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Water, Grass and Livestock: An Annotated Bibliography of Riparian Grazing

Publications contains more than 250 listings for journal articles, brochures, manuals and book chapters. It covers such topics as bank erosion and vegetation, fish and insects in a stream, pollution removal by buffers, compaction, and pasture systems. This guide was developed by Melissa Driscoll of the Land Stewardship Project and Bruce Vondracek of the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit at the University of Minnesota.

A pdf version of the 36-page publication can be downloaded for free from The fee for receiving a paper copy through the U.S. Mail is $5. Call 651-653-0618 or e-mail for information on purchasing a paper copy.

Choosing Grassfed!

By Jo Robinson

In my Grandma's day, there was no such thing as a bad fat. All fat was “good” simply because it tasted good.

My Grandma fried her eggs in bacon grease, added bacon grease to her cakes and pancakes, made her pie crusts from lard, and served butter with her homemade bread. My grandmother was able to thrive on all that saturated fat---but not my grandfather. He suffered from angina and died from heart failure at a relatively young age.

My grandfather wasn't alone. Population studies from the first half of the 20th century showed that Americans in general had a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease than people from other countries, especially Japan, Italy and Greece. Was all that saturated fat to blame? The Japanese were eating very little fat of any kind, while the Mediterraneans were swimming in olive oil, an oil that is very low in saturated fat but high in monounsaturated oils.

So, in the 1960s, word came from on high that we should cut back on the butter, cream, eggs and red meat. But, interestingly, the experts did not advise us to switch to an ultra-low fat diet like the Japanese, nor to use monounsaturated oils like the Greeks or Italians. Instead, we were advised to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated oils—primarily corn oil and safflower. Never mind the fact that no people in the history of this planet had ever eaten large amounts of this type of oil. It was deemed “the right thing to do.” Why? First of all, the United States had far more corn fields than olive groves, so it seemed reasonable to use the type of oil that we had in abundance. But just as important, according to the best medicaldata at the time, corn oil and safflower oil seemed to lower cholesterol levels better than monounsaturated oils.

Today, we know that’s not true. In the 1960s, researchers did not differentiate between “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Instead, they lumped both types together and focused on lowering the sum of the two. Polyunsaturated oils seemed to do this better than monounsaturated oils. We now know they achieved this feat by lowering both our bad and our good cholesterol, in effect throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Monounsaturated oils leave our HDL intact.

In hindsight, it’s not surprising, then, that our death rate from cardiovascular disease remained high in the 1970s and 80s even though we were eating far less butter, eggs, bacon grease, and red meat: We had been told to replace saturated fat with the wrong kind of oil.

During this same era, our national health statistics were highlighting another problem, this one even more ominous: an increasing number of people were dying from cancer. Why were cancer deaths going up? Was it the fact that our environment was more polluted? That our food had more additives, herbicides and pesticides? That our lives were more stressful? That we were not eating enough fruits and vegetables? Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

But there was another reason we were losing the war against cancer: the supposedly “heart-healthy” corn oil and safflower oil that the doctors had advised us to pour on our salads and spread on our bread contained high amounts of a type of fat called “omega-6 fatty acids.” There is now strong evidence that omega-6s can make cancer cells grow faster and more invasive. For example, if you were to inject a colony of rats with human cancer cells and then put some of the rats on a corn oil diet, some on a butterfat diet, and some on a beef fat diet, the ones given the omega-6 rich corn oil would be afflicted with larger and more aggressive tumors.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, we were getting a second helping of omega-6s from our animal products.

Starting in the 1950s, the meat industry had begun taking our animals off pasture and fattening them on grains high in omega-6s, adding to our intake of these potentially cancer-promoting fats.

In the early 1990s, we learned that our modern diet was harboring yet another unhealthy fat: trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids are formed during the hydrogenation process that converts vegetable oil into margarine and shortening. Carefully designed studies were showing that these manmade fats are worse for our cardiovascular system than the animal fats they replaced. Like some saturated fats, they raise our bad cholesterol. But unlike the fats found in nature, they also lower our good cholesterol—delivering a double whammy to our coronary arteries.

“Maybe butter is better after all,” conceded the health experts.

Given all this conflicting advice about fat, consumers were ready to lob their tubs of margarine at their doctors. For decades they had been skimping on butter, even though margarine tasted little better than salty Vaseline. Now they were being told that margarine might increase their risk of a heart attack!

Some people revolted by trying to abandon fat altogether. For breakfast, they made do with dry toast and fat-free cottage cheese. For lunch, they ate salad greens sprinkled with pepper and vinegar. Dinner was a skinless chicken breast poached in broth. Or better yet, a soy burger topped with lettuce. Dessert? Well, after all that self-denial, what else but a big bowl of fat-free ice cream and a box of Snackwell cookies. Thank goodness calories no longer counted! Only fat made you fat!

