Tag: rotational grazing

Shade Haven Customer Receives Award

“Rotational grazing is simple. The key to it is management,” said Keith Tuck with Tuck Farms. “You’ve got to look at yourself not as a cattle producer but a forage producer who markets through cattle. You’re a grass farmer.”

Congratulations to grass farmer and Shade Haven customer, Keith Tuck, who was honored for outstanding environmental stewardship of his Moneta, Virginia, farm. Tuck purchased two SH1200 mobile shade systems in 2017.

Check out the video that highlights sustainable practices at  Tuck Farms.

Spoiler Alert – A Shade Haven plays a starring role in the video and on this award-winning farm.

Drought Management Strategies for Graziers


It’s hot out there, and for many regions of the country, it’s dry, really dry. Prolonged dry spells create challenges for farmers and ranchers across the country and the globe. Grazing expert Dr. Allen Williams offers drought management tips to minimize the impact drought can have on your pasture, livestock and profits.

“A good practice is to anticipate that every summer you are going to get drought,” says grazing expert Dr. Allen Williams, who has advised thousands of farmers on grazing and regenerative ag practices.

Evaluating the number of animals you graze is one proactive measure in anticipating drought conditions. Williams suggests graziers stock animals not for the best months of the year, but for the months that will be the most challenging.

A second preemptive strategy is to build a stockpile of forage early when you have the spring moisture. “We make sure we are reserving plenty of residual with each graze, so we have plenty of stockpile ahead of us,” says Williams of his own grazing strategy. “I will not in any grazing event allow the cattle to take more than 30 to 40% of the total biomass.”

Before the drought – building organic matter

Rotational graziers have already taken an important step toward mitigating the impact of drought. You move the fence, move the water, and move the shade daily – sometimes multiple times per day. That grazing practice builds organic matter in the soil, enhancing the moisture-retaining capacity of your pasture. An acre with 1% more organic matter holds an additional 18,000 to 28,000 gallons of water.

Being proactive in anticipation of heat and drought means having the tools you need to build that resilience in your pasture. The Shade Haven mobile shade system is one of those tools. With the Shade Haven, graziers maximize grazing land and move nutrients where they need it on the pasture while protecting livestock from heat stress.

“With more and more hot days, it restricts where you can put animals. With the Shade Haven, you are actually moving shade onto a pasture that may not have natural shade, so you can now use that pasture or paddock.” explains grazier and Shade Haven owner, Jim Munsch, who runs 30 cow-calf pairs on his farm in Coon Valley, Wisconsin.

After three decades of rotational grazing, Munch has more than doubled the organic matter in his pasture. Though the area of Wisconsin where he farms is experiencing moderate to severe drought, Munch notes, “Because we have built the organic matter in our soil for over 35 years, we are hanging in there with our regular rotation.”

During a drought – best strategies 

If you are not highly prepared for drought conditions – and even if you are – there are strategies to best manage your grazing operation during a drought.

“The first thing you need to do is slow the cattle down,” notes Williams. “That is really important. A lot of people do the opposite.”

In dry times, the opposite – speeding up the rotation – is the worst tactic. “Because that allows less recovery time between grazing events,” explains Williams. “You want to slow them down and hold them back to allow whatever is ahead to recover as much as possible.”

Slowing your roll may mean feeding hay. Be strategic with your bale grazing. “Don’t waste the opportunity to bale graze in areas of the farm that need the most improvement,” advises Williams.

When you feed hay, avoid bale rings. Instead feed the bale intact or roll it on the field. “You want to influence a high-density impact and a lot of manure and urine on the area.”

Mike and Bridget Klein had to slow their grazing during the 2021 drought in central Minnesota. The Klein’s SH600 mobile shade system was a perfect complement to their bale grazing strategy. “The Shade Haven allowed us to move the bale grazing away from the trees,” says Bridget Klein. “We could keep them grazing, keep them rotating. Even though we were bale grazing, we could keep depositing that fertility.”

