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Time for a One-Eighty on Cows and Climate – Part 5

Monday, March 18, 2024 11:43 AM

Time for a One-Eighty on Cows and Climate – Part 5
APRIL 29, 2014
Photo by Shyam on 

Positive Contributions

So far, none of the negative misconceptions about cows have survived scrutiny. What about the positive contributions your cow can make? Whole books have been written about the special contributions of cows to humans, from the beginning of civilization. And it is now increasingly accepted that a key contribution of cows is that they thrive best grazing on grass. This turns out to be important not just to cows but also to the planet. 

Grass, the world’s most widespread crop, is truly amazing. All plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and incorporate it into their structures, but most plants, if bitten off regenerate slowly or not at all. Loss of growing leaves is a severe setback. Trees sequester a lot of carbon in their leaves and trunks, but when the tree dies that carbon will mostly be released back into the atmosphere, more quickly in case of fire. 

The growth nodes of grass are at the soil surface. When grass is eaten it is a signal to the plant to send up new leaf growth, resulting in denser turf. The more it is eaten, the faster it grows and the more carbon it captures and stores underground in its roots. As grass is trampled by grazing animals it is pushed underground along with manure and urine where it decomposes and its carbon feeds soil microbes. This property of grass is entirely dependent on the presence of herbivores. Without the nibbling, trampling and fertilization of herbivores, grass fails to function as this massive carbon sink. Grass without grazers dies above ground and loses its carbon back into the air.

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