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Grateful Graze farm in Cambridge brings livestock back to the land

CAMBRIDGE, Illinois -- A very wet spring and a very dry summer has made this a difficult year for corn and soybean farmers. A farmer in Cambridge, Illinois says he is developing a way to improve soil health and help reduce carbon emissions at the same time.

Monte Bottens could be seen digging into the soil on Monday for some fresh and delicious radishes. As tasty as they might be, they really aren't for people to eat. It's part of a high-diversity cover crop mix for cattle to graze on including turnips, sorghum, and even kale.

"I always say our cows eat kale so we don’t have to," said Bottens. "But one of the benefits of giving these cows a diverse cover crop mix like this is that we never have to give them an antibiotic shot, we never have to immunize them, we never have to give them hormones to grow," he said.

Bottens' neighbor owns the field that is currently home to a mix of British White and Angus cattle. The field wasn't suitable for corn or soybeans this year because of the wet spring, so instead of leaving it to the weeds, the farmers decided to use it as part of a pilot program to graze cattle on cover crops.

"So what we’ve found is that good practices such as no till and cover crops do some great things for the soil," said Bottens. "But when you add livestock back to the land on top of that, it makes all those benefits two to three times greater than just no tilling and cover crops alone," he said.

Bottens said that if more farmers around the country would start to adopt his practices, it could actually help combat climate change.

"Because what we’re doing is we’re taking animals out of feed lots which has been shown to be one of the greatest contributors to climate change," he said. "And putting them on pasture, which is actually one of the greatest solutions to climate change," said Bottens.

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