Or, so the diet gurus had told us. Paradoxically, while we were doing our best to ferret out all the fat grams, we were getting fatter and fatter. We were also becoming more prone to diabetes. Replacing fat with sugar and refined carbohydrates was proving to be no more beneficial than replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated oils.

At long last, in the mid-1990s, the first truly good news about fat began to emerge from the medical labs. The first fats to be given the green light were the monounsaturated oils, the ones that had helped protect the health of the Mediterraneans for so many generations. These oils are great for the heart, the scientists discovered, and they do not promote cancer. They are also a deterrent against diabetes. The news came fifty years too late, but it was welcome nonetheless. Please pass the olive oil!

Stearic acid, the most abundant fat in beef and chocolate, was also found to be beneficial. Unlike some other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise your bad cholesterol and it may even give your good cholesterol a little boost. Hooray!

Then, at the tail end of the 20th century, two more “good” fats were added to the roster—omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, the fat found in the meat and dairy products of ruminants. Both of these fats show signs of being potent weapons against cancer. However, the omega-3s may be the best of all the good fats because they are also linked with a lower risk of virtually all the so-called “diseases of civilization,” including cardiovascular disease, depression, ADHD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

So, some of you may be wondering, what does this brief history of fat have to do with grassfarming? Few people realize that all omega-3s originate in the green leaves of plants and algae. Fish have large amounts of this good fat because they eat small fish that eat smaller fish that dine on omega-3 rich algae and phytoplankton. Grazing animals have more omega-3s because they get the omega-3s directly from the grass. In both cases, the omega-3s are ultimately passed on to humans, the top of the food chain.

Products from grassfed animals offer us more than omega-3s. They contain significant amounts of two "good" fats, monounsaturated oils and stearic acid, but no manmade trans-fatty acids. They are also the richest known natural source of CLA and contain extra amounts of vitamin E and betacarotene. Finally, grassfed meat is lower than feedlot meat in total fat and calories, making it ideally suited for our sedentary lifestyles.

I don’t believe it’s a matter of luck or chance that grassfed products have so many of the good fats but so few of the bad. In fact, I’ll wager that the more that is discovered about fat in the coming years, the more grassfed meat will shine. The reason for my confidence is simple: our bodies are superbly adapted to this type of food. In the distant past, grassfed meat was the only meat around. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors either brought home a grazing ruminant such as elk, deer, or bison, or a predator that preyed on those animals. Either way, the nutrients found in grass made their way into the animals’ flesh, and ultimately, into our own.

Over the eons, our bodies began to “expect” the kinds and amounts of fat found in grassfed meat. Our hearts counted on the omega-3s to stabilize their rhythm and keep blood clots from forming. Our brain cells relied on omega-3 to build flexible, receptor-rich membranes. Our immune systems used the omega-3s and CLA to help fend off cancer. And because wild game is relatively lean, our bodies weren’t burdened with unnecessary amounts of fat or calories.

When we switch from grainfed to grassfed meat, then, we are simply returning to our original diet, the diet that is most in harmony with our physiology. Every cell and system of our bodies function better when we eat products from animals raised on grass.

Jo Robinson is a New York Times bestselling writer. The Omega Diet, the book she coauthored with Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, explores the ideas in this article in more depth.

Why Grassfed Is Best! focuses on the benefits of pastured animal products. To order her books or learn more about grassfed products, visit

Soil Fertility

By Jack Lazor
Fertile soils have been one of our most precious resources here in North America. The Jeffersonian ideal of the independent husbandmen in agrarian society would not have been possible without the gift of good land. As eastern soils became leached, eroded and demineralized - western expansion took our early settlers closer to the interior and even more inherently fertile prairie soils. Our civilization is still relatively young by European standards and yet we have burned up more than half of the original humus in the soils first farmed by our ancestors. The maintenance and improvement of good, healthy, productive soils are more important than ever as we head into another century.

In the humid (high rainfall) northeast where nutrient leaching, low pH, and acid soils are common, bovine livestock agriculture is perhaps the best way to maintain and improve soil fertility. Cows eat primarily forages (legumes and grasses) in the form of hay and pasture. These crops, for the most part, are caused on the same farm where the cows reside. As a result the cow manure and urine can go right back to the land that produced the original crop. The beauty of dairy farming lies in the fact that only a small amount of minerals, Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous, leave the farm in the milk. Meanwhile the carbon or Nitrogen components remain on the farm.

