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Executive Director's Message

Last week a group of GRSB leadership and members were fortunate to be able to visit Cooper and Katie Hurst's Hunt Hill ranch in Woodville, Mississippi. For those of you who attended the board meeting in Chicago last May, you will recall Peter Byck, a storyteller and filmmaker, talking about his research into AMP (Adaptive Multi Paddock) grazing. The Hursts own one of the ranches involved in the study.

I recommend taking a look at some of Byck’s videos on Vimeo.


 

It was fascinating to learn about the study and the ranch itself, and the way that the Hursts have adopted an approach which involves continuously looking to improve on what they do. A great deal of the emphasis is on the soil, as it is the soil that produces everything, and without looking after that, the ranch can never succeed.

Cooper and Katie both have a business background and early on they were struck by some of the inefficiencies of the management system that had been previously implemented on the ranch – high input costs and yet always a lack of grass. The first step involved using the existing subdivisions, and over time, further subdividing them.

Cattle are moved to fresh pasture regularly (depending on season and the size of the pasture involved). This means that pasture is grazed relatively intensively for a day or two, until about half of the forage has been removed, and then rested for several weeks.

Peter's team is constantly collecting data on a number of aspects – soil health being an important indicator, but biodiversity in terms of plants, insects and birds is also being observed. Compared to local ranches in the same environment, there is certainly a greater diversity of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates at Hunt Hill. Peter himself talks about Soil Health = Farmer Wealth, and from a business perspective Cooper and Katie would say that it is a no brainer to adopt adaptive management practices – the cattle are healthy and productive and grow well when they are sent to the feedlot, while regular handling means that temperament is good and animals are seen every day so that problems are identified early.

For them the decision to go in this direction was largely financial to start with. They had to reduce the input costs and maintain a productive cattle herd to improve their margin. All of that and more has been accomplished; using predominantly Angus genetics up until the last couple of years, they managed to get all of their feeder cattle to prime grade.

They are now moving to introduce some composite blood to produce cattle that are ideally suited to their ranch conditions. There's no doubt that the Hursts feel that if they had not adopted AMP grazing and an adaptive approach to management in general, they would not have been able to expand or even remain in the business as they have. Many producers that have not done the same are struggling to break even many years, due to the high cost of inputs.

The work that Peter and team are undertaking, largely funded by McDonald's, is going to be very important in demonstrating the benefits to planet, profit, people and animals. Though there is ample anecdotal evidence and some published material on the benefits of AMP grazing, we do need to collect and share more of that evidence from around the world and find ways to encourage adoption.

We hope that Peter will be able to attend our November board meeting in New Zealand as well both to tell us about some of the preliminary results of the research, and to visit Lees Valley Station with us. For those of you coming to Christchurch, I strongly recommend you join the tour that will take place on Friday the 15th of November. Lees Valley is another property under holistic management; a 67,000 acre sheep, beef and deer operation, managed by Grasslands LLC.

It is situated in a spectacular location on the edge of the mountains North East of Christchurch, and presents an opportunity to see holistic management / adaptive management on a large scale.

If you are coming to New Zealand please consider staying until at least the evening of Friday 15th, and let us know if you can visit Lees Valley by writing to me, ruaraidh.petre@grsbeef.org or Katie.ambrose@grsbeef.org.

  I would also like to give you an update on the status of our administrative service provider; Stuart Strategic Management Services LLC, led by Scott Stuart is taking over the administration in our Colorado Springs office. I think you will find this a seamless transition process as the team and the location will remain the same with the addition of Scott.

Most of you know Scott well and as we have several years experience of his administrative leadership since the formation of GRSB, we know he will do an excellent job and are delighted to welcome him back to this role. As mentioned, Katie, Angela and the other members of the NLPA team will now be with Scott, working from the same offices.

Also last week was the multistakeholder meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, held in Manhattan, Kansas. You will recall that GASL generously sponsored our GRSB Latin America Summit in July. There are a number of Action Networks connected to GASL that I think our GRSB members can also share their experiences with, increasing the audience and involvement of stakeholders in practical projects would be mutually beneficial, as well as raising the profile of the work that is already taking place around the world.

I do believe that FAO, the convener of GASL, and several of their other members, including ILRI, have an important role to play in explaining the essential positive role that Livestock can play in vibrant food production systems, healthy food and ecosystems.



Grazing

3 Grazing Ratios You Should Obsess Over To Be Profitable
Burke Teichert, BEEF Magazine | August 02, 2018
Profitability in the cattle business is possible. Here are three ratios that will add cash to your bottom line.

In a recent short video conversation led by my good friend Allen Williams about AMP (adaptive multi–paddock) grazing, Allen asked me what effects AMP grazing would have on livestock economics. Good question—and it deserves a good answer. Any grazing, whether good or poor, has an effect on the soil—either positive or negative. There are no neutrals.

Grazing fits into a total management scheme or system. To be effective, we must manage holistically or, as some people say, use a systems approach. In my articles, I have referred to "Five Essentials for Successful Ranch Management."

Environmentally Friendly Cattle Production (Really)
Science Daily | March 19, 2018
Three hundred years ago, enormous herds of bison, antelope and elk roamed North America, and the land was pristine and the water clean.

However, today when cattle congregate, they're often cast as the poster animals for overgrazing, water pollution and an unsustainable industry. While some of the criticism is warranted, cattle production – even allowing herds to roam through grasslands and orchards – can be beneficial to the environment as well as sustainable.

In a study published in the journal Agricultural Systems, Michigan State University scientists evaluated adaptive multi–paddock, or AMP, grass fed operations as well as grain–fed, feedlot herds.

"Globally, beef production can be taxing on the environment, leading to high greenhouse gas emissions and land degradation," said Jason Rowntree, MSU associate professor of animal science, who led the study. "Our four–year study suggests that AMP grazing can potentially offset greenhouse gas emissions, and the finishing phase of beef production could be a net carbon sink, with carbon levels staying in the green rather than in the red."

ENCORE: 'Soil Carbon Cowboys' Documentary
The 21st Show, Illinois Public Radio | August 19, 2019
Listen to the 50:18 interview.

Cattle are a big source of greenhouse gas emissions. But if you graze them differently, it's possible that all these cows could actually help the environment. We all have heard about how much cattle is a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe you've stopped eating beef, or at least cut back, because of its environmental impact. Because that's affected the bottom line of companies like McDonald's, they're investing in new research to find out better ways of raising cattle.

A short film called "Soil Carbon Cowboys" explores these topics. It features a few cattle farmers across the U.S. and Canada who have changed the way their cattle graze.

Could This New Way of Grazing Help Avoid a Culture Clash Over Burgers?
Jim Giles, Green Biz | July 22, 2019
AMP and other regenerative methods have huge potential, and not just when it comes to greenhouse gases.

AMP is not expensive to implement if the land is available, and it leads to better water retention and lower fertilizer run–off. As such, it offers a rare opportunity: a relatively quick, low–cost opportunity to switch to a more sustainable way of farming while also producing the same product.

It might not be enough to avoid a cultural fight over one of America's iconic menu items, but it could take some of the heat out of the battle.

   

Thanks,
Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

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