Why New Zealand Grass-fed Dairy is Better for the Soil
Explore the science behind why grass-fed dairy is better for the soil
16 Feb 2022
Not all dairy is created equal, different types of farming systems exist, ranging from highly intensive housed systems to low intensity pasture-based systems. However, all systems have one thing in common - they have an impact on the planet.
Soil health is not only critical to growing high quality pasture, but it also encourages biological activity, resists erosion and stores precious water. Grazed pastures have more organic matter and carbon content in the soil than cultivated fields, the soil has a better structure, increasing the amount of water and nutrients it can hold.
This way of farming can also support healthy underground populations of earthworms and microbes. They make the soil more efficient at cycling nutrients, ensuring nutrients necessary for life are available through the soil and the pasture. Nutrient cycling is essential as cows can’t access nutrients like carbon and nitrogen directly.
It’s not only what is under the ground that counts, but also what happens on top. New Zealand pastures increasingly have multiple plant species compared to housed systems which often rely on monoculture growth (where only one species of plant, like grain, is grown over a huge area to feed livestock). Some of these species are important in supporting pasture growth, for example, legumes like clover are excellent at capturing atmospheric nitrogen – a nutrient that helps all pasture species grow and provide protein in the cow’s diet. This natural nitrogen capture also has a further environmental benefit as it can help reduce the need for synthetic nitrogen fertiliser on pastures with good clover content.
Our cows spend their day grazing outside on pasture, and our pasture grows in nutrient rich soil, just as nature intended.