to mulch the ground in his fields. He says that this is very important for the health and fertility of his land. We all know this. HOWEVER, the thing that gets me excited is the fact that ranchers (not many) are trying to replicate this exact same strategy on our grasslands. The way we go about it is different, we graze our livestock (mostly cattle) at high densities. High density grazing "wastes" a lot of grass. The grass is trampled onto the soil surface by the cattle and you basically get the same effect as fukuoka does in his fields. We call this trampled grass "litter." Even though he is growing grains and we are raising livestock, the principles are the same. I just thought I would share my latest "light bulb" moment with you all.



That is really impressive, Chris. It sounds like you have accomplished a lot so far in your pursuit of ranching knowledge and experience. That is indeed a light bulb moment.....include also that this trampled straw will contain manure and a host of beneficial microorganisms, all covering the ground and nourishing the range's soil ecosystem. I will add this snippet: I bought many tons/dump truck loads of "straw manure" from a farmer neighbor to apply to my market gardens. Each year he roundbaled a few hundred acres of farmland in my area. No pesticides were applied but in some cases, lime and fertilizer were added; this was mostly for the square bales he produced to sell profitably to local horse and goat farms. The rest, which included OK hay and weeds (broomstraw, a really nice grassy plant that makes the best, softest, quickest decomposing, garden mulch I have used) were round baled for him to feed to his own beef cattle. He kept a herd of cows on one particular piece of farmland, isolated and nowhere near land where pesticide application might occur. He fed the cows round bales, one at a time and in the same place each time. They would pull the bales apart eating what they wanted and the rest got trampled underfioot and mixed with a large accumulation of manure, producing the traditional "straw manure", one of the most desirable forms of manure for a gardener. Each year there was a large pile of this material and he would take a loader and dumptruck out there, load it up and sell it locally. Does the label "Black Gold" get the message across. I mixed this nitrogen and microbe rich mixture with several different types of rock dust from local quarries, applied it to my gardens and tilled it in. I am reaping the benefits of this endeavor now and will for many years to come as I put more and more garden beds into Fukuoka no till natural farming. That is the desired goal but will use minimum till to get there. LL
 
Mike Turner
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Wyomiles Hogan wrote:Hi Chris, So explain to me exactly how high density grazing works. Are the animals fenced or herded? How does this system relate to wild herds of say buffalo. It seems that wild herds, that evolved in any given habitat, would have something to teach us.


The livestock is fenced into temporary paddocks with temporary electric fencing and moved regularly to a new paddock (every other day/ once a day/twice a day depending on your herd density and labor availability). So each paddock (which are variable in size depending on the amount of graze available) only is visited by livestock once to 4 times a year depending on forage growth rates. Another advantage to high density grazing is the mother lode of manure left behind acts as a strong magnet to dung beetles who arrive and get much of it buried before the flies can get their eggs laid on it and before livestock intestinal worm eggs can hatch to try to infect new livestock (which won't be revisiting that patch of sod until many months have passed).
 
Greta Fields
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Cros. speaking of trampling, I discovered by accident that native grasses may have been planted by the trampling feet of bison. An old man suggested I try bush-hogging in winter. He would not say why, but I tried it. Next August, native Indian grasses came up and made beautiful "feathers" sticking out of the oldenrod-iron weed field. I didn't even know I HAD Indian grass, and I had never seen it before.
Somebody suggested that the tractor tires mimic the feet of bison, pressing the fluffy Indian grass seeds onto the mud.
It shocked me.
Deer , sure enough, had their fawns down in this heavy grass cover, and that made me understand why huinters keep pushing for native grass to be planted.
My understanding is, cattle hooves and bison hooves work differently upon the sods. For the life of me, I can't understand why the ranchers don't raise bison instead of cattle though. It seems like bison are made for America, but not sure about cattle.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Thanks Mike !
 
Shawn Harper
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Greta Fields wrote:Cros. speaking of trampling, I discovered by accident that native grasses may have been planted by the trampling feet of bison. An old man suggested I try bush-hogging in winter. He would not say why, but I tried it. Next August, native Indian grasses came up and made beautiful "feathers" sticking out of the oldenrod-iron weed field. I didn't even know I HAD Indian grass, and I had never seen it before.
Somebody suggested that the tractor tires mimic the feet of bison, pressing the fluffy Indian grass seeds onto the mud.
It shocked me.
Deer , sure enough, had their fawns down in this heavy grass cover, and that made me understand why huinters keep pushing for native grass to be planted.
My understanding is, cattle hooves and bison hooves work differently upon the sods. For the life of me, I can't understand why the ranchers don't raise bison instead of cattle though. It seems like bison are made for America, but not sure about cattle.


Bison require stronger and taller fences, also the USDA has more restrictions and fees for bison.
 
                          
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Greta Fields wrote:Somebody suggested that the tractor tires mimic the feet of bison, pressing the fluffy Indian grass seeds onto the mud.
It shocked me.
Deer , sure enough, had their fawns down in this heavy grass cover, and that made me understand why huinters keep pushing for native grass to be planted.
My understanding is, cattle hooves and bison hooves work differently upon the sods. For the life of me, I can't understand why the ranchers don't raise bison instead of cattle though. It seems like bison are made for America, but not sure about cattle.


Cattle hooves will press seed into the soil, they're far more similar to bison hooves than tractor tires. No tractor costs needed! I can't see why cattle hooves would act much differently than bison's hooves on the soil. They weigh less, but it really doesn't take much so the difference shouldn't matter.

Bison are dangerous and they cannot be managed in the same manner as cattle.
 
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