(Rural Roots Canada) – Changing the conversation around cattle, grassland, and the environment.

Emily Lowe is a Regional Agrologist for the Beef Industry with Ducks Unlimited Canada.

She says right now, cattle are cast in a bad light when it comes to the environment.

“It’s very rare that you actually hear the terms of cattle and conservation together in the same conversation or in the same context,” Lowe said.

She says there are a lot of claims that cattle are destructive to the environment, which are examples of things being taken out of context.

Lowe says some of these claims about the destruction of habitat because of the cattle industry are looked at from more of a global perspective rather than being regionally specific.

READ MORE: Grasslands play huge role in carbon sequestration

Lowe says if you look at the regional numbers closer, it shows a completely different story.

She points to the example of the North American plains, which stretch from the Gulf of New Mexico up to the northeast corner of the Rockies in Canada.

A portion of this grassland has been converted into cities, converted cropland.

“A little known fact that the grasslands of North America are actually the most endangered ecosystem in the world. Now, that’s more endangered than the Amazon rainforest. That’s more in danger than the Great Barrier Reef.”

She says in this case having cattle on it, helps protect it.

“What a lot of people also forget is that in order for these grasslands to remain healthy and to be productive, they need grazers.”

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200 years ago, that would have been taken care of by bison that roamed this region; however, we unfortunately no longer see grazing on many of these native areas.

This is one of the biggest reasons why cattle are essential for grassland care.

Lowe says cattle play a huge role in nutrient cycling, taking off some of that forage, ingesting and digesting it, and then redistributing it on the land as organic matter.