Cattle Save The Land

      29 Comments on Cattle Save The Land

Don Matesz wrote an excellent post on his Primal Wisdom blog about an organization that has managed to turn desert land in Zimbabwe back into lush grasslands.  How?  By returning masses of livestock to the ecosystem.

Read the post if you get a chance, and look at the before-and-after pictures.  This is exactly what Lierre Keith pointed out in her wonderful book The Vegetarian Myth:  livestock aren’t ruining the earth.  Mono-crop farming is ruining the earth.  Livestock and grasslands need each other.



29 thoughts on “Cattle Save The Land

  1. tracker

    Vegetarians, and especially vegans, are not that well versed on the food chain. They think that wild animals usually behave as if they are in a Disney movie. They ascribe human emotions to them. While human emotions might hold true with your dog (or possibly cat), I dare you to watch rutting deer for five minutes and tell me they are “kind” or “gentle”. Or go visit a ranch and look at the cows. Tell me how smart you think they are. Hint: they’re really stupid, mostly because they’ve been bred to be docile.

    I blame the fact that people don’t know where their food comes from. They think it spawned itself into the package and magically transported itself to their grocery store.

    BTW, speaking of intelligence, I just want all vegans and vegetarians to know that it’s okay if they eat turkey. Turkeys are so stupid, they’re really just fast moving plants 😛

    I once had a vegetarian girlfriend who would eat turkey for exactly that reason.

  2. Jeanmarie

    Thanks for “Cattle save the land.”
    I agree with tracker that vegetarians and vegans often seem to be clueless about nature, farming, animals, the nutrient cycle, etc, but how do you get from there to “cows are stupid”? They’re incredibly good at what they do and it’s stupid to judge them in terms of human intelligence. I think animals deserve our respect, not our derision, even if — especially if — we eat them, as I do.

    I keep chickens, and I can tell you that while they’re cute, they’d eat your eyeballs if they thought they could get away with it. It’s not evil intent, they’re just evolved to respond to juicy morsels by pecking.

  3. Anne Robertson

    Thank you, Tom, for pointing us to the article on Primal Wisdom. Allan Savory has been one of my heroes for quite some time but no one I talked to about him seemed to have heard of him. Maybe things will change now.

    Let’s hope.

  4. Graybull

    Thanks Tom…….really appreciate you spreading the good word about cattle and grazing. Properly managed grazing is the most earth/soil friendly thing this is.

  5. Samantha J Smith

    OMG!! It’s like my eyes have been opened! Watching you documentry on Netflix last night and I am a believer. I’ve never been the type for “diets” and usually eat whatever I want. Why I’m considered “overweight” I’ve always been healthy. However recently I’ve wanted to shed the pounds, so I did what “they” told me, and did a low-fat diet. I GAINED 5 pounds in 3 weeks! Does that even make sense?? Nope!!

    Everything you said makes so much sense, and it’s what everyone in my family has done when they lost significant amounts of weight. So I’m gonna do it! I’m keeping a blog to show whether or not it works.

    Excellent. Chime in now and then and let us know how it’s going.

  6. Be

    Private management (even if non-profit) will always prevail over public neglect. When everybody owns it, nobody is responsible.

    Preaching to the choir on that one.

  7. Ericka

    Tracker, your mention of the “gentle” deer reminded me of the following story:

    Great post… and I can’t believe that I used to believe contrary… looking at the whole “agriculture is ruining the earth” argument as a (very thankfully) reformed vegetarian, is a bit like looking back when I was a child and believed in Santa.

  8. Pete B

    Thanks for posting this, Tom. Savory and others have repeatedly demonstrated the fact that well-managed livestock systems improve the soil, plant, and water resources they’re based upon. Once again, grass-based livestock production is the truly sustainable form of agriculture. Anything else represents some degree of compromise.

  9. Bullinachinashop

    This reminds me of a news piece I saw a few years ago concerning a nature park (Yellowstone I think) that was having a problem with reduced biodiversity. You’d think the solution would be to protect the existing wildlife, but actually it was to re-introduce wolves. Certain plant eaters were over abundant in the area and it took a pack of “monsters” to cut them down to size and leave more food for less competitive herbivores. Wolves are awesome. Can I get a “Hell yeah!”?

    Hell, yeah!

  10. Kristen

    The before/after pictures on this are great! I know someone that convinced a friend to become a vegetarian based on how much more efficient/better they thought monocrop agriculture was. Thanks for sharing!

    If vegans love animals so much, why do they keep eating their food?


