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By Amy Whitcomb on May 25, 2017

Livestock have a bad rap for being greenhouse gas emitters, though reports show that the emissions records are misleading. Livestock ranging on ranches can actually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Rotational grazing facilitates this: when animals are moved around fields to alternate grazing sites, plants have the chance to regrow. Part of their growth process, photosynthesis, captures carbon dioxide from the air and, in cahoots with soil microbes, stores it as carbon in the soil.

It’s not as though the animals are aware of this environmental benefit or care so much about air pollution. But the herd managers care in large part because they know that environment is one pillar in what’s been called the “triad of disease.”

Herd Health Rests on Three Pillars

The risk of disease for animals (and people) depends on three components: presence and virulence of a pathogen, immunity of an organism and suitability of the environment. Bret McNabb, associate professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Large Animal Clinic, has written, of cattle, “By keeping the environment clean, dry and with an appropriate concentration of animals, you can reduce the incidence of certain diseases.” One of his suggestions: “consider rotational grazing and even calving areas.”

Here’s how one UC Davis alumna and her sheep work their ranch to control disease risk, maintain a productive landscape and improve air quality. Don’t let the ample footage of little lambs distract you! They are just the cutest part of a One Health example that’s wholly enriching and widely applicable.


Amy Whitcomb is an editor on the web team in Strategic Communications.