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The Hooves Have It

  • Linda Platts
  • ©USDA NRCS Montana

    The sight of 600 cattle crammed onto an acre of ground might cause even a certified urbanite to wonder about the quality of land management. But according to Land Renewal, Inc. of Albuquerque this is actually a healing process for lands that have been severely disturbed by the likes of mining, construction, and fire.

    Reclaiming disturbed landscapes is this company’s job, and it has found that many hooves work better and cost less than the shaping, seeding, and watering process that has been widely used by mining companies. Because tailings piles lack nutrients and often form hard, impervious surfaces, they rarely support new vegetation.

    Land Renewal enriches the soil first with green waste such as grass clippings and then introduces cattle, allowing them to feed for one day on twice the amount of food they normally consume. The pounding of many hooves breaks up the hard surface and begins to incorporate the green matter as well as the excess feed into the nutrient-poor soil.

    While capping, the traditional reclamation process, can cost as much as $7,000 an acre, Land Renewal’s high impact cattle approach costs just $1,500 an acre. It requires some ongoing maintenance, but the results are long-lasting compared with the short-term success of seeding barren soil.

    According to Shannon Horst, a principal with the company, the firm did $150,000 worth of business in its first year and expects to do $1 million in its second year. It is planning projects at 10 reclamation sites in three countries and is in the process of opening subsidiary offices in South Africa and Australia.

    Albuquerque Journal
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