Regenerative grazing is a principle-driven agricultural practice of building soil health by managing livestock on perennial and annual forages, and in a way that supports human and ecosystem health, farm profitability, and community and food system resilience. Regenerative grazing is one approach of regenerative agriculture, a type of agriculture which aims to rejuvenate agricultural landscapes and communities, not degrade or just sustain them.
Regenerative grazing is not a formula or recipe and relies on observation and adaptive management of system needs. It is typically characterized by:
Livestock and cropping systems used to be integrated closely, with cattle and other species grazing and depositing manure on the land that provided their feed. With this closed nutrient loop, manure could be used more efficiently across the farm to the places that needed it, reducing the need for external inputs. And because livestock have nutrient-rich manure, livestock are a great way build soil health.
As fields have become more monocropped, operations have increasingly broken the nutrient loop, requiring hauling manure at additional cost or importing synthetic fertilizers from off the farm. This is particularly true in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, a region which now produces much of our grain crops for both human and livestock consumption.
While livestock have sometimes been maligned for their environmental impact, when managed correctly through regenerative grazing, they can build soil health, reduce nutrient loss, reduce farm inputs, and diversify farm income.
See the video below for an introduction to adaptive grazing!
Read more about the benefits of regenerative grazing, particularly in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, by exploring the story map below. Click here to view the story map in full screen.