There are 3 main components to soil fertility; the chemical, the physical, and the biological. One must have a reasonable balance of the minerals in a good crumb-like soil structure that is teeming with microbial life. A good reserve of humus will go a long way in making a soil productive year after year. Humus is more than simple particles of organic matter from crop residues. Humus is microbial protoplasm. It is organic matter that has been digested by soil bacteria into a stable form. Stable humus is the largest missing ingredient in today's "hydroponic" style of farming where soil is tested and then supplied with the missing soluble nutrients. Humus gives soils the flexibility to withstand conditions ranging from too wet to too dry. In waterlogged situations a high humus soil wicks water downward. In a drought, water moves upward by capillary action through little humus particles. Humus also increases a soil's cation exchange capacity, its ability to hold onto nutrients without them leaching away. Humus is what built our country and our squandering of humus will be our downfall as a civilization.

Manure management is the best place to begin in our quest to bring more humus back to this earth we inhabit. It has been said that part of our problem with increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere began with modern farming practices, which have encouraged the burning up of he carbon fractions of our soils. The manure pit slurry system has been pushed upon dairy farmers in the interest of keeping manure leachate out of streams and ground water. However the liquid manure system uses very little bedding because pumps and lagoons are designed for liquids not solids. Good soil is an aerobic system with a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Slurry or pit manure is an anaerobic system and has very little carbon in it. The salt index of liquid manure is very high. This material kills earthworms and hardens the ground.

Composting is the humus building alternative to liquid manure fertilization. Cow manure from a well-bedded dairy housing situation is the ideal candidate for good compost because it is pre-inoculated with the bacteria from the cow's four stomachs, which act like fermentation vats. The carbon: nitrogen ratio for compost must match that of good soil or between 20:1 to 30:1. This means using massive amounts of bedding which can come from your own farm in the form of cereal grain straw. We have found that a straw bedding pack makes ideal compost since the liquids seem to be well distributed throughout the sponge-like mass of the bedding pack. Come spring our bedding pack can be as high as five feet tall. Once dug out and windrowed in a bread loaf-like compost pile, this material begins to heat and work immediately. Since we don't sell finished compost to landscapers or gardeners, additional turning and remixing of this mass of material is not necessary. Our compost is spread on selected fields in the month of September when all the forces of the earth and cosmos begin to take things inward.

Good compost is the best way to reverse the depletion of humus on your farm. Improvements in the physical and biological realms of your soil will follow right behind an on going program of composting. The chemical or mineral realm is quite simple. One must have a somewhat balanced supply of the major elements – calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sulfur. Notice that calcium was the first element mentioned, not N, P, or K. Calcium is the trucker of all other minerals and without it a soil cannot have inner elemental transfer. Magnesium is the central element in the chlorophyll molecule dividing the calcium and phosphorous. Phosphorous, unlike the other major elements, is an anion (has a negative charge). It is very stable in the soil and does not readily leach. Sulfur, on the other hand, is a cation and is very mobile in the soil. Sulfur is essential in the building blocks of high quality plant protein found in good forages fed to cows.

Composting is a lot more time consuming than the application of rock mineral dusts. Some rock powders like rock phosphate (tri-calcium phosphate) and gypsum (calcium sulfate) can be added directly to barn litter or bedding packs. The composting process will chelate and stabilize these minerals within the humus fraction. Calcium can also be applied directly to land in the form of ground limestone. Dolomite (high magnesium) limestone is much more reactive than the high calcium or calcitic limestone. One might want to check soils first for magnesium levels before deciding which type of lime to spread. If magnesium levels are high (more than 12% base saturation), use calcitic limestone.

There are numerous other soil amendments which can be used in an organic farming situation. One of my favorites has been cement kiln dust. Kiln dust contains soluble calcium and sulfur. It has been found that in legumes like alfalfa, that addition of a small amount of soluble calcium will help the forage be high in calcium, low in potassium and just right in phosphorous. It's a great feeling feeding your cows something which is grown by you, on the land you steward, that is healthy, mineralized, and balanced forage. We buy no minerals to put into our feed on this farm.

Last but not least, is the question of nitrogen. A land steward, who has humus rich, mineralized soil should never have to buy any nitrogen. First of all, grow plenty of leguminous crops (alfalfa and clovers) with your grasses. Secondly, your active soil like will release a slow, steady supply of nitrogen as the little soil bugs live, die, and eat up plant residues from roots to stalks. The application of large amounts of chemical nitrogen came into fashion after World War II when the munitions industries needed to find a home for all of their ammonium nitrate. It takes 30 parts of carbon to assimilate one part of nitrogen in a normal soil. So when large amounts of soluble nitrogen are dumped on the earth - the carbon fraction or the humus is burned up in the assimilation process. This is why over chemicalized soils appear bleached and colorless.

In conclusion, we must realize that soil fertility is only part of a larger process of living gently on this earth. Our food web begins with the plants and animals that come from the earth. We will all return there eventually so let's do our best while we are here to give back more than we take.

