Photo by Joel Pilger

Amazing Grazing

  • one might think that animals continually munching on prairie grass would have some sort of negative effects on the plant diversity
  • but that one would be mistaken
  • sure
  • over grazing has its downfalls
  • but when you strip an ecosystem of its grazers
  • you run into problems too
Photo by Crucifix Jean-Luc
  • farming has played a significant role in the development of grasslands, wood pasture, and flood lands all across the world
  • all of these different ecosystems require some degree of grazing to maintain a stable structure
  • having cows and sheep around to manage the plants has done good things in the past
  • but
  • in recent years
  • farming techniques have shifted
  • as a result of the continual growth of the human population
  • large scale livestock production styles have been implemented
  • human population increases
  • livestock population increases
  • now we have two problems
  • some regions are being grossly over-grazed
  • and some are being under-grazed
  • both of these phenomena create ecosystem imbalances
Photo by Annalise Braught
  • why is grazing necessary?
  • well
  • grazing mammals are important factors in plant population control
  • they control more aggressive plant species and keep them from taking over entire swaths of land
  • which allows for the maintenance of biodiversity
  • the selective preferences of these animals determine which plants grow where
  • the cows are in charge
  • and that’s not such a bad thing

Unless we let them get out of control. Grazing species can be something of a force of conservation and ecosystem control, but we must be careful. Horses, ponies, cows, and sheep all graze in different ways. Special considerations must be made for when grazing animals are introduced to an area, how long they should stay, and what type of animal should be introduced in the first place. This is something of a trickle down effect of human existence. We like the things that animals give to us, from milk to meat, we have become reliant on our livestock. We have devised ways to raise and propagate the creatures most beneficial to us, but as there are more and more humans, there is more and more a demand for livestock. From so simple a beginning as a symbiotic relationship between man and cow come full scale ecosystem concerns. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Everything we do has cascading effects and since there are so many of us, our actions can have large scale effects over short periods of time.

Tread lightly and considerately we must, making progress while maintaining sustainability.

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