The traditional cattle grazing process is often extremely hard on local ecosystems, resulting in both a decrease in the nutritional efficacy of soil and the availability of native grasses. However, a rancher in Panola County Mississippi has devised his own ingenious system of sustainable cattle grazing that might finally be able to bridge the gap between cattle rearing and environmental stewardship.
Thanks in part to the coordination of the Research and Educational to Advance Conservation and Habitat (REACH) program of Mississippi State University, rancher Dunwood Gordon has effectively shifted the paradigm for the future of sustainable cattle grazing. Unlike the traditional method of allowing the cattle to roam free over the pasture, Gordon utilizes a system of 23 gated paddocks spread out over a 200 acre grassland. This “intensive grazing” method allows them to rotate from paddock to paddock every few days to forage on native grasses. Additionally, the placement of water fountains at the gate opening encourages orderly drinking, which cuts back on the cows’ tendency to congregate and socialize. In regards to the paddock system, Gordon remarked that “In this system, the cow’s manure and urine is spaced out uniformly over the paddock, and that cuts down on the amount of fertilizer I need to apply to that pasture.”
Innovative farming practices such as this serve to bring together the disparate ideas of sustainability and cattle grazing, and work to redefine the previously thought mutual exclusivity of the two goals. Furthermore, by local universities and farmers cooperating towards a shared purpose, breakthroughs such as sustainable cattle grazing are inevitable and will benefit both parties for generations to come.