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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2018

  • Title: The Cow-Caddisfly-Coexistence Conundrum: How to Expand Pastured Livestock Production and Protect Water Quality
  • Primary Author: Betsy Colburn (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    “The consumer-driven shift toward fresher, cleaner foods isn’t a fad. It is a movement that is here to stay” (Fortune, November 2016). New England producers and restaurants collaborate to provide “farm-to-table” and “healthy” eating; small farms, farmers markets, and CSAs are increasing; supermarkets stock more organic produce; and the demand for grass-fed meats exceeds the supply. Projections for grass-fed livestock production range widely; the most optimistic suggest that New England can achieve regional self-sufficiency by 2060 in production of animal-based foods including beef, dairy, lamb, pork, poultry, and eggs. In theory, this would involve pastured livestock, not confined feeding operations, with beef, dairy, and sheep raised on grass with minimal grain supplements, and with poultry and swine mostly fed imported grains supplemented minimally with pasture. At the extreme, calculations project doubling of pasture acreage and tripling of livestock by 2060 as compared to 1945. On average, projected animal units per acre could be nearly double recommended best practices for nitrogen loadings, and inputs of phosphate, already in excess for many lakes and streams and increasingly implicated in toxic algal blooms, will also increase. Farmers, policy-makers, regulators, consumer advocates, and environmental biologists need to work together to develop new guidelines and standard practices to ensure that New England will become more self-sufficient in food production without degrading coastal and inland water quality.

  • Research Category: Watershed Ecology