Can we graze livestock in a way that repairs, rebuilds, revitalizes, and restores ecosystem function?
Thank you for this column! I hope you won’t mind my pointing out a few mischaracterizations/conflations which I offer in the spirit of clarity and findings solutions that work for a wide range of producers who operate in highly variable contexts.
Firstly- The different grazing systems/approaches listed in the substack column (regenerative, multi paddock, etc) are not all the same and should not be used interchangeably.
Also, my training is as a restoration ecologist and range management professional. In my experience, as a discipline and professional practice, range management has always utilized and advocated for site-specific and adaptive management planning and decision-making that takes into account the natural environment and climatic conditions, livestock health, and social/cultural and business needs/context, resulting in very different "prescriptions" for stocking rates, timing/density of animal movement, kind/class animal, etc. Not even close to a one-size-fits-most approach, as the column suggests. There is always room for improving and updating a field and practice like range management, and restoration, as we understand more and as societal changes occur- but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Finally, there are sometimes tradeoffs between different goals that should be taken into account, and that may vary depending on the operator's needs and context. In some ecosystems, for example, rare annual wildflowers and native annual grasses which may be important for biodiversity, nutrition, or even regulatory purposes, are outcompeted by perennial grasses due to increases in soil nutrient and water availability. Hard choice for some managers!? Infrastructure like fencing (even temporary) may also be undesirable in some contexts, which would constrain the density or timing of herd moves. In other words, mob grazing and perennialization is not always the right solution, just as season-long low-density grazing is not the ideal management approach in every location.
Thank you again!