  11. Kate

    Faced with evidence like this the crazy vegans will have to either really, really, REALLY ignore it or come up with fancy sounding techno-babble to dismiss it. Thanks for posting this, it was really a heart warming post.

    They’ll dismiss it. It’s a religion for them. It’s not about science or proof.

  12. js290

    Tracker, it’s humans that are “stupid” for trying to outsmart nature. From counting calories to industrial farming to building levies to veganism…

  13. WholeWheat


    You have love handles, are balding, and have a weird stance and hairy patchy legs. While going 100% Vegan isn’t healthy, neither is living off of saturated fat and butter as your food staples. Your body type shows this. At least in Super Size Me, Spurlock showed himself in some american flag speedos (although he had a small package it looked like)

    Well, let’s consider the evidence, shall we? Since giving up grains and most other starches (I haven’t eaten sugar since I was a kid), my love handles have shrunk considerably, and I’m leaner and stronger at age 52 than I was at age 32. I lost my hair during my years as a vegetarian. I also ended up at my fattest and sickest during those years. I’m not sure what you mean by a “weird stance,” nor do I care. I have a damaged knee, a surgically-repaired shoulder, and I was born with a crooked spine. I’m sure my stance is a little off compared to most people’s.

    As for Spurlock’s swimsuit-ready body, so what? He’s a naturally lean type. So is my son. My son can live on pizza, chips, beer, and Coca-Cola while maintaining his six-pack abs. So I guess you’d consider that proof that pizza, chips, beer and Coca-Cola are what everyone should consume.

  14. tracker

    @Jeanmarie, I’m sorry but cows, they’re not bright. I didn’t say it to deride them or anything. I said it to point out that they’re not thinking and talking like some kinda movie or something. It seems absurd, but a lot of people think animals behave as if they’re in a Disney movie. You tell people that you hunt deer, and the first thing they typically say if they’re not a hunter is “you kill Bambi’s mom?” Yeah. I kill Bambi’s mom. I’m sorry, but that’s idiotic.

    And really it’s not the cow’s fault that they’re not that smart, they’ve been bred to be like that. I think wild cattle were probably a bit smarter… heck, maybe a lot smarter.

    @js290, we’re pretty good at it most of the time (being stupid *and* outsmarting nature 😛 ). Until the shit hits the fan, then we’re just good at being stupid >_<

  15. tracker

    @Ericka, I just want to say that link is hysterical. I’ve seen does beat the ever loving $#@& out of other deer when food is involved, and I would not want to be anywhere near that fight.

  16. Sarah P

    I loved you movie and ever since I watched it I can’t stop looking for more information. I’ve been listening to pod casts and reading articles all week. I even watched the whole 2 hours of that press conference you posted.

    I feel like this information is especially helpful because I have 3 young girls, ages 4, 3 and 6 months. My 4 year old has Type 1 Diabetes, which means that she is insulin dependent. I’ve been trying extra hard since I saw your show to lower her carb intake, but I’m meeting with lots of resistance. How have you gone about feeding your girls? Did they put up much resistance to your families lifestyle change?

    Carbs are addicting. It may take some time. We rely on the fact that humans are geared to love fats, so we feed our girls lots of natural fats. They’ll happily eat broccoli if it’s drenched in Kerry Gold butter. They’ll happily eat spinach if it’s mixed with a little sour cream, parmesan and nutmeg. On weekends, my wife sometimes makes pancakes out of eggs, cream cheese, and whey protein, then serves them with butter or whipped cream or no-sugar syrup. She also makes muffins with coconut flour or almond flour and Truvia. She makes a “pumpkin pie” out of squash. It can be challenging with kids, no doubt, so it’s sometimes a matter of finding reasonable substitutes.

  17. kat

    I wish there was a LIKE button… I like all the above! (or below, as new posts go on top.)

    if you read the PETA boards on FB, I like to contradict some of the wacko ones.
    one girl said “cows, chickens, fish – just look into their eyes, they have a soul, I can’t eat anything with a face..” oh please! lol

    I am a meat eater for the ethical treatment of animals. the PETA folks tend to be mostly vegan / veggi.

    anyhow – thank you for the story, Tom. yes, we have been told that cattle grazing ruins the land.
    thank you!! kat

  18. Chareva

    I would also like to add that if the food is ‘fun’ to eat, that helps too. A few suggestions: black olives on each finger, a big sprig of fresh parsley, cheese cubes or avocado cubes eaten with toothpicks (or your hand). They love bacon, string cheese, carving a smiley face into a slice of bologna. Sometimes if I put a variety of foods on a kabob stick (cutting off the pointy end) that’s fun too. Hard boiled eggs are fun – especially if you die them in vinegar/food coloring first. Big food is a hit. They prefer a whole tomato to one cut up. I’m sure other parents have good suggestions as well. Oh… coconuts are an activity as well as a snack. Punch a hole in each eye with a big nail and insert three straws and you and the girls can all drink it up. Then wrap in a towel and let each one whack it with a hammer. If you hit it around the center – you’ll get a clean break!

