The Barney Creek Way
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
First and foremost, soil is alive! Our job is to feed that life. The last thing we want to do is to retard or kill the soil life. The complex relationships between the various bacteria, nematodes, fungi, etc is what makes nutrients in the soil available to the plants. All the nutrients we need are in the soil, it's just a matter of making them available with soil life. The first step is to stop killing soil life. A few years ago, we stopped pouring our cows (for worms, lice, etc.) with Ivomec and the next spring we started to see dung beetles. We stopped using high amounts of synthetic fertilizer and have weaned our addicted soils slowly from this drug. The small amount of land we still use fertilizer on (for hay production) will be fertilizer free by next year. We don't till the soil, which destroys soil structure and mines soil life and soil organic matter. We use very limited herbicide for spot spraying noxious weeds, working towards using our animals to do 100% of this work for us. The soil life relies on healthy diverse plant life to function properly. We manage our animals to manage the plant life to feed the soil. Every time a plant is grazed, it sluffs roots to feed the soil biology. In exchange for this food, the soil biology brings the plant the nutrients it needs to regrow. The sun does the rest.This cycle builds organic matter, which is key to holding moisture, which is needed for plant growth. Very cyclical and symbiotic. By moving the cows daily, we are able to regulate how much they graze. We bunch them up to encourage a "mob" mentality. The competition for food means they eat the desirable and non-desirable (aka weeds). Our growing season grazing focuses on taking one bite from each plant and leaving 1/2 to 2/3 of the green vegetation to capture soil energy. The most important aspects are to only take one bite and then allow the plant enough time to fully recover (20-100 days) before grazing again. The mob also tramples vegetation, which armors the soil, and puts the vegetation in contact with the soil, where the it can be incorporated into the soil by the microbiology. The armoring also holds moisture in the soil. The cows. You can't eat grass (at least you can't digest it). The cows can. By only eating a third of the plant during the growing season, the cows are getting the absolute best food value and nutrients, which is how we finish our beef on grass, legumes, forbs, etc. All the nutrients we have made available by managing for soil life end up in our cows. This is how we create nutrient rich foods that benefit human health. Our goal is to work with nature. We calve in sync with nature, we allows cows to play their natural role, and we avoid inputs that aren't natural. If you want to see all the health benefits of grass raised/finished beef check out Eat Wild.