Why farm mechanically when you can farm biologically?

We always try to opt for the biological solution where possible. This vignette, pertaining to management of our cover crop in the vineyards, illustrates the point I am trying to make.

A major problem for almost every wine farm at this time of the year is a weed called Ramnas, a type of wild radish. It outcompetes the cover crops and will eventually hinder the flow of air through the vineyard (increasing the risk of fungal diseases) and where it grows particularly well it grows higher than the cordon and interferes with vineyard growth.

 

All weeds are messengers and what ramnas indicates is leached nitrogen. Most artificial fertiliser leaches and ramnas has the ability with it’s long taproot to go and mine the nitrogen. We have ramnas because we are in conversion of our vineyards from conventional to organic and eventually biodynamic management. Spier was conventionally farmed for many, many years. Instead of listening to the messenger, my fellow wine farmers shoot it.

The standard solution to ramnas is to send the tractor in with a bossiekapper(a giant lawnmower). Usually twice a season. This achieves the following:

  1.  Compaction of your soil.
  2. The ramnas lies on the ground, and because there is no life in the soil because it is chemically farmed, it will take a very long to break down.
  3. Diesel cost.
  4. Tractor driver costs.
  5. The cover crop is also mown which removes the primary reason for having the cover crop in the first place, namely biomass in the vineyard.
  6. Maintenance costs for the tractor.

What we do is put 237 cattle into 1 hectare and move them twice a day.

There are none of the above mentioned expenses and more importantly there are the following benefits:

  1. The ramnas has been eaten and gone through the digestive system of the herbivore(not a grainivore) and is therefore bioavailable to the microbes in the soil.
  2. The cover crop has been eaten by a herbivore which has an enzyme in its spit that stimulates plant growth and so the recovery in the cover crop is tremendous.
  3. Cattle herdmen cost a lot less than tractor drivers.
  4. The electric fence that contains the cattle is solar powered and movable.
  5. An enormous amount of free, microbe friendly fertiliser has been deposited in the vineyard in the form of manure and urine.

PLEASE COMPARE THE TWO PHOTOS BELOW, ONE BEFORE THE CATTLE AND ONE AFTER.

 

Below is the after

The bullying tactics of the feedlot/grain fed beef industry.

Dear Reader

I have been threatened with legal action by SA Feedlot. They represent the grain fed beef industry. You can only feed cattle grain in a feedlot.

They know that on every conceivable metric grass fed beef beats grain fed beef. Whether it be nutritional value to the human eating it, the environmental impact, carbon sequestration versus contributing to global warming, treatment of the animals etc etc. So rather than engage on the subject and keep most beef eaters ignorant they resort to smothering tactics.

If you are interested please read their letter to me below and below that the measured response from my attorney.

I look forward to debating this with supporters of grain fed confinement cattle finishing.

Thank you.
Angus

SA feedlot letter to me 6 June 2012
VLCB response 15 June 2012

 

 

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