The Klein’s management practice had a noticeable effect on their pasture. “It was exciting to see how our organic matter increased and how our soil health increased despite the dry conditions.”

Though you may need to allow some overgrazing in a sacrifice area, be careful not to over graze as you move forward, warns Williams. “If you graze too tightly the soil temperature is going to heat up pretty significantly, and you will do more damage and longer-term damage.”

Once again, allow your livestock to consume just 30% to 40% of the leaf volume, leaving behind plenty to shade and protect the soil.

Time to destock

“You can never feed your way profitably out of drought if you are overstocked,” stresses Williams. “It is absolutely not profitable to hang on to all of your stock during a prolonged drought.”

Subscribe to a good weather forecasting service. When it predicts sustained drought patterns, believe it, and take action. Destock your herd early. Determine which animals are least desirable or not performing and sell them. Don’t wait until they lose body condition. “If cattle or sheep are thin, you have lost a lot of value in them if you need to sell,” warns Williams.

Their value diminishes further the longer you wait, as other procrastinating graziers also begin destocking. “So not only are you selling them thin, you are selling them into a down market,” notes Williams. “Be prepared, think ahead, cull ahead – or look for grass elsewhere.”

After the drought

You’ve survived the drought. Now what? “That is when you go back to the drawing board and retool your thought process,” says Williams. “It could happen again next year or the next year. You need to be prepared for drought conditions every year.”

Grazing: The Climate-Smartest Practice


A well-deserved amount of attention along with billions of dollars are being devoted to finding solutions to mitigate climate change. What is the most effective agricultural practice to capture carbon and battle climate change?

While cover crops are a way for farmers to prevent runoff and keep soil and nutrients on the field, recent studies show it may not be the silver bullet its hyped to be for combating climate change. In contrast, the ability of rotational grazing to sequester carbon is indisputable. In fact, grazing is the only agricultural method sure to put carbon in the ground.

The chart below, created by the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compares ecosystem benefits of a managed pasture to fields with and without cover crops.

The study also looked at profitability of livestock systems that incorporated managed grazing. The conclusion:

“The single most effective agricultural practice for delivering an array of ecosystem services while returning a sustainable income to farmers is managed grazing of perennial pastures.”

Ready to graze?

Successful managed grazing requires three things: portable fencing, portable water, and portable shade. Shade Haven is proud to be part an agricultural practice that is truly climate-smart.

Protect your animals, your profits, and the planet, while your pasture breathes in carbon.

Turning the Page: Soldier to Rancher

When Marine Corps Lt. Colonel Jason Smith retired from the military and took over his 130+ year-old family farm, he made a major lifestyle change. He also significantly changed the way the farm operated. This fifth-generation rancher in Mt. Hermon, Louisiana, implemented regenerative grazing practices that enrich the soil and ensure he can leave the farm in better shape for the next generation.

After 22 years in the Marine Corps, Smith and his wife Rebekah were ready to leave the nomadic military lifestyle behind to give their five children a place to identify as home. Returning to their roots in southern Louisiana, the couple made that home at Smith Angus Farm, part of the Walter L. Smith Farm, a farm with a long, rich history.

Recognized as a centennial farm by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, the Walter L. Smith Farm received a land grant in 1892. That grant was used by Jason Smith’s Great, Great, Grandfather Walter Lorrain Smith and his wife Emma to clear longleaf pine and make a living off the land. “The original farm has actually been in my family even before 1892,” notes Smith.

According to Smith family lore, Smith’s ancestors first stepped foot on the land before it was part of the United States. The Spanish, who owned it at that time, chased off the people settling there. When the British took possession of the land, many of those people returned, including Smith’s ancestors. Ultimately the region was annexed by the United States, and Walter L. Smith officially laid claim to the land after receiving the land grant in 1892.

Functioning primarily as a dairy from the 1930s through the 1960s, the farm gradually transitioned to beef. Today Jason continues to run beef on the land – this time with a managed grazing approach.

