"Regenerative agriculture represents more than a shift in practices, it is also a shift in paradigm and in our basic relationship with nature"
WHAT WE DO
Rock River Regenerative Grazeirs (R3G) is improving the Rock River Basin Watershed by converting land from row crop and continuous grazed pastures into permanent, regenerative rotational grazing systems. To do this, we are creating a strong and diverse network of demonstration farms to collect data and promote regenerative practices into the future. In addition to equipping demonstration farms and farmers, our top priority is to grow managed grazing by offering support to help farmers convert. We will accomplish this through farmer to farmer outreach, training, mentoring, conducting grazing workshops, pasture walks, and offering financial support to practices. These activities will give new and converting farmers the ability to undertake the difficult start-up phase of their farming journey. Are you an aspiring or current rotational grazer? Go to our contact page and get in touch with us so you can join our network and find out how we may be able to support you in your journey.
WHY WE DO IT
CONVENTIONAL VS ROTATIONAL GRAZING
Managed Rotational grazing has multi-pronged community impacts including healthier animals, more income, cleaner farms, and healthier environments and watersheds. Despite the benefits of rotational grazing, adoption is relatively low among farmers in the Rock River Basin. This is because managed grazing systems take a lot of time, money, and knowledge to build, but once we get them going they are relatively cheap and easy to maintain but they make a huge difference on our soil and water health forever. Farmers say that the start-up phase of the rotational grazing journey is difficult because there is so much new information to learn and it is difficult to find support. Farmers also feel that it is financially risky to change. By assisting farmers through this tricky start-up phase, more farmers will be willing and able to convert their farms. This project will provide both financial and technical support to landowners to accelerate their successful transitions. Maximizing the benefits of well-managed rotational grazing lands takes knowledge and skill, and planning, so offering technical assistance peer-to-peer education and increasing demand for grass-based products are key to establishing and maintaining successful systems.
Continuous grazing and feedlot feeding are the most prevalent way of feeding livestock within the Rock River Basin. Continuously grazed pastures can cause manure and sediment-related runoff and have decreased forage yields. Feedlots also can have catastrophic runoff and utilize row crops as a feed source which also contributes to poor soil health, manure, and nutrient loss, and overall degraded water quality. The above-mentioned livestock feeding and farming methods result in high levels of soil erosion and loss of topsoil and impaired water quality from agriculture-related pollutants in ground and surface water.
Rotational grazing systems are an important component of regenerative agriculture that can improve ecosystem function and resilience and can be a cost-effective strategy for livestock farmers. Using a systems approach, rotational grazing integrates multiple agricultural principles to improve ecosystem function and resilience including improving soil health through maintaining perennial cover and minimizing soil disturbances, maximizing plant diversity, and providing high-quality habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Operations that keep cover on the ground year-round increase water infiltration and reduce runoff and the impacts of flooding.
Rotational grazing is a system where large pastures are divided into smaller paddocks allowing livestock to be moved from one paddock to another easily. Livestock graze through these paddocks of high-quality forage, then the forage rests and regrows for the next grazing cycle. Rotational grazing provides multiple benefits for farmers and the environment. These regenerative systems enhance farm profitability; minimize chemicals and inputs; improve soil health and water quality; increase sequestered carbon; decrease emissions of other greenhouse gases and provide healthful food for communities. Rotational grazing improves watersheds through the abundance of perennial grass cover. The vast root structure of grasses keeps soil from washing away, especially during heavy rainfall, and controls flooding. This reduction in soil loss helps prevent phosphorus from entering surface water within the Rock River Basin. These robust pastures also prevent nitrates from leaching into groundwater. Because it buffers heavy rainfalls, managed grazing also helps control flooding.
Grazing-based operations reduce feed, machinery, and veterinary costs while providing for people and caring for the land. Managed grazing is working profitably for many producers across the state; indeed, grass-based farms are an important strategy for introducing new farmers into livestock management because they can be low-capital operations that generate sufficient income. Managed grazing offers a relatively low-cost opportunity for new farmers to stay in or join rural communities, improving agriculture by diversifying the landscape, revitalizing rural communities and connecting them to eaters from cities and suburbs. Moreover, the profitability of these systems is more stable and resilient to price and weather shocks, making them an attractive, less risky farming operation.