The Sustainability Chronicles (Part 2) - An Animal Centred Approach
Last month I touched on how sustainable farming practices are becoming a priority in modern farming. The big question was HOW do we develop these practices? Why don’t we ask the cows?
The Animal Centred Approach essentially takes the most important aspect of farming, the animal, and brings its needs to the forefront of decision making. The aim of the game is to make the animal’s body more efficient in how it functions, be that growth for meat, milk production or reproduction.
Efficiency, defined as “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense” is critical to sustainability. The expense of poor animal management is stress caused to both the animal and environment. It makes sense that by minimising waste we create an ideal platform for future generations to capitalise on.
Let’s begin by taking this a little closer to home. My immune system is terrible, an absolute shocker of a thing. Whichever cold is going around, I’m guaranteed to pick it up. So, in order to beat the bugs before they beat me, I manage my diet and measure my body’s reaction to create the perfect balance of what my body needs to stay healthy, decrease stress and improve my performance within my day-to-day activities.
We need to have this mindset when it comes to our animals. Sure, they have food and water available, and generally have a much tougher immune system than sick ol’ me but we are still struggling with increasing body efficiency and improving performance. As for most diseases, prevention is far better than a cure.
We are already great at taking measurements of our grass and soil but the difference in an Animal Centred Approach is how we look at this data. Much in the same way I check my body’s reaction my diet, we have to read the data with animal efficiency in mind, putting the cow first in the decision-making process.
So, let’s ask the cows… Old girl Bessie has some pretty good insights into what makes her tick if you ask her the right questions. Granted, she’s not exactly speaking human talk, but this is why we measure.
By testing the diet and measuring out the mineral levels required to ensure sufficiency (not just avoiding a deficiency) we will support efficiency within our animals. While this can get technical it is also where creating sustainable practices begin. Quite simply, find out what is the animal not getting from their diet and what they need to be fully supported.
Maintaining this delicate balance creates a sustainable platform for us to grow our operation around. Taking the efficiency of the animal into consideration first and foremost prevents wastage and ultimately minimises the carbon footprint the animal is making. By changing our mindset we take the first step towards running a sustainable farm.