Sustainability, sustainably grown, sustainable agriculture, environmentally sustainable, sustainable design, sustainable living, sustainable development, sustainable future – the word sustainable seems to be everywhere these days…
Sustainable – What Does That Even Mean?
By definition sustainable means, “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed; involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources; able to last or continue for a long time.” In ranching terms, sustainability means caring for the land, and the livestock, in a way that indefinitely preserves this lifestyle and its ability to provide beef to tables around the world.
Everything we do here on the ranch is geared toward sustainability.
Take the dormant season grazing plan for example. One part of developing this particular grazing plan is putting pen (or pencil) to paper and crunching some numbers to figure out what should theoretically benefit both the land and the cattle. But everyone knows that what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in the real world.
So, we physically go make observations and take measurements to get a clearer picture of how much feed is in the pasture and where supplement (hay and/or cake) will be needed.
At a glance, it may appear as though supplementation only benefits the cattle, but that is incorrect. While the benefits to the cattle are more obvious, the more subtle benefits to the land are a key factor in remaining sustainable.
Using strategic placement of hay and/or cake helps us maximize the benefits of litter. We place hay, a litter by itself, in areas where standing litter is sparse and cake in areas where the standing litter is dense and otherwise inedible to the cows. Placement, coupled with the trampling, and additional litter the cows provide, allows us to prevent erosion and fertilize the soil.
When we properly care for our cattle by making the right feed choices, we are caring for the land as well. This in turn, will provide us with the grass (feed) we need to continue caring for our cattle. It is a full circle sort of thing, also known as, sustainability.
In recent years, the word sustainable, and variations of it, have become hot topic buzzwords. But here’s the kicker – this is not a new concept.
Farmers and ranchers have implemented sustainable practices for generations. If they hadn’t, I would not be raising beef let alone blogging about it. Although the practices we use today might not be exactly the same as they were years ago, sustainability was (and always will be) first and foremost on our minds.