Regenerative Practices for Animal Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture has made its way into mainstream farming practices. While regenerative farming focuses primarily on crop practices, there are plenty of ways to integrate it into animal agriculture. The practice of regenerative farming focuses on rebuilding the health of the soil to reverse climate change or at least slow it down. Additionally, it adds biodiversity back into the ground. This both sequesters carbon and improves the water cycle. Primary practices within regenerative agriculture include minimizing tillage, planting cover crops, adding nutrients back into the soil, and managing livestock grazing. Therefore, it seems like utilizing animals for regenerative agriculture is only one part of land stewardship. However, multiple other practices involve animals in restoring soil health and capturing carbon. Here are regenerative practices for animal agriculture that you can implement on your farm.

1. Control the Grazing

One of the most well-known methods of regenerative agriculture is managed grazing. Before livestock was domesticated and bred on an industrial scale, wild herbivores would naturally move across land to graze. There were no fenced-in areas to keep livestock in one space. This would give prairies and grasslands time to restore before another herd of animals would pass through. Conventional grazing practices today don’t allow the land to regenerate. Herds are confined to a certain amount of space. Over time, the ground beneath them depletes, and it can be challenging for new grasses or plants to grow again. However, controlled grazing solves that issue. Controlled grazing mimics the wild animals that would continuously move from field to field. Livestock only stays in one area for a short time before they’re forced to the next, allowing the field to recover. Since plants can regenerate, they’re able to fully mature again, which more effectively sequesters carbon. Plus, the soil remains healthy and is less prone to erosion.

2. Use Animal Waste for Fertilizer

While this is an apparent regenerative practice, it shouldn’t go without some explanation. Manure produced by livestock provides one of the best natural fertilizers for plants, trees, and the soil. This benefits vegetation and is a regenerative practice for animal agriculture. Animals naturally roam fields and the farm. Rather than ordering manure or other fertilizers for your plants and trees, strategically let livestock in your fields and orchards. As they graze, they’ll leave behind a safe and natural fertilizer. If you use this fertilization method, ensure you’re providing your animals with the right foods so when they drop manure, it’s safe for the plants and further human consumption of fruits or vegetables. Animal waste should never come in contact with produce that’s ready to harvest either. Using animal manure that’s already on your land eliminates the need to produce chemical fertilizers, and zero carbon emissions will be released through transportation of those fertilizers or other waste. Both reach the goal of reducing and sequestering carbon in regenerative agriculture.

3. Feed Livestock the Right Food

When fed with nutrient-rich food, your livestock and the environment will benefit. Not all cattle, horses, goats, or pigs should be fed the same diet. Providing them with specified diets is just one part of regenerative agriculture. When you meet your animals’ nutritional needs, the land benefits, too. Animals tend to graze constantly, and rotational grazing restores nutrition to previously-grazed land, which provides better food for your livestock so they don’t end up with any nutrient deficiencies that can lead to further problems on your farm. In return for proper nutrition, the soil on your land replenishes nutrients and can better harbor carbon.

4. Utilize Animals for Pest Management

Besides your traditional livestock like cattle and pigs, other animals can participate in regenerative practices for your farm. Fowl, like chickens, ducks, and geese, are natural pest managers. Making available free-range minerals has helped with the health and disease resistance in livestock. This releases emissions into the environment, depleting soil health if the particles leak into the soil. A small flock of chickens can eliminate the most harmful insects on your property. Production and use of pesticides degrade soil, which is the opposite of the goal of regenerative farming. By utilizing animals for pest management, soils can restore their health by letting nature do the work. You won’t regret adding fowl to your farm. They’ll get rid of pests and will allow you to prioritize soil health and carbon sequestration.

Regenerate and Restore With Animals

Regenerative agriculture doesn’t have to be limited to vegetation and crop practices. If you have animals, use them to restore health to the soils and reverse climate change. While regenerative approaches without livestock are successful, you’ll experience extended benefits by using livestock and fowl.

Want to dig deeper into soils?

The Soil Learning Center is a hub of resources for farmers & growers who are on the regenerative journey. A platform created by soil lovers at Farming Secrets Media Group.

The goal of Soil Learning Center is just that: creating a central online space bringing together resources, education, content and inspiration, to better your growing practices, boost profits and product quality with an emphasis on sustainability and promote freedom from climate change.

For today’s modern farmers, you can’t afford to not know about regenerative farming and how these practices can help you succeed. 

We’ll also discuss successful stories from other farmers and growers who have found their unique solutions using nature’s tools with this new form of agriculture. 

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