Vegan brings back cows
FOR most of his life Bangalow landowner and environmentalist Steve Dover thought cows and livestock were the enemy of land rehabilitation.
"I was a vegetarian for seven years... I remember seeing all the trees chopped down on farms and thought the animals were wrecking the place," Mr Dover said.
This idea drove him to rid his 40ha Possum Creek farm of the cattle. He even pulled down all the stockyards.
Yet the pasture needed constant mowing and chemical sprays without grazing animals. It didn't meet the criteria of a sustainable ecosystem. There had to be a better way.
The perception that livestock is bad for the environment is now being relegated to the dustbin with a new holistic management approach which is teaching farmers and environmentalists to emulate nature's use of cattle to rehabilitate land, and improve their bottom line.
It all goes back to the natural principles seen at work on the great plains of the world, where large hoofed animals move rapidly across swathes of land made vibrant through the beating of their hoofs and the fertiliser of their excrement. Soils and vegetation in these areas are exceedingly healthy, as are the beasts.
"They rehabilitate the soil by cracking the crust, urinating, defecating, which builds the biodiversity in the soils - as long as the cattle keep moving," Mr Dover said.
"Once you start rebuilding the soils, you allow species which are lying dormant in the ground to become active again, and all the native animals start coming back.
You're essentially recreating the environment created by nature itself before man stuffed the system.
Not only do they taste better, but so-called pastured livestock (who eat only grass) have a nutritional benefit - they're naturally chock full of essential Omega 3 oils from the greens, which disappear from their systems when they are grain fed.
After doing a course in holistic management, Mr Dover has a long-term plan to rehabilitate his pasture and run up to 75 head of cattle. "Now the animals will be doing the work, not the fossil fuels and tractors - I'm going to achieve the same result aesthetically but it will much better for the environment."
Holistic management advocate and instructor Brian Wehlburg said the system enabled graziers to break the worm and weed cycle on their property, reduce chemical and herbicide usage, and even increase the concentration of cattle.
"Often farmers might be making a profit, but they're losing their land... destroying the soil's ability to be fertile."
"The soil is our true wealth, and we need a lot more people rebuilding the soil."