In many areas of the world, grazing animals, from cattle and sheep to water buffalo or reindeer, are an important source of food. It is a way to use land which is inappropriate for agriculture, while at the same time preserving a fairly natural backdrop. In some areas, greed or necessity have caused people to put more livestock on land than is sustainable. This generally leads to erosion and loss of useful habitat, which soon hurts the ranchers as well as the environment (and anyone downstream). For this reason, some environmentalists like to whine about the evils of grazing and how it should be abolished. But this isnt really a good solution. Grass, by nature, is evolved for grazing, and the sudden removal of grazing would drastically alter many ecosystems, some of which have been grazed by livestock for thousands of years. In many cases, a simple reduction in the number of animals is the only thing which can help land. But often, it is not how many animals, but how the animals are grazed which is important.

For inspiration on how best to graze your land, you can look to simple ecology. Naturally, large herds of buffalo (in America) or other animals once roamed the land. As a herd passed through an area it intensively grazed the land. After much of the food was gone, the herd moved on, allowing the land to recover. This is an excellent approach to use in grazing of cattle or other livestock. If animals are moved around frequently, many more can sustainably supported on the land without damaging it. True, this requires more space for grazing, but in the long run it will pay off. Also important is the timing of grazing... livestock should graze after the land has dried a bit, to reduce mud formation and erosion. Also, the animals can be moved away during important times for native wildlife.

another possibility is the use of different animals. In America, buffalo are less damaging to the land, require less care from ranchers, and their meat is tasty and healthier than cow meat. Unfortunately people dont eat it because they think buffalo are 'endangered'. In reality, eating buffalo meat creates demand, which will cause more ranchers to herd buffalo. So, next time you see a buffalo burger on some fancy restaraunt's menu, give it a try.

or, you could go vegan. But that's not something i plan on doing any time soon.

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