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Grass fed beef in relation to deforestation.

 
pollinator
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Alrighty. I had to go through and delete a bunch in this thread, simply because it got too charged for permies. Apologies if some good information got deleted. We're just gonna go for a fresh start here. Let's keep it kind.
 
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Fred Morgan wrote:Nothing will destroy a tropical plantation faster than attempting to graze large cattle (anything about 300 kilos). The roots of trees that feed are on the first few inches. I would like to know your source for this information. I run 900 acres of tropical plantations - I won't ever have anything except sheep, calves and a few, very few, small horses.

I can show you plenty of destroyed plantations down here due to people trying to have cattle with their trees.



http://www.silvopasture.org/
The site is specifically about pine forests in the Southeast US but will certainly apply to NE and other temperate forests, probably with different trees. Is a "tropical plantation" a tropical (managed) forest? What are the cows eating there?
 
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Jesus Martinez wrote:For lands that are natural grasslands, I totally agree that raising beef for example can be done in a sustainable manner, however, in areas that are or were forest, I don't think raising beef/cattle is wise. I hear all the time about how animals and grass fed beef is part of the solution to global warming but I have to disagree as huge swaths of the amazon rainforest are being deforested specifically for grass fed beef.

What are peoples opinions on this?



This is not for "Grass fed beef". Many South American ranchers plant annuals like soybeans, corn and many other crops to fatten their cattle. They call this "grass fed" because they graze their cattle, most often, before the plants put on their seedhead, or "grain". I agree that this is a horrible idea, just wanted to clarify, but what you are referring to isn't "grass fed". And maybe, these areas that are rain forests, were grasslands 50-100 years ago because the herds of herbivores were removed. What is the history of the land? Who knows? Probably the natives and ranchers know the answer to those questions. I talked to an old-timer in Missouri, and he said when he was a kid you could see from one road to the other. Nothing but grass. Now it's a forest with massive trees. It just comes down to how the area is managed.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Fred Morgan wrote:

Cj Verde wrote:

Abe Connally wrote:

Fred Morgan wrote:Cattle tear up the soils and compact them. Forest increase fertility of the land and production.


That depends on the management of both systems. Go check out Allan Savory or Joe Salatin and see what their cattle do for the environment.


Intentional, managed grazing in forested areas (aka silvopasture) does not tear up the soil and compact them. It improves them and contributes to the health of the forest if implemented properly.



Nothing will destroy a tropical plantation faster than attempting to graze large cattle (anything about 300 kilos). The roots of trees that feed are on the first few inches. I would like to know your source for this information. I run 900 acres of tropical plantations - I won't ever have anything except sheep, calves and a few, very few, small horses.

I can show you plenty of destroyed plantations down here due to people trying to have cattle with their trees.




You are correct, cattle don't belong everywhere. However, if you think cattle are more destructive than horses, I don't know what to say! Cattle only have one set of teeth. Horses have two and can really eat grass low to the ground.
 
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Abe Connally wrote:

Fred Morgan wrote:Cattle tear up the soils and compact them. Forest increase fertility of the land and production.


That depends on the management of both systems. Go check out Allan Savory or Joe Salatin and see what their cattle do for the environment.
Forests do not necessarily increase fertility. In fact, in tropical areas, they have the opposite effect, and concentrate the fertility on the surface. The Amazon has some of the poorest soils around, yet it is a very active forest.

Fred Morgan wrote:
Dairy farms, by the way, are the absolute worst when it comes to land damage. I have been in dairy farms where the trail to the corral for milking was deeper than my knees in mud - and that stretched through the whole farm. Any time there was a rain (which is daily for eight months), the mud would just run into the streams...


I've been in dairy farms that are filled with a pasture as green as any lawn. Again, it depends on management methods.



Agree it depends on management. I've noticed in much of Europe, traditional land management aimed to halt succession at various stages, and conservationists were trying to recreate these practices as they supported the most wildlife. A lot of land was maintained in the grassland stage. Coppicing kept forest young.
IMO grassland is a dynamic stage when a lot of fertility is being built up. With grassland you can also keep your options open. It could easily be ploughed up if necessary. Forest has a lot of benefits, but it can't be changed quickly into anything else. I am convinced that under closed canopy forest in some environments, soil starts to decline in fertility. Tree roots prevent large scale erosion, but they are not as finely branched as grass roots, so nutrients will get leached out a bit more than in grassland.

I don't want to generalise. European farming methods have clearly not worked in Australia or South America. It may be that in the middle east and mediterranean a tipping point was reached where deforestation dried the climate and grassland became less productive, but I'm speculating now. Grassland often seems more productive when there are trees around as well.
 
