As a biologist, I am well aware of the impact cattle have on the environment; I am also aware of the argument that dedicating the same land to production of grains and cereals would produce MORE protein for human consumption than cattle. However, living in the reality of a community where the main subsistence employment in the county is cattle farming, where the mindsets of the people are set in stone and change is difficult to say the least, and as a GRAND carnivore that I am, I believe that an equilibrium can be encountered, where cattle are produced in an efficient manner, the environment respected and definitely improved from the current situation, and that through example, others will follow. After 5 years in development work within this community, I have witnessed change, and can say it is a slow process; simply arriving and barking orders and/or throwing money at a problem has NO positive effect.
Current Methods in Cattle Farming
As stated earlier, the same cattle farming techniques are applied today that were applied over 50 years ago. Mass tracts of Primary Jungle were (and continue to be) destroyed and Gramalote planted, and cattle tied up and moved twice a day. Once a week, often once every 2 weeks, rock salt is given to each head, often mixed with corn meal, or barley, or wheat bran. The results are poorly fed cattle, with workers having little or no time to do anything else other than take care of the cattle (I know, I did it that way for 6 months). The lack of efficiency is exemplified by the ratio of cattle per hectare (1 hectare is 2.47 acres), namely, 1 to 1!! One head for every 1 hectare!!
The cool way to cattle farm is using the jungle to form natural corrals with loose cattle, since cattle will not wonder aimlessly into the jungle. This requires changing pastures to another grass called Setaria (Setaria splendida), which can with stand the stamping of the cattle, and also grows better in shady areas, requiring TREES!!! Setaria also is higher in digestible protein, and produces 5 rounds per year (matures every 75 days), where as Gramalote requires 12 months.
The advantages to corals are listed below:
The DISadvantages to corals are listed below:
Below is the current working scheme for the cattle farm. Numbers followed by letters indicate the coral name, and the number below is the number of hectares in the respective coral.
Click on Image for a LARGER view
The farm has 7 steady flowing streams on the front side (cattle farming side), that often turn into raging rivers after a strong jungle rain. Previous techniques in cattle farming had left the streams almost treeless, with cattle tied up right along the streams. After mapping the entire farm with a GPS, I have set aside 3-5 meters (10-15 feet) on either side of the streams as areas of High Importance Reforestation. Using the electric fencing, I have planted trees, or utilized returning trees, as natural posts, in order to prevent the cattle from standing/deficating in the running water. Basins with a tubing are used to provide the cattle fresh water in each coral, shown above (orange line besides blue line).
Within 3 more years, the streams will have a literal wall of jungle, which the cattle will not cross.
Cattle loose in a coral; Derk Diggler, the vasectimized bull, indicates when the cows are in heat, for artificial insemination to improve genetics.
Setaria splendida is the pasture of choice for loose cattle in this area; it matures every 65-75 days, has higher protein content then the more common pasture Gramalote, and can withstand the weight of the cattle. Setaria also grows so well that it even outcompetes weeds and other plants that cattle do not eat.
Recently planted Setaria (close). The cleared area seen in the distance was also planted with setaria.
The long term goal for the cattle pastures is to have what I call Natural Corals, namely, corals that are surrounded by jungle.
A jungle border in a cattle corral. Cattle will not enter into the dark jungle.
In order to do this, electric fencing was strategically placed using returning trees as live posts.
A returning Guayacan tree is used as a live post, protecting the tree.
Within a few short years, the flora and fauna return, with NO WORK!!! Exotic plants, like the one shown below, are within 10 feet of cattle pastures!
David R. Goucher to find out how you can help.
David R. Goucher