Why Cattle Ranchers Don't Raise Cattle
A veteran cattle rancher once told me that he doesn't raise cattle. In the scheme of his operation, they are not his first priority.
Chances are, most other ranchers would whole-heartedly agree with him.
Beef producers don't raise cattle. Cattle are simply the most efficient mechanism to harvest what ranchers really raise: grass.
That succulent steak you had last night? It's just grass in a different form.
Mother Earth is the first priority of any successful livestock producer. Without quality stewardship of the land, there is no beef.
Ranchers have been practicing sustainable land management well before it was fashionable to do so. Despite what you may read, pasture rotation is not new; it is requisite in order to operate an efficient ranch, and always has been. Carbon sequestration? Ranchers and farmers have been roping and tying carbon into the soil for over 100 years. American farmers have the highest crop yields in the world - they didn't earn that badge by being poor land managers.
Ask any livestock producer - they will tell you that their livelihood depends on caring for the earth, and they are the first to fight for Her health: staying up at all hours of the night to fight fires caused by "dry" lightning, moving cattle from pasture to pasture in the wind and rain to prevent overgrazing, and letting land rest even when they are in a bind to allow the soil and grasses to recover.
Allow me to make this more concrete.
My family raises cattle in the Sandhills, a region in Nebraska that has over 12.5 million acres (that's over 11 million football fields) of rangeland. In the late 1800s, before ranchers began running livestock in the Sandhills, lightning fires would overtake large sections of grassland, leaving the topsoil fragile and susceptible to powerful Nebraska winds that would rip the hills apart even further.
Today, because of the stewardship of land owners, the prairie is in a stable condition with a healthy skin of unique mixed grasses. Prairie fires are controlled, and if in the rare case land is abused, it is fairly reflected in its market value and in the quality and quantity of beef that can be produced.
The next time you bite into a juicy burger or a tender piece of meat, take a second to acknowledge the amazing process and people that combined to turn a few blades of grass into an incredible piece of protein.