Sustainable Cattle Farming and Rangeland Management in the American West
The cattle farming industry has always been one of the biggest adversaries of wildlife conservation and biodiversity. Ranchers in the American West are perpetually scrutinized for their use of unsustainable practices of overseeing rangelands and inhumane ways of raising cattle. But in recent years, a new type of sustainable ranching is taking hold in the prime cattle regions of the American West.
Can Cattle Farming be Sustainable?
Intensive livestock farming accounts for a big chunk of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In essence, conventional ways of raising cattle, such as growing hay for feed, allowing cattle to graze across vast expanses, using antibiotics, as well as killing off predators in the area, are inherently destructive.
Fortunately, a new generation of wranglers in some pockets of the West is moving away from these practices. They are embracing new ways of raising cattle and bringing healthier beef to the American dinner table. Green ranchers are replacing old ways that no longer make sense, with a strong focus on addressing environmental issues such as endangerment of wildlife, improving vegetation and forage, and allowing ranch land for sale to heal.
And we’re not just talking about hobby ranchers here. In fact, the green ranch movement is being fueled by the biggest and oldest rancher families, in pursuit of being good stewards of the land and managing ranchland in benevolent and resilient ways. This trend is also becoming evident in ranch real estate, where many potential buyers are eyeing ranches for sale to pursue eco-sensitive rangeland management.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Green rangeland management follows a systematic approach and covers basically all aspects of owning and using the land. It involves improving grazing techniques, managing grass and water to promote rehabilitation of wildlife and treating cattle humanely.
In these ranches, conventional barbed wire fences have been replaced with wildlife-friendly removable fences to provide wranglers with more control over the grazing patterns of their herd. The removable fences imply a more proactive and hands-on way of managing rangelands.
By herding cows in more confined areas, and by a carefully planned rotation scheme, it gives dense areas time to rest and recover. This practice is rooted in the premise that the health of grassland is closely tied to grazing patterns of wildlife. Essentially, ranchers are directing their herds across the rangelands to mimic how great bison herds roamed across the landscapes.
Following Natural Rhythms
Apart from mimicking natural grazing patterns, adherents of the sustainable ranch movement are also ditching their rifles and letting predators roam freely in their land to conserve the threatened populations of wolves and grizzlies.
It is remarkable to see these new practices reshaping the American West landscapes. These ranchers claim that after only a few years of adopting such practices, they have seen many improvements in both wildlife activity and economic viability in their range. The meadows are seeing more varieties of grass, riparian areas are thriving more than ever, and native species of birds are returning to the now wetter marshlands. The method of managing water and grass sustainably appeared to have reduced or eliminated the need for chemicals and costly hay, which accounts for at least 70% of all ranching expenses.
These new wranglers are transforming the quintessential Western expanse and responding to the now increasing consumer demand for healthier food. Managing the rangeland is no longer just about maximizing profits; it’s about observing and following the rhythms of nature and addressing ranching issues through more sustainable ways.To these ranchers, it’s a risk that pays for itself. They are a new breed of cattlemen and ranch overseers – the conservation ranchers, they are called.
New breed of ranchers shapes a sustainable West, http://www.csmonitor.com
The New Frontier: Sustainable Ranching in the American West, http://www.cultureunplugged.com
Building a Sustainable Cattle Ranch on the Range, http://www.nwf.org