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Why Rotational Grazing Works in Hawaii

May 12, 2017

Here at Kunoa, we practice a form of rotational grazing called holistic planned grazing. It’s part of an ecology-based system for raising cattle developed by the Savory Institute. This practice mimics the way wild herds of grazing animals have coevolved with the land for thousands of years. Using nature as our guide, we carefully plan our animal pastures throughout our 4,000 acres of grassland on Kauai and Oahu.

Our herds are a genetic rainbow of English, continental, and hot-weather breeds that have adapted to Hawaii micro-climates over many generations.

In order to keep the grasses healthy and nutritious, we let pastures rest and recuperate after a herd has foraged there. The manure the animals leave behind builds the soil, which feeds the plants that nourish the animals the next time they come around. The animals are happy, the land is happy.

Here are more of the benefits of rotational grazing in Hawaii:

It strengthens the environment.

While grasses are resting and regenerating, they’re also busy doing an important underground job: improving soil and root systems. Deeper roots and better quality soil mean the ground can absorb more rainwater, nutrients stay in the soil, and synthetic fertilizer isn’t needed. Healthy Hawaiian grasslands are also stealth climate-change fighters. The grasses use photosynthesis to draw carbon from the atmosphere, which feeds soil microbes through the roots. The microbes then stabilize the carbon into organic soil matter.

It promotes wildlife diversity.

Healthy pastures that are rotationally grazed have the chance to develop permanent and more diverse plants that can provide shelter and food for a variety of wildlife and insect species. We’re proud to say that we have nēnē on our property, one of the most endangered birds in the world.

It saves money and energy.

Here in Hawaii, we have beautiful weather and plentiful water so our cattle can graze naturally year round. The animals provide natural fertilization for the grasses, which means no money or energy spent on fertilizers. According to a report from the University of Hawaii, the number of livestock that can be sustained on a pasture can be doubled through rotational grazing. And ranchers who can double their grazing can double their income.

In addition to these benefits, carefully managed rotational grazing also helps us control weeds and keep animals healthier, eliminating the need for hormones or antibiotics.

Even more important, rotational grazing practices are helping Kunoa and other Hawaii ranchers use our rich land to produce more food locally and sustainably on the islands.