News / USA

    US Cattle Farmers Adopt Eco-Friendly Methods

    Holistic herding was first developed in Africa more than 40 years ago

    Massachusetts beef farmer Ridge Shinn uses holistic herding to reduce his carbon footprint.
    Massachusetts beef farmer Ridge Shinn uses holistic herding to reduce his carbon footprint.

    Multimedia

    Erika Celeste

    Concerns about the climate-changing effects of carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions in the United States have focused attention not just on big industrial polluters and automobile exhaust, but also on agriculture.

    Farming and ranching contribute six percent of the country’s annual CO2 emissions. Beef production accounts for a third of that, which is roughly equal to the exhaust from 24 million cars. To lower these emissions, many American cattle farmers are adopting an environmentally-friendly ranching system first developed in Africa more than 40 years ago.

    Holistic herding

    Massachusetts beef farmer Ridge Shinn is using a time-tested agricultural model known as holistic herding, which he says helps cut his farm’s carbon emissions by putting CO2 back where it came from; in the soil.

    "What we’ve discovered is that you actually sequester huge amounts of carbon by grazing correctly," says Shinn.

    Holistic herding was developed in the 1970s by Allan Savory, a biologist and game warden-turned-rancher in what is now Zimbabwe. While observing herd animals, such as buffalo, deer, and antelope, Savory noticed how they naturally move to new grazing areas daily, unlike domesticated animals, which are typically penned in the same pasture for months at a time.

    As a result, the domestic herds denude the land of CO2-absorbing plants and churn up the ground with their hooves, releasing soil-sequestered carbon in the process.

    Shinn says he’s preventing that kind overgrazing by employing Savory’s holistic herding system on a section of pasture.

    "What we do instead is we take that same 50 animals and put them on a very small part of that 50 acres for one day. And then, the next day, we move them off that one acre. So, that acre is now resting and by the time we get around the whole 50 acres, you know, putting them on an acre a day, 50 days have passed and this piece of ground has had a chance to rest and reinvigorate."

    Building on nature

    Holistic herding builds on nature’s carbon cycle. Soil needs carbon to help create the rich nutrients essential for healthy plant life. When herd animals roam through an area, they graze down the vegetation. Their hooves act as tillers for dead and decomposing plants. Their manure and methane waste act as fertilizers to help grow more vegetation. Pasture plants such as clover and grasses help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. And so the cycle continues.

    Philip Metzger, with the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, says holistic herding can prevent the serious reductions in farm output caused by overgrazing.

    "You can see it in agriculture today as we’re having to put more and more inputs into the soil to get the same yields," says Metzger. "That’s because we have reduced organic matter, in many cases by 50 percent, so that soil now has much less holding capacity for water and nutrients."

    Speeding regeneration

    Metzger says holistic herding can also speed the regeneration of badly overgrazed soils in just three to four years, compared to the decades it can take if the land is simply left fallow.

    The results with holistic herding have been so positive over the years that developer Allan Savory was awarded the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award, a privately-sponsored $100,000 prize to honor strategies that help to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. The award cited Savory’s Operation Hope, a program that trains African communities to practice holistic herding. The method has also proved popular with ranchers in Australia, New Zealand, and with agricultural extension services across the United States.

    U.S. ranchers like Shinn are passionate advocates of the system. "It’s amazing. It’s so optimistic that you can change a whole biological system that quickly by applying the herbivores correctly. It’s a complex story but it’s very exciting."

    In addition to reducing CO2 emissions, holistic herding also requires less land because cattle are kept together in a series of adjacent fenced paddocks, instead of being left to roam over large, unmanageable areas. And sheep, goats and other large livestock can also be grazed this way.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture hopes new federal farm legislation due next year will include incentives for U.S. ranchers to adopt holistic herding practices, encouraging them not only to reduce overgrazing but also to shrink agriculture’s big carbon footprint.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora