Conservationists turn to cattle to preserve soil moisture

By on August 12, 2013
Cattle grazing shortgrass rangeland in northern Colorado (Credit: Jeff Vanuga/USDA NRCS, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cattle grazing shortgrass rangeland in northern Colorado (Credit: Jeff Vanuga/USDA NRCS, via Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers in Colorado are employing herds of cattle in an effort to improve soil moisture and agricultural output through a technique called planned grazing, NPR reported.

The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization, is spearheading the research of planned grazing at their ranch in Colorado. The technique mimics the natural movements of gregarious large mammals that once inhabited the Great Plains.

Planned grazing requires farmers and ranchers to plot the specific movement of their cattle herds at the beginning of each season. As the cattle are moved strategically around the fields, their hooves press on the soil, improving its ability to retain rainfall. Additionally, the grazing action itself helps stimulate plant growth.

Ecologists believe that without changes to land management, many grasslands are at risk of turning into desert.

Image: Cattle grazing shortgrass rangeland in northern Colorado (Credit: Jeff Vanuga/USDA NRCS, via Wikimedia Commons)

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