Making changes, adding shade

Before he transitioned from officer to rancher, Smith needed to make sure the farm would be a viable business to support his family. “I thought – if you buy everything retail and sell everything wholesale, eventually you will be out of business, which is how most small family farms seem to be going,” says Smith.

After extensive research, he concluded a managed grazing system would enable him to be a good steward of the land, cut input costs and produce a healthy grass-fed product he could sell.

In 2017, he went to work removing the fixed, barbed-wire fencing and setting up paddocks. Since not all paddocks had available shade, he needed a way to protect his cattle from the punishing Louisiana sun. “It was September. I was doing some fencing and it was about 1000 degrees outside,” he recalls. “I was miserable, and I’m not a black cow. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something’, so I made the call to Shade Haven.”

Smith purchased two SH1200 mobile shade systems in 2018. He purchased a third in 2021 and a fourth in October 2022. Prior to the first purchase, he considered having a mobile shade structure built by a local manufacturer. “The price he quoted me wasn’t that much cheaper than the fully developed Shade Haven product…I liked the idea of buying a product that is already made, that already has a track record of success.”

Smith moves his four Shade Havens along with 140 Angus beef through paddocks on his 240-acre farm. With frequent storms and strong winds in southern Louisiana, he appreciates the ease of retracting and opening the mobile shade structures. “I need something I can move every day, and something that is resilient to both the animals and the weather. That’s what sold me on the Shade Haven.”

The Shade Havens allow Smith to control nutrient distribution on his pasture, something important to his regenerative plan. “I want to use the manure as an asset not a liability. To do that, we have to put the cows in the middle of the pasture where there are no trees,” he adds. “If you have black cows in Louisiana anywhere from May to Oct without shade, you will end up with a lot of dead animals during a heatwave. I have to have shade.”

Smith convinced his NRCS office to expand its cost-share program to include a Shade Haven – which is significantly more mobile than the structure they already funded. He used NRCS funds toward the purchase of his first two Shade Havens in 2018, making him the first in Louisiana to own a Shade Haven. That’s something he is happy to proclaim. “I’m a sucker for something that is well-designed and functional, and if the Shade Haven is anything, it’s well-designed and functional.”

A viable business

Jason Smith’s father ran Smith Angus Farm while living in Baton Rouge and working full-time for the Louisiana state police. Commuting back to the farm when he could, he handled the livestock in a way that fit his situation. “In those nine years, he adopted practices that allowed the cows to be without him for three or four days at a time,” explains Smith, noting the negative impact the continuous grazing practice left on the land.

As a full-time rancher, Smith has the time his father did not have to graze in a way that sustains his beef on grass year-round. “I’ve been pleased with the results of it all. Most people don’t get excited about watching grass grow, but I get pretty excited about that.”

Since 2019 Smith Angus has sold its grass-fed beef direct to customers and restaurants. “That was probably the biggest change we made. I wanted a value-added product,” says Smith. “I went through the process of getting a USDA approved label and found a USDA processor in Mississippi.”

Business boomed in 2020 with increased consumer interest in buying local and knowing your farmer. Sales continue to increase annually since Smith started selling direct.

“When people come out to our farm, they see it is a farm. It’s what people envision when they eat a steak. They don’t envision a feedlot, they envision an animal on grass, eating what nature intended.”

Healing power

The restorative power grazing has on the soil is reciprocated by healing the soul and psyche of those who work the land. As a veteran of two tours in Iraq and recipient of a Silver Star for action in Fallujah, Smith knows first-hand the toll of war and the therapeutic value of a hard day’s work on the farm.

“As much frustration as farming provides, that is also the thing that makes it enjoyable. You get to see your impact on the environment; you get to see your impact on the land – the results are right there,” says Smith. “There are a lot of jobs where people never see the results of the things they work on. You feel like you aren’t adding value to anything.”

Smith sees the value he adds every time he moves his cattle to a new paddock. He knows his efforts are impacting the health of the soil when he sees birds flocking around his pasture in December. And he’s adding value to the farm’s bottom line and to the lives of his customers by producing and selling a healthy product.

