Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Disadvantages of Overgrazing

Smoke from a power generating station billows into the air over grazing cattle.

In his TED talk, How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change, Allan Savory suggest that in order to prevent desertification, we would have to rely on “planned grazing” by using livestock (such as cattle, sheep, etc). He not only suggested the idea for barren areas, but also in grasslands. He specially suggested this idea for grassland areas where plant diversity had declined, and where the area was less humid. The plan is for the planned herd to move and mimic herds and predators grazing the area about its business in the area (including trampling on the grassland area), afterwards the soil would be in a state that would be ready to absorb nutrients. This way, areas with decreased plant diversity will strengthen, and return to how diverse they were years ago. The more animals involved, the better the results. Although it sounds like an interesting solution, I feel a bit skeptical about how managing the livestock would work.

In fact, McWilliams ( All Sizzle and No Steak ) mentions that in The Charter Grazing Trials ( Short Duration Grazing Research in Africa ), cattle that grazed according to Savory’s method needed expensive supplementary feed, became stressed and fatigued, and lost weight. Savory never went into great detail about his results, other than to show that it may work. Hearing this, it sounds like not only would it be fianancially taxing to mange after a while, but it also looks like we would be jepordizing our lifestock’s health over time. Given this, it doesn’t sound like “planed grazing” would be beneficial to us at all. Although “planned grazing” seems to be giving the desired results (in terms of pasture growth), people may be skeptical to try it out because of the management drawbacks. According to Holecheck et al’s “ Short Duration Grazing: The Facts in 1999 ”, North America also had disadvantageous results with Savory’s method. Holecheck et al found that there was no significant distribution through grazing, and that there was “lowered livestock productivity” as well.

Given all of this, I don’t think that Savory would be very successful with his method. Why would someone invest time into a project that can put you at a disadvantage in terms of both money and livestock? As well, as not distributing nutrients and species in the soil well enough to give favorable results for long? Honestly, if it weren’t for the valid points from the less than pleasing results from “planned grazing”, this would’ve been a pretty good method. I am, however, optimistic that further research and studying of land will hopefully inspire another type of holistic land management. One that won’t jepordize the cattle’s health, and that can distribute species well enough for favorable results.


Holecheck, Jerry L., et al. "Short-Duration Grazing: The Facts 1999." UAiR Rangelands Archives. 22.1 (2000): 18-22. Web. 21 May. 2013. <https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/rangelands/article/view/11450/10723>.
Jamus, Joseph, , et al. "Short Duration Grazing Research in Africa ." UAiR Rangelands Archives. 24.2 (2002): 9-12. Web. 21 May. 2013. <https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/rangelands/article/view/11560/10833>.
McWilliams, James. "All Sizzle and No Steak." Slate. (2013): n. page. Web. 21 May. 2013. <http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2013/04/allan_savory_s_ted_talk_is_wrong_and_the_benefits_of_holistic_grazing_have.single.html>.
Savory, Allan. How to fight desertification and reverse climate change. 2013. video. TEDWeb. 20 May 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html>.

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