Jack Lazor & his wife Anne own and operate Butterworks Farm in Westfield, VT where they produce yogurt, cream, cottage cheese, & cheese

Butterfat & Pasture

The following is a farmer observation by Bill Casey, an organic dairyman in Central New York. The representation of information is not a project of NODPA , any land grant college institution, SARE grant, but merely a compilation of information by an individual. Bill can be reached at 315 683-5674 or

With the changing of the Federal Milk Marketing orders over the last few years, producing milk components has surfaced as an important way to boost the milk check for those dairymen who have been able to elevate the butterfat, protein and milk solids. Grazing farmers have long suffered a butterfat depression when heavily depending on rotational grazing. While working for Cornell Cooperative Extension over the last few years, I was surprised at the lack of research and knowledge on how to hold on to or boost components while rotationally grazing cows.

It was never my intention to breed my herd merely for butterfat and protein and I had never felt that the Northeast Order would be paying a premium for protein. Well, component pricing is here and it is even more important to the pay price of the milk check. As I elected to start milking again and choose to ship to CROPP (Organic Valley), the opportunity to be paid to produce components provided the incentive to feed my cows to produce as many components during the typical 200 day grazing. A typical CROPP milk check includes the following basis for payment: butterfat ($1.77/#), protein ($1.62/#), other solids (total solids minus protein $1.206/#), organic premium (depending on the time of year and regional location), and a premium for low PI and somatic cell counts. Therefore, not being able to produce at least the average pounds of butterfat could significantly reduce a producer's pay.

Many small producers like myself, don't have the advantage of a total mixed ration (TMR) or enough ingredients to produce a suitable mix. I use a baleage and grain supplementation system to augment my intensive-grazing program. A typical feeding program consists of bringing the cows into the tie stall barn on approximately 5 pounds dry matter 3rd cutting baleage (harvested just a little tougher than normal but still with great flavor and palatability). This is followed by 5 pounds dry matter grain (20% roasted soybean and the rest a mix of barley and corn and associated minerals). Grain is not fed to the cows until they have eaten most of their baleage. Daily cow intake would be 10 pounds of baleage (20 pounds as fed) and 10 pounds of grain (11 pounds as fed) and the balance is pasture. I have assumed that the cows eat 30 pounds dry matter from pasture, but this will vary depending on the quality of pasture and the weather. In the event that a pasture is super lush and tender, a slice of dry hay prior to leaving the barn will help lower the pasture consumption

Below I have put together a spreadsheet of my herd's performance before and during the pasture season. When attempting to calculate how your herd is doing, it is important not to just look at the pounds of milk produced per day or the percent butterfat on your quality report. To hold a uniform measure it is best to calculate a pound/day production of your components. Use your herd's daily production (pounds in the tank divided by the # of cows) times the percentage of butterfat/protein/or other solids for a better comparison. Note the drop in components we have realized after making the switch from roasted soybeans to tofu byproduct feed supplied by my feed dealer without telling me.

Production for 2002 at the Casey Farm

# BF/cow/d
# P/cow/d
# solids/cow/d
3/3 1 59.3 3.96% 2.35 3.05% 1.81 5.75% 3.41


1 56.1 3.66% 2.05 2.89% 1.62 5.81% 3.26


1 54.7 3.79% 2.07 2.92% 1.60 5.80% 3.17


1 54.4 3.95% 2.15 2.89% 1.57 5.74% 3.12
4/2 121 55.0 3.81% 2.10 2.91% 1.60 5.75% 3.16
4/16 cows started on rotational pastures
4/18 138 53.5 3.67% 1.96 2.82% 1.51 5.81% 3.11
4/23 143 60.0 3.79% 2.27 2.87% 1.72 5.81% 3.49
5/2 152 58.5 3.77% 2.21 3.06% 1.82 5.71% 3.34
5/12 162 59.4 3.41% 2.03 3.06% 1.82 5.71% 3.39
5/16 166 57.2 3.68% 2.11 3.07% 1.76 5.80% 3.32
5/28 178 60.8 3.59% 2.15 3.05% 1.85 5.74% 3.49
6/3 183 59.8 3.58% 2.14 2.98% 1.78 5.76% 3.44
6/9 189 57.2 3.60% 2.06 2.93% 1.68 5.71% 3.27
6/15 Tofu byproduct supplied in lieu of roasted soybeans
6/17 197 57.0 3.44% 1.96 3.04% 1.73 5.73% 3.27
6/27 207 51.1 3.91% 2.00 3.04% 1.55 5.90% 3.01
7/1 211 52.0 3.46% 1.79 3.03% 1.58 5.70% 2.96

(1) days in milk information not available for this period.

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