Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – Canada’s Prairie grasslands have been identified as one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. It’s a threat to producers, but the solution to mitigating that threat could be as simple as proper cattle grazing management.
Over five million acres of Canada’s grasslands were surrendered during the mad cow disease crisis in 2003 when 26,000 ranch families left the beef industry. Most of the land was converted to cropland and other uses and continues to shrink.
READ MORE: Cattle grazing: protecting native grasslands
Preserving, maintaining, and growing what’s left can be done using cattle. If managed effectively via sustainable grazing, cattle can be an easy and effective solution to disappearing grasslands, according to Lisa Jarret with Corteva Agriscience’s Range & Pasture team.
“With many of our grasslands today and in the past, we know that leaving cattle there too long can be detrimental. So the goal of rotational grazing is to understand the capacity of your lands, the grasses you have, and how long and how many cattle can be on there to sustain that grassland to be healthier and then move that cattle on to another pasture.”
Cattle act as natural caretakers of the land just by doing what they do.
“The hooves of the cattle till or aerate the soil. Their eating the grasses help new grasses come in and get rid of the older grass so the soils can breathe and the grass is able to rejuvenate. The manure and urine are adding nutrients, and we know that’s really positive for soil fertility but also for all the organisms and microbes in the soil that create healthy soils that will be sustainable in the future,” says Jarret.
Ensuring the sustainability of the grassland could have an intensely positive effect on Canada’s climate goals. Grasslands act as one of the world’s most stable carbon sinks and, if managed efficiently with rotational grazing, herbicide use, and mechanical brushing, it could give the grasslands a chance to grow and thrive.