I don't know much about horses. I rode one once. Never owned one. Never had a friend who owned one. Don't even know if I really like horses.
But here's the thing. I work at, and own part of a big conventional corn and soybean farm. 1400 acres, spray, GMO's, and all that lovely stuff. On my homestead, in stark contrast, no poisons are used and I strive for a regenerative, beyond organic approach with my livestock, so naturally I don't want to put my own animals out on the land at the conventional farm. I'm looking for other avenues such as working with livestock people using more conventional or "natural" methods and setting up custom grazing on the large farm to begin to integrate animals.
If I get my own larger chunk of land what I'd really like to do is take a conventional field and profitably restore it's ecological functions, ideally even treating contaminated runoff from neighboring fields. I could and probably will take the custom grazing/ finishing approach I mentioned above but ethically I still have a bit of a problem with this especially when dealing with contaminated runoff areas. Part of me says, "not my animals, not for my customers, not my problem" and they'd probably end up better quality than CAFO animals anyway. Would horses, that no one is going to eat be a better option in at least some cases to use for the restoration of agricultural land?
I don't know the facts but it seems like there could be a large problem with unwanted horses in the US especially with restrictions against using them for things that they might frequently be used for in other parts of the world when a horse gets too old to do whatever horses do.
Hope I haven't offended any horse lovers here, if you are one please share your thoughts. I'm looking for any way I can to take land away from the corn and bean machine to better care for people and planet.
I like horses myself. I have seen them as a destructive force when not properly managed, but properly managed they're a lovely animal to have around. I think this conversation has been had before. I think I saw a thread about horses in permaculture. Geoff Lawton also has a video "high dry and arid" where the people use horses on their homestead. So horses are perfectly lovely. If you feel better about using horses then by all means, enjoy!
Also, I ate horse in Japan once. They eat them when they get old. It wasn't particularly tasty. Perhaps if I was starving..... Being an American I don't think horse is appetizing enough to become part of the menu.
Honestly, if you're not going to be using the horses for anything other than grazing, you will be investing way more than you will ever get out. I've owned horses, worked in and around the horse industry for 20+ years, and it is very *very* difficult to end up net positive. They are costly animals to upkeep, even pastured, with sensitive biology that makes it hard to care for them well without years dedicated learning how to do so.
I wonder if something like fiber animals (sheep, cashmere goats, llamas, alpacas) would be more appropriate, if you are looking for a grazer that will still produce something other than meat for you? Though there is plenty to learn about them, too, in my experience the ongoing expenses are less and the learning curve a little more forgiving.
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