Soil, Pasture or Livestock – What are we Actually Farming?
Are we farming soil, pasture or livestock? This might seem like a stupid question, but you could be forgiven for being confused about what it is we are actually farming when it comes to livestock production.
For example, the idea of “pasture farming” is common. The focus being on growing the feed, with the rationale that the more you grow, the more kgMS/ha you produce and the more profitable you will become. Feeding pasture is a delicate balancing act and so this focus on growing grass is warranted, but not at the expense of soil or animal health, which can be the case. We need to connect our thinking back to the soil and animal.
Regenerative Agriculture and Biological Farming promote building health from the soil up. This implies that if we take care of the soil then it will automatically support healthier plants and animals. It makes the assumption that because we have supported pasture growth through healthy soils and pasture diversity that these pastures will automatically better support animal health. However, this is not necessarily the case, this time the disconnect is between the plant and the animal.
How about driving decisions based on animal health and welfare? Even this alone is a recipe for disaster. Putting the needs of stock first may mean that in hard times when the requirements of animals and plants are in conflict, the plants’ requirements are forgotten. Pastures shouldn’t be sacrificed because of short-term desperation.
So, what is it we should be focussing on to achieve the best results for our soils, plants, animals and environment? The answer is simple, all of them, in relationship to each other.
At 5th Business Agri we talk about an Animal Centred Approach. While it is centred around animal requirements it also takes into consideration the requirements of the soils and plants that are feeding them. Connecting the flow of nutrients between soil, pasture and livestock on our farms allows us to make better decisions around feed, fertiliser and mineral supplementation.
So, the next time you have to make a nutrient related decision on farm, I challenge you to consider the consequences of that decision on the soil, plant and animal.