Brent McCann, beef center manager for WSU’s Ensminger Beef Center, visited us on Monday to explain how cattle production works at the university. McCann is also a fourth-generation rancher from Montana, and we asked him about rotational grazing, which is a common cropping system in Uruguay.

Generally-speaking, cows can thrive on forage and have a unique stomach system. Cows are also docile, which allows farmers to put them in places and keep them there for a long time. Rotational grazing is when cows are shifted from one spot to another, which in return allows pasture plants to recover.

McCann said rotational grazing is like mimicking Mother Nature. He referred to the “Lewis and Clark era” when the health of the land was at its peak; perhaps Uruguayans are hoping to achieve just that. Biodiversity, on the other hand, is an integral part of grazing because it allows the cattle to absorb as much protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals as it possibly can.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship between the grazing animal and the plants that are meant to be grazed,” he said.

One of the things that can be detrimental when it comes to grazing is set stock grazing. This is when a herd of cows is placed in one spot from one season of the year to another without manipulating them in any way. This practice is not uncommon, but there are reasons why some people do so.

Rotational grazing would reap more benefits than set stock grazing, but limiting factors for rotational grazing includes predators, the landscape and most importantly—water.

“You could have all the grass in the world and it’s not a good ranch until you can say ‘I’ve got lots of water,’” McCann said.

From Angelica Relente