Lately I have observed that many grazers confuse Total grazing with overgrazing or taking all and coming back sooner.
This is NOT Total grazing, and we would not get the huge response we are getting from the land and animals in terms of biodiversity, higher forage production, better leaf to stem ratio, higher humus buildup, better desirable species composition and much higher number of growing points per square yard.
First let’s talk about how most humus is formed: it is not from decaying litter. Now we know that at least 70 percent of humus is formed from digested microorganisms that feed on root exudates.
What are the implications of this? This means that the better the leaf to stem ratio we get after Total grazing gives us a much better photosynthesis rate and more root exudates to feed these microorganisms.
Remember, these microorganisms need to be fat to efficiently be converted to humus with humus being the stable fraction of organic matter that cannot be further degraded and it's what gives your soil the deep brown color and earthy smell. It is your soil REAL FERTILITY.
Due to Total grazing, we can harvest more cow/days per acre per grazing; this much higher harvest efficiency gives the rest of the acreage a longer rest period, it is in this longer rest period when humus is formed. Now, before you think that there will be less litter due to a higher harvest efficiency, let us consider litter.
We need litter to armor the soil, right? We want litter to be in close contact with soil microorganisms, right?
How much litter is needed? Is there such a thing as too much litter inhibiting sun from reaching growing points and new seedlings? Yes!
Consider a heavy yielding pasture of 10,000 pounds of dry matter after a long rest period. If you only take half and leave half as many suggest, wouldn’t 5,000 pounds of litter be too much to leave on the surface? Wouldn't that inhibit new seedlings from getting sunlight?
Besides that, we know that litter needs to be in close contact with soil as microorganisms cannot climb.
On the other hand, if we do a Total grazing in that same 10,000 pounds mass of forage per acre and take 80% of available forage, we will leave 2,000 pounds as litter which would be in much closer contact with soil and will still allow seedlings to reach sunlight.
Remember: soil humus is not formed by decaying litter or decaying roots as we previously thought, it mainly comes from digested fat microorganism's bodies.
All of this is without considering the extra cattle Total grazing allows for and as stocking rate determines profitability, I will talk about that in the next blog.