The Life-Systems Benefits of NOT Grazing Livestock

Organic, no-till soybeans in crimped rye from Orchard Hill Farm in British Columbia, CA

Organic, no-till soybeans in crimped rye from Orchard Hill Farm in British Columbia, CA

The point that many grass-animal advocates ignore is the net life-systems benefits of shrinking the footprint of livestock-based grazing operations--even small-scale ones.

For example, ONE THIRD an acre of land (using small scale responsible disturbance/tillage) can produce about 240 pounds of organic soybeans (that's 27,840 grams of protein), which is over 20 month's worth of the entire protein needs of one person, presuming 45g/protein per day.

The area needed to produce the same amount of milk or meat (and let’s presume there's no grain/tillage supplement) is far larger, depending on many factors. So the ability to re-wild all grazing/haying land and focus on growing food over smaller tillage/disturbance areas for human consumption, would provide a far larger net gain in LIFE systems, than would shifting to all-grass grazing meat production.

Old hayfields and pastures could be planted with perennial crops. We could reduce total tillage ag by 75% simply by no longer keeping livestock that rely on grain crops. Plus we would restore valuable habitat for wildlife currently displaced by tillage, haying, and grazing.

SOYBEANS: 116g protein/pound

GRASS-FED COW 117g protein/pound

SOYBEANS: 1/3 acre=27,840 grams per protein

GRASS-FED COW 1/3 acre =14,152g protein presuming 1.8 acres of pasture needed per rotationally-grazed cow (likely is more--anyone have good numbers?)

Soybeans yield twice the protein as beef on 1/6th the land, they're a healthy, storable staple food, and growing them for direct human use allows 5x the amount of land to be re-wilded or put into agroforestry.