Several weeks ago, NPR featured a piece on using planned grazing to build soil. While the piece focused on a ranch in Colorado, the concept is one that farmers in Vermont have also been working with for over a decade. In fact, the Pasture Program is part of a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant to teach technical assistance providers more about the techniques in order to help farmers achieve their goals, including the goal of building soil.
While Allan Savory’s techniques of building soil through quick rotations, high density animal impact, putting animals in desertified areas, and grazing riparian zones may be subjects of controversy, the concept of planning a grazing season should not be. Planning ahead to decide which pastures to use and rest, when to hay, how many days plants have had to recover their leaf matter before being rebitten…these are business decisions. Businesses are stronger when they plan for good times and bad.
Don’t think this is important? In this year of complicated weather, many farmers have been extremely challenged to produce dry hay or even get on to fields in order to cut and wrap baleage. One farmer who uses the planned grazing chart knew at what point (roughly) during ast year’s drought he’d need to buy hay if the rain didn’t come. He was able to buy hay early at a GREAT price, because the other farmers around him hadn’t approached the seller yet.