Sustainable Farming, Climate Change, and Innovation

How cattle are saving our native grasslands

Share This Article:

Many of the native grasslands that still exist in Canada are actively grazed pastures, where beef cattle mimic the natural ecosystem processes required for the prairie to remain prairie. Grazing, like pruning a garden, promotes vigorous growth while preventing overgrowth of dominant plant species, giving other important species a better chance to flourish. It also minimizes wildfire risk by reducing the fuel load of dry grasses and brush. The manure that livestock leave behind is also a valuable natural fertilizer that helps to build organic matter and to enrich the soil. Other livestock are also raised in these habitats. Wildlife, such as deer, ducks and pollinators, cohabit with cattle, making use of healthy grasslands for their life cycles too.

Going the extra mile for wildlife

Many farmers create buffer zones around water bodies, to protect land and aquatic habitats. Seeding strips of flowering plants, to serve as habitats and sanctuary spaces for pollinators, is also common. And to ensure that soils remain fertile and covered with new plant growth, and that plants continue to have a healthy root system, many livestock farmers move their animals from pasture to pasture to create rest periods — a practice called rotational grazing. Some farmers will also delay cutting hay crops to give nesting birds a chance to hatch their young safely. Others build habitats for snakes — called hibernacula — or install boxes for owls and bats on the farm. These and many other practices help to sustain wildlife populations, to protect species at risk, and to promote biodiversity.