I recently read a book by Gene Logsdon titled 'All Flesh Is Grass'.
I like Logsdon because he not only calls himself the Contrary Farmer but also writes about combining old and new in ways most conventional farmers hate. He isn’t espousing some miracle new methodology/ideology of his invention but simply talking about rethinking the way things are done.
He talks about the inevitable rise in fossil fuel costs and his and others attempts to achieve animal production without the use of fossil fuel powered equipment. The method is grass farming, which in a nutshell is rotational grazing to slaughter weight of animals on a number of small plots for quick, uniform grazing of the pasture before moving on to the next plot; allowing the first to recover.
While this may not seem radical, it is certainly different from the current model where calves are raised with the cow to weaning at around 400 pounds then shipped some distance to either a stocker ranch where they are grazed to a higher weight before another shipment to a feedlot or shipped direct to the lot to be feed grain (mostly shipped-in corn) before another shipment to the packer.
He says that the best lands; i.e., the current row-crop lands are best suited to grass farming and will be utilized that way as fuel prices increase. The eventual goal would be year-round grazing with no tillage, no imported grain and even no harvesting of fodder for winter-feed. I don’t see this as practical for me — at least currently, but it has encouraged me sufficiently to continue.
Of course since I am attempting to do exactly what he has been (I wish I had read the book sooner) I agree with his analysis of the current feedlot system and the advantages of using what my neighbor calls 4-legged combines. My land is tillable for the most part but certainly to prime corn and bean land and though this is my first year and very dry for this area, I am having some success — which isn’t to be confused with hauling in huge sums of money, simply that my few steers are gaining enough that I will try to double the amount I’m carrying next year.
He never mentions PO directly but I’d be surprised if he hasn’t read up on the subject. I thought it interesting that article 599 in Sept. ASPO newsletter advocated a similar approach and pointed out that in addition to the fuel cost in numerous shipment of the animals themselves and the energy cost of growing, drying, storage and shipment of grain, it is a foregone conclusion more and more crops will go toward producing transport fuel. All the arguments of ethanol’s EROEI, net energy gain and all the rest aside; the conversion of crops to fuels is happening today and will continue into the foreseeable future.
Some ideas I gleaned from the book (and will put into practice ASAP) are strip grazing frost-seeded cereal grains and no-tilled corn, various crop rotations and pasture improvements, and some ideas for direct marketing of grass-fed beef.
He even talks about 'Grass Gardening' on tiny suburban plots.