Thursday, May 13, 2010

predators vs. prey

Tuesday morning was just another early morning irrigation pipe change until we heard shots and saw smoke! It was cannon shots from our neighboring raspberry farmer, who was attempting to scare the elk from his crops. Now that our little valley area is free of large noisy farming equipment, wildlife have made their way back into the area. So when someone pointed to the elk, I almost didn't turn's like seeing skyscrapers in the big city...I've seen my share. But when I finally did look I thought I was on the set of the discovery network. There was a serious GANG of elk. Hundreds! Flowing like water over a broken dam, they ran across our pastures and up into the hills. This probably doesn't compare to any of the herds in Africa, but it kinda felt like that here. See if you can spot them in this first photo:

That went along well with our class session today on rotational grazing, which we are doing with the cows. When we rotate our cattle to the next field, we are mimicking what happens in nature. Ruminants (cows, bison, elk, etc) both stay in herds and move locations to protect themselves against predators (wolves, lions, people, etc). So when the cows stay in one place for too long, they will overgraze, which means that the grasses will not have the proper energy in their root systems to regrow, creating bare land (and bare land is bad!). Even 'free range' is not the best approach to raising cattle because the cattle could still spend too much time in the field and overgraze.

After Yellowstone reintroduced wolves to the park, the elk population was reduced, grasses and trees were no longer overgrazed, more birds and bugs grew in the trees, beavers found more twigs for dams, therefore many more species were brought back besides just the wolves. Pretty awesome how nature works so naturally, huh? Our jobs as 'super grass farmers' are going to be to get the land back to how it was covered in grasslands so the grasses can properly soak up water and add carbon nutrients to the soil. Maybe someday our team will come out with a comic book: Super Farmers vs. Bare Land. hha...


  1. I would read that comic book! Keep it up, love reading your adventures!