On the farm’s website, he invites veterans to come to the farm. He wants fellow Marines and other military vets suffering from physical injuries or PTST to experience that kind of healing, to see the impact of their hard work and avoid the path of self-medication or suicide. Though nobody has taken him up on his offer yet, Smith notes, “The offer is still there.”

The Shade Haven team thanks Jason Smith for his service. We’re proud to be part of the grazing plan at this centennial farm and wish the Smiths success for many more generations.




Minnesota Grazing

MicBri Acres, Eden Valley, MN

Mike and Bridget Klein heal the land with cattle

Since moving to their 40-acre farm in Eden Valley, Minnesota in 2006, Mike and Bridget Klein have been rotational grazing to build organic matter in the soil and heal the land, damaged from many years of row cropping. In August 2021, they further increased their soil-healing efforts with the purchase of a Shade Haven mobile shade system.

“When we first bought our farm, the land was rented out for corn, beans, corn, beans – so the organic matter was down quite a bit,” explains Mike Klein. “In the pastures, the middle part [where there is no natural shade] is the part that isn’t going to refurbish as fast, so we put the Shade Haven there and get the nutrients exactly where they should be.”

The Kleins move their 100% grass-fed American Aberdeen beef cattle through multiple .7-acre paddocks every 24 hours. Mike frequently moves the cattle along with the Shade Haven multiple times daily within that paddock. “Because we use polywire and leave the four-wheeler in the pasture, we can just hook up and move the Shade Haven ahead another 100 feet, so we spread the fertility around.”

The grazing plan

Managed grazing is not a new concept to this couple, who both grew up on Minnesota farms that practiced rotational grazing. Mike recalls some neighbors’ reactions to their managed grazing strategy. “They would comment that we were not using the grass up; we were wasting it. But on those summer days when our pastures were green and their pastures were brown, we knew we were doing the right thing.”

The Kleins usually have 30 head of cattle on the ground, including cow/calf pairs and heifers. Four-strand high-tensile fence lines the perimeter, and paddocks are fenced with 14-guage or polywire.

Mike and Bridget Klein

“We’ve moved progressively toward more and more polywire, because of the flexibility of it and recognizing that maintaining lanes is something we need,” notes Bridget. Because they breed their cows through artificial insemination, the lanes allow them to easily move the cows to be bred when the time is right. “We let them naturally come into heat,” she adds.

The record heat and drought conditions in summer 2021 forced the Klein’s to slow down their grazing rotation. “Our pasture wasn’t able to keep up; longer rest periods were needed for the sake of the grass,” noted Bridget. “We didn’t want to set back everything in the soil health and plant system, so we did feed supplemental hay.”

Concerned about cattle health in the extreme heat, the Kleins were forced to bale graze their cattle only where they had access to natural shade. That changed when they purchased a SH600 mobile shade structure in August 2021.

“I was really excited to get the Shade Haven in the paddock,” Bridget recalls. “We were able to move the bale grazing away from the trees. We could keep them grazing, keep them rotating… keep that fertility depositing, moving around. Honestly, our pastures in 2022 where we applied that management practice in 2021 look really good. It’s exciting to see that!”

Life on the farm

When she’s not wrangling cattle, Bridget works as a nurse. Now retired, Mike spends his day tending to the beef and to 4,000 to 5,000 hardneck garlic plants, which he harvests and sells along with the farm’s grassfed beef products.

The Kleins market their products through their Facebook page, MicBri Acres LLC, and through an email list that goes out to existing and new customers when beef and/or garlic is ready to sell. They typically offer past customers first dibs at quarter, half, and whole beef portions prior to processing. Additionally, they sell 20 lb. packs of ground beef.

As the saying goes, “You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl,” and Bridget Klein is no exception. Mike recalls that acquiring land and cattle was part of the deal when the couple got married. Now neither one can imagine life any other way.

“It’s great to have the cattle around,” says Bridget. “It’s great to be on the land and to see the improvements we’ve been able to accomplish, to help heal the soil with the animals.”

