Anne bringing out the horses at dawn
By Anne Wasserburger
Bootheel 7 Ranch spans thousands of acres, and of those acres only about 3% is suitable to farm. So what is the best way to use the land that naturally fertilizes the soil, increases water retention, reduces fire hazard, and produces value? The answer to all these questions is to graze the land with livestock. Which is exactly what we do, and what our family has been doing for generations. In grazing these lands, we embrace regenerative and sustainable ranching practices to achieve the simple goal that we, along with our fathers and grandfathers have had: to leave the ranch better than we found it.
At Bootheel 7 Ranch, regenerative practices mean managing our grazing lands and our cattle in a way that advances – rather than opposes – the natural ecosystems. We have a deep understanding and appreciation that we are stewards of the land and as such, play an essential role in promoting land health, ecological function, and biodiversity. We use livestock as a positive tool for ecological management to improve soil health, decrease bare ground, and increase water infiltration and retention.
Through this approach, we first look to build soil health. We do this by relying on a diversity of grazing plants throughout our pastures, we keep living plants present year-round, and avoid regular and significant disruptions to the soil. We understand that healthy soils tend to stay in place, increase water availability for forages, and serve as a reservoir of nutrients for plants.
As ranchers, we understand that livestock plays a significant role in soil health. We take advantage of the nutrients that livestock can offer to soil, by allowing cattle to graze and fertilize during the most optimal months. Soil fertilized by grazing cattle both increases the nutrients and the amount of water the soil can retain. We also use cattle to reduce fire hazards by grazing down annual and perennial grasses, promoting new growth, and reducing dead underbrush.
We also understand, however, the harmful effects livestock can have on soil, so we manage grazing throughout our ranch. We do not allow our cattle to overgraze and only graze pastures during the most optimal times of year depending on the plant life that resides there - this process is called managed grazing.
Andrew checking the soil with Grace
We rotate our cattle throughout pastures and areas of the ranch to reduce erosion and impacts on the ground. Through managed grazing, cattle graze specific pastures according to when that grass has the most nutrition. We then move cattle to another area or pasture, and never allow cattle to stay in an area so long to disturb it. We also do not allow cattle into pastures if the grass is not ready and has not grown to a specific height, in order to promote growth and protect ground cover.
Ultimately, managed grazing creates regenerative agriculture which stimulates plant growth, recycles nutrients to the soil, and enables the energy of the sun to be converted into a nutrient-packed protein source through plants that are otherwise inedible by humans. Yes that is correct - the energy of the sun allows us to grow healthy, nutrient-packed protein on plants that are otherwise inedible by humans! We make use of plants and soil, in a sustainable and efficient manner, to produce a natural, high-quality, nutrient rich food - one that we are honored to share with your family.