The Benefits of Ground Cover for the Soil
Just looking at the picture above, which side, left or right, would you think is the better, healthier looking side?
I can tell you the left side defiantly draws my eye, and my first thought is “wow that looks great!”
However, what we have learned over the past few years has taught me to look closer to better evaluate what it actually going on in this pasture.
A little backstory here. The left side is the part of the pasture that got accidently burned this fall when we burned a brush pile that creeped its way into the field. Where the line is, is how far the fire got before we put it out.
Now the right side has been rested (no grazing) for a few months and we were fortunate enough to save it from the fire. The reason I say we were fortunate to save it, is because while it may not look as green and lush as the left. It is the better, healthier side. Crazy, right? No, I promise it is.
The reason I claim that, is because of the ground cover that the dried-up brown looking grasses provide. Brown and dried grasses get a bit of a bad rep, but they are an important part of healthy soil. I am just going to touch on a few of the benefits (in no particular order) of this ground cover vs the burned side that lost all its ground cover.
First, it protects the soil. The ground cover serves as a sunshade to protect the soil from the sun that would eventually dry and harder the soil. It protects it from the beating force of the rain drops by breaking up the big rain drops into smaller, softer ones that won’t hardened and move the soil around.
Second, it feeds the microorganisms of the soil. As it breaks down it turns into organic matter that the good bugs in the soil use as food, which is important because we want all the good bugs we can get. If they don’t have food, they won’t stick around and help us regenerate our soils.
Third, it helps our cows to eat a more balanced diet when they get around to grazing it. A cow on fresh green, lush grass will have an overload of sugar and protein because young grass is very rich in nutrients. Too rich in fact that the cow cannot digest all of it, so it ends up running out the back end. This can lead them to lose weight because they cannot digest the nutrients they need. That’s where the dried-up grass comes in. The cow ends up with a little dry matter with every bite, even if they were only going for the good stuff. This helps their guts stay balanced and keeps them nice and healthy!
We are a long way from knowing everything and there are many things we would like to see different in all our pastures. So much so that sometimes it seems overwhelming, but we are just working one day at a time and one lesson at a time to try and be better. Our goal is to raise the healthiest animals on the healthiest land so we can all live a healthier life!
Heres a close up of all the bare soil on the left side.