Funding for Mobile Shade

By Reed Doerr, Shade Haven President

With inflation dominating the headlines, wouldn’t it be nice to get a break on the cost of something that improves the lives and health of your livestock? Throughout this year, I have received countless phone calls from NRCS field agents around the country excited to learn more about the Shade Haven. Providing shade has long been a part of EQIP [Environmental Quality Incentives Program], but for some states 2022 is the first year that mobile shade has received funding, and it could not come at a better time.

The Shade Haven continues to be the only real solution to mobile shade for graziers. It is a piece of machinery that adds so much more to your farm then the lonely oak tree in the back 40. Owners frequently boast about its importance, from the behavior of their animals to the quality of their pastures.  In many cases, farmers very quickly buy a second Shade Haven for their group of steers, or weaned calves. Relief from the hot sun becomes as obvious as providing water to a parched animal; what is the reasonable life expectancy much less performance of a stressed or otherwise dying animal?

In a recent conversation with a Missouri NRCS field agent, I learned that Missouri also recognizes access to shade is an important part of a grazing plan. In 2022, Missouri farmers receive $4.66/sq. ft. or $5.60/sq. ft., depending on qualifications, toward the cost of a mobile shade system for their animals. That translates into $5,590 or $6,700 savings on the SH1200. Other states offer varying rates of funding per square foot of shade.

For many states, EQIP funding applications are due in October, but deadlines vary from state to state. I recommend contacting your local NRCS agent to ask about mobile shade funding. Fill out the application now, so when next year’s grazing season arrives, your cows don’t suffer in what seems to be hotter, longer summers!

Find your local NRCS office here.

Tis the Season for Heat Stress

Dr. Paul Dettloff on protecting your livestock from the sun.

From conception to maturity, your cattle need protection from the hot summer sun.

“Anytime the air temperature reaches 85 degrees an animal will enter some heat stress,” notes Organic Valley staff veterinarian Dr. Paul Dettloff, considered one of the top holistic veterinarians in the country.

While black-hided animals are affected more quickly than white ones, high humidity combined with high temperatures can mean heat stress for animals of all colors. The result is decreased feed intake, reduced productivity, and profit losses.

Heat also plays a role in conception rates and fertility. After 35 years of practice, Dettloff knows when a cow bred in July is open in September, it’s probably linked to extreme temperatures. “You go back to that day in July and discover it was 94 degrees that day,” explains Dettloff. “With that high temperature, first service conception just falls off.”

Signs and solutions
Cattle don’t sweat like we do, so panting is a clear sign of stress.

“Once they start open mouth breathing and panting, you can bet they aren’t going to milk very good that day,” explains Dettloff, who encourages graziers of both dairy and beef cattle to provide shade for the health of their animals and to prevent production losses.

For those practicing rotational grazing, portable shade, such a Shade Haven mobile shade system, is critical for success. “Permanent shade in one spot in the pasture doesn’t work,” says Dettloff. “Movable shade is made for intensive rotational grazing.”

About Dr. Paul
Dr. Paul Dettloff is a consultant on sustainable agriculture, staff veterinarian for Organic Valley Coop in Wisconsin and Owner of Dr. Paul’s Lab, LLC. He has trained farmers across the U.S. on how to use natural products and is a frequent speaker at organic/sustainable conferences in the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Dettloff has authored “Alternative treatments for Ruminants” and the recently published “Musings of an old country vet”. Both are available at Dr. Paul’s Lab.  

Tennessee Grazing with Shade

Click photo above to view video

Retirement goals often include travel, boats or spending more time on the golf course. John Abe Teague’s retirement dream was to farm and raise cattle, and that’s what he did. In 2014 Teague started with 13 bred Angus cows at his farm in Jonesborough, Tennessee, but with limited trees he was challenged to supply the shade his cattle needed. Then in 2015 he purchased a Shade Haven mobile shade system.

“It has allowed me to do what I do—have cattle and do rotational grazing,” says Teague. “I could not farm without the Shade Haven. It’s that simple.”

For rotational grazing, Teague knew he needed grass, water, fencing and shade. After failed attempts to construct his own shade solution, he found what he needed at Powell Farms, which utilizes nine Shade Havens in its grazing plan. “I was sold the minute I saw it,” says Teague. “I picked the phone up and ordered one.”

Teague moves his cattle and the Shade Haven daily across 15 acres established in five-acre paddocks, which he divides into 8 to 10 smaller paddocks with electric fence on reels. When the cattle at Mire Creek Farm see the Shade Haven, they know it means fresh green grass and a cool place to lie down. “I cluck at them and move the Shade Haven and they follow me,” says Teague. “I tell people, they would follow me all the way to town if I wanted them to. They love the Shade Haven.”

An advocate for rotational grazing, Teague welcomes groups to his farm who want to learn about it. He knows the benefits of managed grazing and mobile shade for animal health, production and profitability. “The bottom line is they get shade when they need it. It gets 95 degrees here in summertime and black-hided cows can’t stand it. They’ve got to have shade,” says Teague, who also appreciates the ability to control where nutrients are going in his pasture. “I find weak spots in the field and place the Shade Haven there, so it gets manure and then I move it. That helps on the fertilizer bill, and it helps on the quality of grass.”

Since a health condition requires him to eat a lot of protein, Teague consumes a portion of his shade-raised, grassfed beef and sells the rest. He’s still fine-tuning his grazing operation and his pastures. “I’ve managed to get one cow for every one acre with rotational grazing,” he adds.

Building his registered Angus cow/calf herd, improving his pastures, and moving the cattle are all part of typical day for Teague, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I’m 69. I’ve had a good life. This is my retirement, and the Shade Haven makes it possible.”

Shade Haven is proud to be part of John Abe Teague’s grazing operation. Thanks to John Abe for representing Shade Haven at grazing and beef cattle events around northeast Tennessee.

Grazing Made Possible with Shade


Five years ago, Robert Greenlaw left a desk job for the farm life when he inherited a portion of his grandfather’s farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Today he raises poultry and cattle on his 150-acre farm, Earth’s Echo Farm, about an hour outside of Washington D.C.

“I didn’t want to see it get developed,” says Greenlaw. “So, we decided to pack up and move back home to the family farm and make a go of it.”
After renovating the house and adding some out buildings, Greenlaw got started with chickens. “We did meat chickens first, then took on laying hens and eventually got into running cattle.”

Greenlaw rotationally grazes Hereford beef cattle, a breed his grandfather raised. He typically runs 20 to 30 cattle and finishes 10 to 15 per year. In May, he added a Shade Haven mobile shade system to his grazing strategy.
“With the amount of heat we have in the summer and only a few trees, we couldn’t be doing what we do without the Shade Haven,” says Greenlaw. “We use the Shade Haven six to eight months of the year. We move it every day.”

The grazing plan

Greenlaw makes the daily moves with a tractor or truck, moving the Shade Haven and a portable water tank within paddocks shaped with temporary polywire fencing. The pastures offer a variety of quality forage that ensures the cattle are consuming plenty of protein. “They are bulking up nicely… we are really pleased with how they are turning out. And the Shade Haven plays a big part in that,” says Greenlaw.

He makes mid-day moves when the sugars are highest, giving the cattle new grass along with the Shade Haven. “Immediately they are out and grazing again – it gets another afternoon meal into them.”

When he purchased the SH1200 Shade Haven, Greenlaw also purchased the Fly Control Bracket and Oiler/Scratcher. “That has really helped with fly control. It doesn’t eliminate flies entirely – I don’t think anything would – but it certainly has made them far more comfortable.”

There are many reasons for Greenlaw and his cows to love the Shade Haven. It prevents heat stress, improves dry matter intake, controls pests, and there’s one more benefit. “On the rare instance the cows get out, I can bring them back with the Shade Haven,” says Greenlaw. “We don’t do grain – so I can’t shake a bucket of grain at them. We just get to where they can see the Shade Haven and drive slowly back to where they are supposed to be.”

