By William A. Albrecht
This is an excerpt from Paul’s book Soil Fertility and Animal Health, published by Acres U.S.A.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
The quality of the bones determines the quality of the horse. The bones depend on breeding and the quality of the feed. The quality of the feed, in turn, depends on the efficiency with which the plant factory uses air, rainfall, and sunshine to bring bone-making minerals along with others from the soil into the vegetative bulk—all to be combined into essential and complex compounds that render effective service to the animal physiology. Thus we feed out horses and other animals accordingly as we provide fertile soils. It can be said, in truth, that good horses require good soil.
It would be presumptive to define “good horses”. It might not be excessively presumptive to define the term “good soil”, now that we are beginning to conserve it after recognizing that it isn’t as good as it was not so many years ago. We are beginning to appreciate our changing soils as they reflect their declining fertility by an increase among animals of nutritional deficiencies commonly cataloged as diseases. Being well-fed and being healthy go together for horses as well as for humans. In case of ailing animals, we may well give emphasis to feed quality for disease prevention rather than go to the veterinarian for cure. More and more men interested particularly in the heavy consumers of forages, namely horses, cattle, and sheep, are in agreement with Mr. Murray, the octogenarian Hereford breeder of Missouri, when he said, “They aren’t doing on this land what they did here 50 years ago.” These declines are reflected more boldly in the delicately adjusted body functions—particularly reproduction—that have been going lower and lower while we have been streamlining our animals for delivery of more speed, more milk, more young and a greater output of other animal services on rations consisting more and more largely of forages both green and dry. Even if we are unable to define a really good soil, we do know that our soils must be made better in fertility if forage is to take the larger share in animal rations.
Deception in Forages Where Tonnage Obscures Composition
Forages my be more deceptive feeds than grains, though both may be of low efficiency. Chemical analyses of grains do not vary widely, yet the same grains are not necessarily of equally effective feeding value. Forages are subject to wider variations. The survival of the plant species in nature has been dependent on a seed composition sufficient to guarantee the plants. With constant seed composition, more fertility in the soil means more seed. Thus seed harvests have been approximate measures of the plant nutrients delivered by the soil.
When a plant can make much forage yet deliver no seed, the wide fluctuation in chemical composition of the vegetation should become evident. Grass crops that are measured in terms of tons of forage in place of seed yield per acre may be growing on soils too poor to make seed, yet we accept their forage without suspecting defective composition and poor feeding quality. Such soils have mainly a site value and serve largely as plant anchorage. It is this soil property that makes forages deceptive as feeds.
To keep learning about the relationship between soil fertility and animal and human health, find William A. Albrecht’s book Soil Fertility and Animal Health at the Acres U.S.A. Bookstore.
About the Author
Dr. William A. Albrecht, the author of these papers, was chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, where he had been a member of the staff for 43 years. He held four degrees from the University of Illinois. During a vivid and crowded career, he traveled widely and studied soils in the United States, Great Britain, on the European continent, and in Australia. Born on a farm in central Illinois in an area of highly fertile soil typical of the cornbelt and educated in his native state, Dr. Albrecht grew up with an intense interest in the soil and all things agricultural. Both as a writer and speaker, Dr. Albrecht served tirelessly as an interpreter of scientific truth to inquiring minds and persistently stressed the basic importance of understanding and working with nature by applying the natural method to all farming, crop production, livestock raising and soil improvement. He always had a specific focus on the effect of soil characteristics upon the mineral composition of plants and the effect of the mineral composition of plants on animal nutrition and subsequent human health. Respected and recognized by scientists and agricultural leaders from around the world, Dr. Albrecht retired in 1959 and passed from the scene in May 1974 as his 86th birthday approached.