This is the first video in a new series called Farming Forward: Sharpen your soil health expertise with cover cropping, nitrogen management, and advanced grazing, brought to you by the Farm Resilience Mentorship program. Visit farmlearninghub.ca for more!
Building soil is about capturing sunlight, keeping plants actively growing, and feeding the soil bugs below through plant root exudates. For Steven Kenyon of Greener Pastures Ranching, from Busby, Alta., the proven way to build soil and capture carbon is through advanced grazing.
What’s advanced grazing and how does it differ from what many do?
As Kenyon explains in this very first episode of the Farming Forward series, he’s focused on using cattle, fencing, frequent moves, and planning to manage the above-ground growth to feed the soil below.
The results are impressive when measured by both soil organic matter growth and by pounds of beef produced over two decades. Kenyon says that by focusing on managing the plants, and keeping them in a vegetative state as much as possible over a growing season, building soil happens much faster than the old “1-inch of soil takes 100 years to build” rule of thumb.
“We’ve got on average, probably somewhere between eight and 12 inches of topsoil on here now… we’ve been adding carbon into that clay [base] for 20 years. And now we’ve got eight to 12 inches of black topsoil,” he says. “That’s a lot faster than 100 years.”
Kenyon adds that the number of passes across a paddock may be once in a year in a dry area or up to five in a wet climate, but the principles of advanced grazing remain the same — graze, rest, animal impact, stock density and soil armour. We’ll go more in depth on each of these in an upcoming video.
Farming Forward is a video series brought to you by Farmers for Climate Solutions’ Farm Resilience Mentorship Program and the Farm Learning Hub. Visit the hub to learn more about events in your area and to access more resources about building soil health.