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I am not a cattleman, but I have a good friend who is. He runs cows on 2000 acres of forest in So. Idaho. I apprentice with Jay, so I know his land well and it is AMAZING! I know the forest like my own hands, so I know what is typically there. By utilizing an Holistic Grazing, he has transformed a pine/fir desert into a lush forest with 6' tall grasses and many kinds of native shrubs and trees re-establishing themselves. Last time I was with Jay, was summer but we had gotten some good rains, mushrooms in the thousands! We typically receive around 16" of rain per year, so this is not something that I have ever seen before, although I am an avid mushroom hunter.
The other thing he showed me was his new stealth camera photos. The amount of wildlife on his place is staggering, especially the number of predators.
So, what is the difference between Jay's place and the rest of our forest, where the pine beetles are reeking havoc? The cows and the ponds that Jay has developed for them.
 
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Fred Morgan wrote:I can show you plenty of destroyed plantations down here due to people trying to have cattle with their trees.



You said earlier that where you are people simply turn them out and "forget about them". There's no management in that, so compare apples to apples in order to be fair. There's plenty of evidence that proves that trampling by cattle is wonderful for the soil... IF it's followed up by a rest period. If it's trampled under continuous grazing, then yes, it's terrible.
 
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Jesus Martinez wrote:For lands that are natural grasslands, I totally agree that raising beef for example can be done in a sustainable manner, however, in areas that are or were forest, I don't think raising beef/cattle is wise. I hear all the time about how animals and grass fed beef is part of the solution to global warming but I have to disagree as huge swaths of the amazon rainforest are being deforested specifically for grass fed beef.

What are peoples opinions on this?

I think you heard wrong. Actually the vast majority of those huge swath of rain forest are being deforested for timber, grain and soy production. But the soils under forests like that quickly deteriorate with conventional agriculture, especially conventional industrial models. Very quickly it gets so poor that the only thing you can do is convert it to pasture.

However, the primary thing to remember is that if livestock were all pasture raised in the first place, there would be no need to raise the grains and soy. This would effectively reduce the need for about 1/2 the world's cropland. You free up that much cropland and suddenly the whole game changes. Now you have the ability to reforest instead of deforest, AND the animals are happier, AND human health improves, AND human caused global warming (AGW) ceases, AND the dead zones in the ocean clear up, AND the water supply gets better.

There really is no excuse for raising livestock in CAFOs. It is probably the most insane thing humans do. Certainly it is killing more people and more species of plants and animals than all the wars combined.

greg patrick wrote: First off, global warming doesn't need a solution. It's a political problem, not an environmental one.

I beg to differ Greg. AGW is absolutely a HUGE environmental problem. The scale of the problem is staggering actually. What you should have said is that mitigation is a political problem. AGW is very real and very measurable by multiple lines of evidence. But the mitigation proposals like carbon credits and alternative energy are almost always politicised to achieve a social agenda more than a true environmental solution and generally have no hope of working anyway. The one exception being Holistic management and permaculture (and related organic methods) replacing conventional agriculture. Even that might not be enough, but at least it is on a scale big enough to have a hope of working, unlike the politicised mitigation proposals.
 
Cj Sloane
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Scott Strough wrote:
I think you heard wrong. Actually the vast majority of those huge swath of rain forest are being deforested for timber, grain and soy production. But the soils under forests like that quickly deteriorate with conventional agriculture, especially conventional industrial models. Very quickly it gets so poor that the only thing you can do is convert it to pasture.



Geoff Lawton explains the process, you're given title to land if you can prove you're using it which means striping it of all it's good for then the last thing you use it for is pasture till that doesn't work, then you abandon it.
 
Bill Bradbury
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It's funny that I got the notice for this topic and an email from my friend Jay the cattleman at the same time. Jay says "some of those university fellers are gonna come up and try to make a beaver dam, it sure would be nice if you and Kelly(my wife) could make it."
I'll try and make a video or at least a post on this and Jay's holistic grazing plan.
 
Bill Bradbury
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Here are some photos of a well grazed piece of forest. The first one is a beaver habitat encouragement dam that we installed in the main creek. The sod in the foreground is from an ancient beaver dam.
The grass in the other 2 pics is actually grazed down this low by the wild critters, the cows haven't been here for over a month. The swale is an ancient beaver dam that has sedimented the entire hollow and meandered the tributary stream that would normally have gone straight down to the main creek.I posted more photos in a dedicated post about beaver habitat restoration.
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