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Chronic vs Acute Stress and the Relation to Farming

written by

Joshua Harris

posted on

November 24, 2022

Chronic vs Acute Stress

Stress is a part of life. It in unavoidable and understanding the different types as well as how to take advantage of stress can be a game-changer for you. Stress in this instance can be defined as a condition or circumstance that produces strain or tension and causes adverse effects.

We often hear that we need to live stress-free or that the avoidance of stress is the ideal methods or way of life. While it can seem like the idea of a vacation from the realities of life would be a good way to live, it is completely unrealistic. There are always challenges and adversities that we are going to face regardless of your status in our society. It will just be different situations that produce those stresses. That is why it is important to understand the difference in chronic stress and acute stress.

Chronic stress is a continuous state. It's a slow burn. Day after day of the same stress over and over. This is the type that is debilitating and creates the 'burn-out' effect we so often hear about. It may not seem like a 'rough' day or can be approached with the mindset of that it is a small price and overall won't have a big effect. But that small effect gets compounded every day due to constant exposure. It creates an effect of 'interest' much like in the financial world. You are constantly building interest in the bank account of stress. This is debilitating because it is not sustainable, it is a process that builds upon the values that don't help us grow. Where can you see this in life? Constant pressure at work, lack of consistent sleep, poor nutritional choices, or constant physical demands.

Acute stress is short-term. It is an event rather than a lifestyle. One acute stress will not break you but if it is repeated then it in essence becomes a chronic stress. The acute stress can be beneficial. Think of it in terms of a workout: we have a short exposure to stress (the exercises) and we follow it with a period of rest and recovery. That is the biggest difference. Acute stress is often followed by rest and recovery. Because of that period of rest it allows us to grow and become a better, improved version solely because we experienced that period of acute stress.

How does that relate to the farm?

You may think that chronic and acute stresses don't come into play on the farm. But if we want to create a model that is healthy and sustainable we must address these issues just as we would our own health. Chronic stresses to your land, animals, and yourself will not create the healthy soil, pastures, animals, or people that we need.

So what does it look like?

One way we take advantage is by introducing acute stresses followed by rest. This is extremely evident in the management of grazing. Our methods of rotational grazing hit exactly on this concept. We bunch the animals in a smaller paddock within the larger pasture, they in-turn graze the tops of the grass and trample down the excess. Their impact puts an acute stress on that paddock and the soil. The key is creating that acute stress and then providing the rest for the paddock. So we must move! This mimics the natural processes that were in place way before our conventional methods of farming came around. Seems like God knew what he was doing in creating the processes of our natural systems.

This stress and move allows for the cattle to have fresh grass almost year-round! You ever seen ruminants feed on hay in the wild? Us either. