Mad World by Gary Jules

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cody Holmes: Tall Grass Grazing

When you let animals eat grass the way God intended, wonderful things happen.

I recently attended a holistic grazing seminar put on by Cody Holmes. He's a cattle rancher from Missouri and he's been doing it for 35 years. In the last 10 years Cody has developed a system of tall grass grazing and holistic soil management.

What's the big deal with cows eating grass, you say!? Let me explain...

Right now most livestock, cows, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, are raised in factory farms, pumped full of grain, antibiotics, and hormones then end up on your dinner table. What's wrong with that, you ask?

Well, herd animals evolved to eat grass with a proportionately small amount of grain. In man's pursuit of bigger cows that put on weight fast he learned you can puff up a cow by feeding them corn. A cows digestive system wasn't made to eat corn, the cow builds up toxins by eating straight grain that it can't get rid of fast enough. These toxins get stored in the meat of the animal and drastically reduce it's useful life. For instance, Holstein milk cows can live 20+ years eating grass and give birth to a calf every year. On a commercial dairy farm the animal is pushed to produce as much milk as possible on a diet of straight grain and hormones, the same cow will live 3-5 years and have 1-2 calves. The sick animal is then sold to a fast food chain to make low quality poisonous burgers.

The way commercial animals live is a problem. In nature these animals roam from one grazing ground to the next. On commercial feed lots these animal live and eat in their own feces and develop parasites and disease. Instead of addressing the problem at its root, man with his superior intellect now routinely administers high doses of antibiotics to these animals. Here is where we start to learn how fixing a problem with another starts to make things interesting.

A couple things happen:

1) Antibiotics are passed on to us through the meat and when we get sick, doctor prescribed antibiotics don't have enough punch to produce the desired effect.

2) More importantly the antibiotics are passed through the animal and into it's feces where it begins to kill the biology in the soil and the little animals that make use of the manure. If you've read this far you may now be thinking who the hell cares about the bugs and bacteria in the soil!

Well, all those little critters have a job to do and they all work together in creating the environment for healthy grass to grow. Commercial feedlots are mud holes where nothing grows. The dung beetles, nematodes, bacteria, and earthworms are all vital to soil health and the health of the plants that grow in it, the animals that eat those plants, and the animals that eat the animals that eat those plants, (that's us by the way). We depend on those animals in the soil for our health.

What's cool about what Cody presented in his seminar is that when you mimic nature in your grazing practices the herd has an extremely positive impact on the soil. Grass fed cows produce fantastic fertilizer. Rotating the herd to fresh pasture everyday keeps the animals free from parasites and disease since they aren't feeding in their own mess. Healthy animals don't need antibiotics that compromise the soil biology and the grass. Cody allows the grass to rest at least 90 days before grazing it again which further mimics nature. The grass grows tall and goes to seed. The futile soil grows thick with healthy grass. The animals that eat it grow strong and healthy, so do the people that eat those animals.

Interesting fact: 100 years ago corn contained about 20% protein. Today modern genetic manipulation and hybridization has produced larger and larger quantities of corn with less and less nutritional value, today corn has about 3% protein and is mostly empty calories. Thank you Monsanto!

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