Greenlaw farms with his wife, Gini, and two children, ages 7 and 4, with one more on the way. The family markets the farm’s chicken, eggs and grass-fed beef at two nearby farmers markets.

“We are one of the few farms that is still actively farming. We are still out here trying to make a go of it,” says Greenlaw. “Everything is grass-fed, grass-finished. And the Shade Haven makes this all possible.”

For more information on Earth’s Echo Farm, check out its Facebook page or visit www.earthsechofarm.com

Shade Haven: Your Instant Savanna


A grass-based farmer is an ecologist. He is concerned with the whole world he is creating, the interplay of plants and animals, microorganisms and weather. He strives for a system that is balanced on its own, without any need for purchased inputs, able to tolerate extremes of rain and drought.

The ultimate grass farm is the savanna. The savanna is grass and trees together, sustained by and helping to sustain herds of herbivores who in turn support a network of large predators. Grass feeds the large animals, who then fertilize and revive the plains that they traverse. The savanna is a highly productive grassland ecosystem that permits the coexistence of the largest number and variety of species. Yet, through human error or ecological catastrophe, savanna can become desert.

In her book “Cows Save the Planet,” author Judith Schwartz writes, “…attend to the needs of the soil, and the ecological cycles will begin to get back in sync.”

The book, which Schwartz deems a “call to action on behalf of the soil,” sheds hope on what seems to be a dire environmental predicament. That hope is in the form of managed grazing “as a tool for preventing or reversing the desertification process.”

Judith D. Schwartz

In the chapter “The Making And Unmaking Of Deserts – The Grazing Paradox” Schwartz reports that worldwide roughly 30 million acres of “productive land are lost to desertification” annually.

“Today 1.5 billion people depend for their food and livelihoods on land that is losing its capacity to sustain vegetation,” she writes. The cause is largely man-made and “driven by actions that disturb the lifecycles of many plants and animal species…poor irrigation design, poor livestock management and the use of technology ill-suited to the landscape.”

By cutting down trees, over-grazing, or improperly tilling the soil, humans can cause topsoil built over thousands of years to disappear in a generation.  A grass farmer keeps his land and animals thriving by keeping the land covered with mother earth’s loving blanket of living, heavy sod. His main tool in doing this is moving his cattle, moving throughout the seasons, like the prehistoric herds.

Desertification, climate change and biodiversity share similar outcomes and must all be part of the discussion when considering the fate of the soil and its ability to sustain life. Schwartz points out that desertification is not just a problem in Africa and the southern hemisphere. She notes that North America is the continent with the “highest portion of its dryland areas classified as severe or moderately desertified.”

Schwartz praises Allen Savory’s Holistic Management approach of using livestock to restore the land. She writes, “So if domestic herbivores can be managed such that their behavior mimics that of their wild counterparts, the grasslands – the African savanna or the U.S. prairies and plains, terrain that represents about 45 percent of all the land worldwide – will regain the state of wild land: healthy, diverse, and resilient.”

The mobile shade solution

Shade Haven mobile shade structures can help farmers mimic that behavior to create their own savanna, providing shade wherever the impact of cattle is most needed –keeping the cattle moving and improving soil health, while also improving profitability and animal comfort.

“You are kind of creating microclimates, which makes a lot of sense,” says Schwartz, who notes that her primary focus of research was soil. And while every system and ecological place is unique, farmers “figure out what works with what they have.”

“Nature has figured out what the soil needs and what the plants need. Let’s learn from that,” adds Schwartz. “Part of that system of moving nutrients around are the animals.”

While there are different ways to graze cattle, one fact remains consistent. “In the areas of the world where there are grasslands with deep rich soil, those soils have been created by animals,” notes Schwartz. “We can’t expect to have those rich soils without a system that includes grazing animals.”

Read it!
For more information on Judith Schwartz or to purchase “Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth” visit her website. Also check out Schwartz’s newest book “Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World,” which includes stories of innovators who thrive by working with the water cycle.

Contact us today to add mobile shade to your grazing system.