  19. Lori

    This reminds me of a former coworker who was enthusiastic about saving the environment. At the time, I belonged to a garden society that sold its own blend of organic rose feed specially designed for the soil around here. I asked her if she’d like to buy a large bag of it for $20.

    “But I can buy a bag of soil for $4 or $5,” she said.

    “This isn’t soil, this is fertilizer.”

    The look on her face said she had no idea what the difference was. Sad to say, there are plenty like her who evangelize this or that for the environment, but wouldn’t know how to grow a sunflower in Kansas.

    As for cow poop helping the grass grow, who knew? 😉

    Yeah, that was shocking news.

  20. Lori

    Oh, and @WholeWheat, starting almost a week ago, I replaced my morning rice protein powder/nut drink with a cup of sugar-free, alcohol-free eggnog in the morning. Yes, I make it with raw whole eggs, full-fat cream and half-and-half. The new diet wasn’t for weight loss, but I’ve lost two pounds.

    I’ve never been a vegetarian, but I’ve experimented enough with my diet to know that a plant-based diet would be an epic fail for me.

  21. Clark

    Well, there is nothing like going back to the old ways. Technology works best when it is in harmony with nature. What more proof do we need? Now, to drive the psychopaths which includes the CSPI out of our lives. We should keep this fight going because they have no right at all to pollute our minds with garbage and let alone to even attempt to control what we eat based on their lousy science.

    I won’t quit until we win or I’m pushing up daisies.

  22. Dani

    Thanks for the post on cattle saving the land.. God put them here for a reason..Glad to see you are really showing people how to really eat and the cholestrol is not the main culprit, but inflammation of the artery is.. What’s the deal on fish oil.. what is really good for.. have not seen alot of research on that.

    The benefit of fish oil is Omega 3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation. We buy cod liver oil and keep it in the refrigerator — you don’t want your fish oil going rancid, which defeats the purpose.

  23. Estelle

    Animals don’t have to be kind and gentle like Disney charactors or cuddly pets to deserve respect. Some cultures eat dogs yet in America we think thats awful because they gratify us, and think they’re cute. Meat eater or vegetarian…cows should graze…not be on a feed lot. On this site I expect to be mocked for saying this, but I beleive all life is sacred…that doesn’t nessecarily rule out meat eating or even raising animals for meat…but they should be able to live dignified lives and not lead miserable lives just for profit and greed. Besides…animals raised in healthy conditions will make a better product for those who do consume them.

    Why would anyone mock the idea that life is sacred?

  24. Cowzy

    I just finished reading a book about the Dust Bowl called “The Worst Hard Time,” and was fascinated to learn all about how that horrible environmental disaster occurred – not so much from over-farming, but actually caused by first getting rid of all the buffalo that used to live and graze there, then from getting rid of all the cattle that used to live and graze there.

    Correct, and then tearing up the soil with plows.

  25. Tyler Chesley

    The real problem is factory farming which requires large amounts of monoculture crops. Meat takes more resources and energy to produce than vegetable sources of food. Every level you go up the food chain you lose energy. It’s just a fact. If you want an abundance of cheap meat you’re going to have to devote a hell of a lot of land to growing feed crops. Switching back to grass/pasture feed animals is good but you aren’t going to be eating steak and hamburger everyday and it’s going to cost exponentially more. As China and India become more affluent and start eating more meat it’s going to put a huge strain on food markets and prices. I’m holding out for in vitro meat.

    Grain-fed meats are artificially cheap because of grain subsidies. We pay the true cost for that meat and the grain foods themselves through taxes. (Economists in this case would draw a distinction between price and cost. The price is low. The cost is higher.) I don’t believe the price of grass-fed meat would rise exponentially, because I can order grass-fed meats already at a very reasonable price if I buy a cow share.

    Lierre Keith provided a good comparison of the real costs, energy requirements, water requirements, etc. of crop foods versus grass-fed livestock in “The Vegetarian Myth.”


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