Monday, July 22, 2019

It's a Balancing Act

We have a couple of ponds on our place that were built to catch water for the cattle.  They were already there when we bought the place.  One was dug much more recent than the other.  The photo of what I believe to be a juvenile Snowy Egret was taken at what we call the Old Pond.  It is surrounded by much more growth of tall grasses and a few trees than the New Pond.

Note how muddy the water appears to be.  This is because the cattle like to wade down into it to cool off.

We provide separate sources of cool clean water for the cattle in water troughs hooked to the county water supply.  We believe it is important for the cattle to have access to clean water at all times, although their nature is such that they will drink muddy water.  Their digestive system is designed to handle it.  The problem is that they can pick up diseases from the water -- either parasitic or, bacterial -- because feral hogs and other wildlife also will drink from those same water sources.

This particular pond is surrounded by many acres of grassland which provides a good filter for most of the water running into it.  It is filled with frogs, turtles and fish.  One thing the cattle do is to eat many of the plants that would choke the pond.  They wade along the edge eating the succulent water weeds which tend to spread across the surface.  As you can see from the photo, though, there is still plenty of healthy plant growth along the edge which is critical to wildlife.  It provides shelter as well as a filter for things that might wash into the pond during a rain.

We love to see the wildlife on our small place.  I think most people in agriculture do too.  Grazing animals are part of a balanced ecosystem.  They harvest the grasses and convert them to protein.  Without them, the danger of fire would be high when those grasses dry each season and become highly combustible fuel.  Grazing animals also help to maintain open spaces in areas that would otherwise become forest.  Those open spaces are critical to wildlife.  They provide diversity in plant species as well as create "edge" along the margins which is where wild animals are often found.

Most people don't realize that the environment around us is a system that needs balance.  We can't "preserve" the environment -- we can only work with it.  It fluctuates seasonally and annually in the natural processes that swing pendulum-like in a continual movement toward that balance.  The presence of the Egret in our pond is gratifying because it is an indicator that there is health in the land that can support such creatures.  That health is a part of sustainability.  It is only one aspect, but it is a positive indicator.

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