The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Greg Judy on mob grazing

Greg JudyA couple of months ago, I attended an all day workshop about mob grazing led by Greg Judy.  He was a riveting, entertaining, and down to earth speaker, but the information he covered was even better than the presenting style.

Greg and his wife started farming in the late 1980s on poor "grazing land" in Missouri.  "All I knew was: cows eat grass," Greg explained.  Initially, he ran his cattle using conventional methods --- letting them eat the same pasture continuously --- but eventually he switched over to management intensive grazing.

Under the management intensive system, Greg focused on keeping seed heads from forming on his grass.  The mandatory fast spring rotations to prevent the grass from going to seed seemed to work at first, but the pasture suffered in July.  During the summer slump, grass didn't grow at all, and he had to feed hay or sell animals.

Ian Mitchell-InnesEnter Ian Mitchell-Innes, a South African farmer practicing mob grazing.  Over the last decade, Ian had increased the fertility of his farm so much that he was able to quadruple his stocking rate, and Greg became his willing pupil.  Greg learned to let grass grow taller in the spring, then noticed that the unstressed plants no longer obsessed over reproducing, instead growing more green leaves and longer roots.  Three years later, Greg was able to quit his job and become a full time rancher.

Today, he pastures his animals on twelve farms, focusing on grazing livestock and building topsoil.  "We like to think of ourselves as microbe farmers," Greg explained, going on to note that they are marketers of solar energy --- the only free resource on the farm.  Greg adds no lime or chemical fertilizers to his soil, has no machinery, and uses minimal labor.

This week (and next), I'll cover Greg's system in depth, but for now, I'll leave you with some outside the box ways he suggests making your farm pay for itself.  He highly recommends leasing for young farmers who don't have the cash to buy the land outright, noting that he has free lifetime leases on several plots of hunting land, having proven to the owners that they'll harvest more deer due to his management.  And although he makes a lot of his livelihood from the beef he raises, Greg notes that the parasite resistant sheep he sells as breeding stock are the highest profit item on his farm.  Finally, he tosses out other ideas that are compatible with the ranching lifestyle --- attracting ecotourists interested in birding or wildlife watching, adding nature trails, or leasing out the pasture to hunters.  His message is clear --- if you get creative and nurture the land, you can make a living on the farm.

Escape the winter doldrums with my 99 cent ebook.

99 cent pasture ebookThis post is part of our Mob Grazing lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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