What you eat, and how it is produced, influences the climate. The Spier Mob Grazing project is remarkable in sequestering 154 tons of CO2 per hectare in the soil over 14 years even once the cattle’s enteric fermentation emissions have been deducted. This represents a form of carbon capture and storage (CCS) that enhanced drought resilience, land fertility and biodiversity.
Since April 2009 Angus McIntosh has managed a portion of the famous Spier farm comprising 154 hectares of irrigated pasture and some vineyards. On this land regenerative agriculture is practised, with an emphasis on high-density “mob-grazing” and enhancing soil quality. This technique involves frequent stock rotations (cattle are moved up to 6 times a day) aimed at “using livestock to mimic nature” (and particularly the way grazing game animals cluster together for protection from predators) and restoring carbon and nitrogen contained in livestock and poultry urine to soils depleted over many years of intensive agriculture.
The project’s pasture management is based on the high density grazing methodology developed in the 1980s and espoused by Andre Voison, Allan Savory and Ian Mitchell-Innes. The presence of many animals crammed into a small space for a short period of time sees manure and urine deposits on the land trampled into the soil. This leads to healthy, vigorous pasture growth achieved without applying any fertiliser to the land. Cattle are moved between four and six times per day, laying hens, accommodated in Farmer Angus’s “Egg-mobiles”, are moved every day.
The project supplies wine, chicken, beef and eggs to retail outlets and restaurants in the region, displacing the supply of industrially produced animal protein to these markets. The climate change impacts of industrial cattle (in particular) and poultry farming are well-documented. The extent of natural ecosystems destroyed to create feed and pasture for cattle is greater than that for all other domestic animals and crops combined and cattle methane from cattle is a source of greenhouse gases. In this project no grains are farmed to provide animal feed, and instead cattle rely on pastures that have been regenerated from land once stripped of its topsoil.
No inorganic fertilisers, pesticides or glyphosates are used in this project and the farm has planted over 36,000 indigenous trees as shelter-belts and to attract biodiversity back to the land. In the 14 years since Angus started farming the land under his stewardship has become a refuge for insects, birds, rodents and rooikats.
Soil analyses conducted by Brookeside Laboratories in Ohio confirm a significant and rapid enhancement of soil organic carbon (SOC) on the land.
The farming operation employs 35 people, three of whom act as continual herdsmen to the cattle.
Savings are the result of the tCO2 sequestered in the form of soil organic carbon – a Scope 1 emissions saving. The Scope 3 savings relating to the obviated need to produce and import grain as a feedstock has not been included in estimates .
A documentary, Kiss the Ground, explains the benefits of regenerative farming and the extraordinary scale of the the amount of carbon dioxide our soil and vegetation can draw down from the atmosphere and store underground. The movie is now available on Netflix.
In line with Credible Carbon requirements, 50% of the income generated by the sale of carbon credits is paid directly to the project’s employees. The impact of this revenue on employee well-being and poverty alleviation will be subjected to subsequent audits. Here is a short piece on a Spier Mob Grazing staff member, Tambo.
And here is an interview with Farmer Angus done in early 2021: Stellenbosch farm reduces greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by storing CO2 in the soil
Spier Mob Grazing audit for September 2020 to May 2023: 23017 – Spier Mob Grazing and Rewilding audit
Spier Mob Grazing audit for September 2011 to May 2020: 20036 – Spier Mob Grazing audit report FINAL
Spier Mob Grazing audit for September 2011 to March 2017, click here
Spier Mob Grazing audit for September 2011 to Jan 2013, click here