Cattle Farming - We NEED to Change Eating Conventionally Farmed Red Meat & Go Regenerative!
Are cattle killing the planet or will they help to save us?
This is a really controversial topic in the public and scientific world, especially of late with the recent UN’s proposed ‘red meat tax’. At the moment, our love for red meat is in fact a major part of the environmental and climate problem. There isn't any denying that...as a scientist I must tell the truth. However, having spent my life career dedicated to finding ways to save the world, I know we aren't telling the whole truth about agriculture, and in particular in relation to cattle management.
Every animal on this planet has a role to play in maintaining perfect equilibrium in nature. The more I learn about our natural world, the more I realise that it's all about balance.
Ask yourself, why have there been large herbivores that have walked this planet for millions of years?
Herds of up to 4 million bison used to roam the grasslands of America, tens of thousands of elephants, giraffes, buffalo and antelope in Africa and the megafauna in Australia. And before them, the dinosaurs. Fundamentally speaking, cattle are no different to any other large herbivore that has ever existed.
Which begs the question, is it the cattle that are causing the environmental damage, or the way in which we manage them?
The way all cattle and sheep are currently farmed will in fact lead to further deforestation, biodiversity loss, possible flora and fauna extinction and of course, increase climate change risk. However, the way in which cattle and sheep COULD be farmed also has the potential to reverse everything that has been destroyed. If you don't believe me, well...I've listed some of the peer reviewed science below that backs this statement and explains why this is true.
You can also see in the video embedded into this article a very clear difference in cattle management strategy from paddock to paddock (and in this case, neighbour to neighbour).
Same amount of cattle, same soil type, same rainfall…just a different person managing the land.
To put it simply, we have put in fences and factory farms, therefore removing the natural herbivore movements that have kept nature in balance for centuries. We need to find ways to better 'mimic' nature once more if we want to rewild our world.
Currently an estimated 95% of the world's farms (livestock and cropping) is undertaken using conventional methods. We need to transition these methods to more regenerative ways, much like the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
For starters, we need to get the aims and definitions of conventional and regenerative agriculture clear. For anyone that says there are different goals or definitions, that is simply not true...there is one for each.
Conventional Agriculture: Maximises short term profit and simultaneously increases production. Regenerative Agriculture: Restores all ecosystems to full health while increasing product quality.
This means the various methodologies used to achieve these aims will differ from farm to farm however the environmental, social and financial short and longer term outcomes will be drastically different. Conventional agriculture is about meeting the fast paced industry and consumer demand, at whatever cost. Regenerative agriculture is about a constant and never ending learning process about ways to run your business, often achieved through mimicking or aligning more with nature and not against it.
To be clear, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this way of producing food is the way to help solve our environmental issues.
Some of the methods of conventional agriculture include:
*Application of synthetic fertilisers
*Chemical pest and weed control
*Intensive factory farming of animals
Some methods of Regenerative Agriculture include:
*No chemical or fertiliser use
Some benefits of Regenerative Agriculture:
*Increases ground cover
*Reduces topsoil loss
*Reduces risk of bushfire
*Can increase soil carbon
*Increases water quality in creeks and rivers
*Increases soil water holding capacity, leading to drought resilience
*Can 'trigger' new vegetation growth
*Improves food quality (less pesticide)
*Reduces financial risk from less inputs
What is regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is an effective way to restore biodiversity and stabilize the climate, but what exactly is it? This video explores three different regenerative practices that have great potential both in food production and in healing the land.
