Mud, Not Manure
by Jack Beuttell -- November 14th, 2011
re: “Mob Grazing,” Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and greener pastures.
“Folks…” says Greg Judy, “if you spread it out it looks like mud, not manure.” Somehow this argument works for his neighbors who own the land along the road between Greg’s non-contiguous farms in Rucker, Missouri. Greg sends his herd of 350 cows dancing down the road every so often after lining the asphalt with a cold Poly Braid dummy wire. And his cows glide happily at a measured clip until they reach the Promised Land where fresh forage awaits.
This is just one of many small steps Greg takes in his highly intensive, logistically intricate “mob grazing” approach to cattle farming. And it seems to be working pretty well based on the doubling of his stocking rate in about five years.
Greg’s “Mob Grazing” was one of two sessions he led at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s weekend Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham, not including the Friday workshop he put on at Dr. Charlie Sydnor’s Cane Creek Farm west of Chapel Hill.
While Greg has a long history with cattle, I do not. I spent a few summers working as a ranch hand on large cattle operations in Colorado and Montana, and I grew up in a part of Florida where the cracker cattlemen didn’t need nametags. So I know enough about ranching to make manure look like mud, but Greg’s practice was non-conventional to say the least. And extremely compelling.
He speaks with deep conviction and humility at once, which is a persuasive combination. And he’s accessible, technically knowledge and funny to boot. Of course, what works in Missouri may not work the same in North Carolina. But Greg is careful to point out that it’s the approach that matters, not the application of absolute conventions.
This is perhaps one of the biggest differences between alternative rotational practices like mob grazing from the long-held open grazing tradition. The latter focuses on the end, which is a fat cow, regardless of what that weight costs in terms of animal health and treatment or impact on the land. Greg focuses on the getting the animal sound, so that she can feed the land and build up the soil, so the soil can complete the virtuous circle.
“Folks,” Greg proceeded with his homily, as his mob nodded Amen. And before we knew it he was out the door and on a plane, presumably headed home where his four-legged disciples were waiting to be led to greener pastures.
Check out Greg’s Web site at www.greenpasturesfarm.net.