Livestock: Climate Killers or Farmland Restorers?

In this 3 part video we visit with Jack Walter at Yarrow Hill Farms at neighboring Red Earth Farms, where we are given a tour of his livestock operation. Jack uses a mixed rotational grazing system to not only produce food, but to restore degraded farmland to fertility.

Land in our area was destroyed by conventional agriculture long ago when farmers planted corn year after year, tilling highly erodible sloping land and causing erosion of topsoil and loss of nutrients and organic matter. Both Red Earth Farms and Dancing Rabbit have been left with a thin layer of infertile topsoil that will need years of care to bring back into production. Livestock seem to be one of the most suitable ways to do this…but only if they are raised sustainably.

Livestock are demonized as major contributors to climate change because they take large areas of land and a tremendous amount of water to raise–and as well because they release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. It’s clear that we in rich countries eat too much meat and dairy products, and we need to reduce herds of livestock dramatically if we are to turn around climate change. But sometimes lost in all the criticism of livestock is the fact that it’s not the livestock that are the problem, but the way they are being raised industrially. Animals have always played key roles in ecosystems and sustainable farming systems should be no different. Livestock can play a role in a sustainable farm by reducing dependence on fossil fuel and by helping to cycle nutrients and build life in the soil. In this tour Jack tells us how he’s raising livestock sustainably on his farm to bring the land back into production using minimal imported inputs.

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