Tall Grass Carbon Capture

In recent years I’ve come to appreciate the value of grazing chickens and turkeys on taller grass.  My old thinking was that shorter grass would be more digestible and more accessible to the birds.  But now I prefer more mature pastures.

With our chicken shelters, we find that the rubber conveyor belt flaps on the leading edge are sufficient to knock down tall grass and to lay it out as a nice mat underfoot for the chickens as we move the shelters.  All that lignified, high-carbon grass acts as great bedding for the chickens, and they still spend plenty of time eating the tender leaf tips that are now right at ground level.  Interestingly, these taller pastures recover more quickly than shorter pastures.

The turkeys grow big enough that they bulldoze their way through the pastures, matting things down naturally.  Since turkeys are better grazers than chickens, they carefully select leaves from all parts of the plants in their pasture.  They appear to especially enjoy the mix of red clover, milkweed, and burdock that thrive in these pastures.

This grass was over three feet tall, but once knocked down it provides a soft, cozy bedding for these young chickens just brought out onto pasture.
This grass was over three feet tall, but once knocked down it provides a soft, cozy bedding for these young chickens just brought out onto pasture.

For the United States this way of raising chickens and turkeys is unusual and rare, but we’re really tapping into something that is as old as the world’s grasslands, where small animals and bigger, heavier herbivores (cattle in our case) periodically eat and trample their way across carbon-rich tall grasses, leaving a mat of flattened grass and manure.  Because of the foot traffic pressing the grass into contact with the dirt and helped by the biological inoculation of the manure, this mat is quickly incorporated into the topsoil, increasing the soil organic matter (carbon sequestration) and providing an ever-deepening layer of topsoil capable of growing more greenery.

The turkeys have no problem moving through knee high pastures.  It does slow us down as we set up the temporary fences, but the birds just crash their way through the grass.
The turkeys have no problem moving through knee high pastures. It does slow us down as we set up the temporary fences, but the birds just crash their way through the grass.

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