Building a Strong Foundation for Working with Livestock

By Linda Coffey, NCAT Livestock Specialistlambs and ewes in pasture

Photo: Linda Coffey, NCAT

Years of farming and visiting other farms, combined with recent education in soil health, have convinced me of this: We can best serve people, the land, and the livestock by learning to care for the soil FIRST. 

That’s why NCAT’s Livestock and Grazing Team began with this foundation when they gathered to teach a three-part series for beginning livestock producers.   

If you missed that series, no worries—you can watch recordings of each part at your convenience and share the links with others who are managing land or considering starting a livestock enterprise. Here’s what you will find in each session: 

Part 1-Soil Health: Your Grazing Foundation

NCAT specialists introduce the principles of soil health and explain how healthy land is the foundation of successful livestock production. Presenters explain the concepts of minimizing disturbance, maximizing biodiversity, keeping soil covered, maintaining living roots in the soil, and including animals. Find out how grazing affects the plant, soils, and livestock and learn the importance of grazing plants at the right time and allowing full plant recovery before re-grazing. By respecting the soil health and grazing principles, you can take better care of your land. See the additional resources for this session.

Part 2-Adaptive Grazing: Matching Land and Livestock

Learn about soil structure and its effect on water infiltration, then find out how to determine the carrying capacity of your land. Find out how adaptive management helps you “keep your eyes on the prize” through observing, implementing, and adapting. Having the right number of livestock for your farm will help you take better care of your land and make money with fewer costs. See the additional resources for this session.

Part 3-Choosing Livestock for the Farm  

NCAT specialists draw on their own experience to offer tips for success in starting a livestock operation with worms, poultry, rabbits, hogs, sheep, and goats, or cattle. Learn about respecting the limits of your land and choosing a livestock species based on resource base, marketing, and goals. To give an idea of the options available, NCAT specialists provide virtual tours of their own farms. Each session has a customized resource page for more information because an hour is just enough time to whet your appetite to learn more. See the additional resources for this session. See the additional resources for this session.

Our experienced team of livestock specialists periodically offers training sessions. We have several on tap during the next few months, including free webinars hosted by Food Animal Concerns Trust (foodanimalconcernstrust.org) and an advanced grazing training to be held in April 2022. Watch NCAT’s Events page so you don’t miss it! Let us know what topics you’d like us to teach in the coming year. Email me at lindac@ncat.org and I will pass the ideas on to the team. 

Thank you for the work you do in caring for soil, plants, and livestock! Please join us at the forum at the Soil for Water forum to network with other producers who care about stewarding the land well. 

Related ATTRA Resources:

Livestock and Pasture

Regenerative Grazing

Soil and Ecosystem Health

Other Resources:

Soil for Water

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