A new type of matchmaking is set to take place in New Mexico, connecting landowners with livestock farmers or contract graziers—and vice versa.
Historically the relationship between grazier and landowner has been established through proximity or word of mouth. Now, livestock farmers in need of grazable land for their animals can hop onto the New Mexico Grazing Exchange to find landowners in the area who have fields, orchards or pastures but no animals to graze them. Likewise, crop farmers and landowners who have forage that needs harvesting can find livestock farmers who have hungry animals to feed.
Allowing cover crops, crop residues, rangelands and pastures to be grazed by animals is an efficient, cost-effective way for landowners to manage and improve soil. Launched by New Mexico Healthy Soil, the Exchange is a win win win for crop farmers, graziers and regenerative agriculture.
A Benefit to Soil Health
Many people don’t connect soil health with the presence of animals, in fact some environmental groups criticize grazing practices as an ecological degradation. However, when grazing is done responsibly, it can mimic the natural patterns that help create the healthy soils that form the basis for thriving ecosystems.
It makes sense when you consider it. For millennia elk, bison, and other ruminants fed off the land, forming tight herds as protection from predators and constantly on the move—not returning to one area until vegetation had grown back. The impact these animals had on the land—their manure, the way their hooves dimpled the earth, their predator influenced migratory patterns—helped create the soil conditions for plants to thrive.
Today, farmers and ranchers can imitate the beneficial impact of ruminants on the landscape by incorporating planned grazing, also called mob grazing, Holistic Management or Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing.
Soil health benefits include:
- Reduced soil erosion
- Better aggregation
- Improved biological diversity & nutrient cycling
- Improved water infiltration
A Benefit to Crop- and Livestock Farmers
Animals used to be an integral part of any farming operation. In addition to their beneficial effects on soil, cattle, sheep or goats can be used to manage weeds and reduce fuel to mitigate fire risk.
Feeding livestock by way of grazing is good for the bottom line considering the sky-rocketing cost of hay. Harvesting and distribution of forage also carry significant costs in labor, equipment and fuel. The more economic approach is to simply let the livestock do the work.
By opening new grazable land to livestock farmers, the grazing season can be extended by weeks, even months, which saves a considerable amount of money.
Certainly there are costs associated with off-site grazing. The animals need water and shelter for inclement weather. There are expenses for transportation, fencing, and handling. But these costs can often be shared by the landowner and livestock farmers, making the transaction feasible for both parties.
How It Works
Landowners and livestock farmers interested in participating can register here to participate in the NM Grazing Exchange for free (the Get Started page explains the process step by step).
Here’s a list of grazing resources that can help get interested parties up to speed on the best grazing practices. You can also watch this short video outlining the basic principles of grazing and how we can mimic the way the land evolved naturally.
Registered participants can use the interactive map to locate and connect with participants both offering and seeking grazable land.
Explore the New Mexico Grazing Exchange
~ Connecting landowners with graziers and livestock farmers with grazing opportunities ~
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