Some limitations of Regenerative Agriculture:
There are some limitations that will slow the transition of regenerative agriculture down away from conventional methods. I will briefly dot point the main challenges below:
*Climate change projections - drought, flood, extreme temperatures and heat waves will make anything difficult to grow, therefore encouraging the conventional methods (such as intensive irrigation and fertiliser)
*Bushfire risk - if not managed correctly, climate change induced wildfire events can destroy entire ecosystems
*Landholder/farmer knowledge - there is so much complexity in some of the methods and science that the knowledge in farmer to farmer will dramatically differ, therefore consequent outcomes will also differ significantly
*Mass mindset shift required - humans take a long time to change their mind and culture, and shifting to regenerative farming methods requires a significant culture shift that needs to happen quickly in order to counteract the climate impacts
*Increasingly high demand for meat forcing the conventional methods and not allowing time for a regenerative transition
Solutions for a rapid transition to Regenerative Agriculture:
*Mass global reduction in red meat intake - due to 95% of red meat worldwide currently coming from conventional methods contributing to the environmental problem and therefore not allowing time for a transition
*Source your food locally, go organic and look for regenerative branding
*Education in regenerative methods is key, be a part of the solution (learn more and then use social media, for example)
*Encourage carbon pricing government policies that will allow farmers to be paid for the regeneration of nature and carbon sequestration
This is often the most heated topic in environmental science, for various reasons however mostly because we want to protect the industries we work in and defend our own individual actions. In the end, no one wants to be a part of the problem...but instead to become part of the solution.
In order to help the transition to regenerative agriculture, we need to ‘slow down to speed up’. For example, you wouldn’t step off a treadmill going 20kilometres an hour would you? You would slow it down first, then step off it.
Same goes for global beef consumption, we need to slow down the demand for beef that has only sped up conventional and factory farming while simultaneously slowing down the transition to more regenerative practises.
🎥 (0:20) by Linda N Paul Oates - Fenceline difference between regenerative and conventional farming
Written by *) Khory Hancock, Australian Environmental Scientist
List of peer reviewed scientific articles/sources proving regenerative farming concepts:
'The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture's carbon footprint in North America'. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Teague, W. R., Apfelbaum, S., Lal, R., Kreuter, U. P., Rowntree, J., Davies, C. A., R. Conser, M. Rasmussen, J. Hatfield, T. Wang, F. Wang, Byck, P. (2016).(2), 156-164. doi:10.2489/jswc.71.2.156 http://www.jswconline.org/content/71/2/156.full.pdf+html
'Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems'
Stanley, P. L., Rowntree, J. E., Beede, D. K., DeLonge, M. S., & Hamm, M. W. (2018). Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems. Agricultural Systems, 162, 249-258. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2018.02.003
‘Global cooling by grassland soils of the geological past and near future’ Retallack, G. (2013). Global Cooling by Grassland Soils of the Geological Past and Near Future (Vol. 41, pp. 69–86): Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-earth-050212-124001
'Sustainability of conventional and holistic cattle ranching in the dry tropics'
'Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie'
'Desertification and livestock grazing: The roles of sedentarization, mobility and res'
*) Khory Hancock (known as The Environmental Cowboy) is a country boy & Environmental Scientist on a journey that aims to inspire a complete regeneration of our forests, oceans and soils. He is an Environmental Scientist with a vision to empower others to regenerate our natural world ultimately creating a more sustainable future for our world.
Climate change is by far the biggest threat the world faces and Khory (aka The Environmental Cowboy) is starting an industry wide movement to drastically reduce our carbon emissions (by using renewable energy) and capitalise on the economic and social opportunities to draw it back down out of the atmosphere and store it safely in our oceans, forests and soils (carbon farming).
Khory originally comes from a 30 000 acre cattle station on Carnarvon Gorge, central Queensland, Australia. Growing up on the land helping his family run cattle for a living taught him basic sustainability principles - about giving back and looking after the land so that it could continue to support us. Khory now works as an environmental professional across many different industries including carbon farming, land management and rehabilitation, water management, regenerative agriculture and Light Rail (public transport). He is a highly sought after public speaker and social media influencer that provides solutions to the environmental challenges we face at an individual and company level. He uses the 'cowboy' persona to communicate the messages more effectively to the public. Join The Environmental Cowboy for adventure after adventure that inspires and is full of laughs for all!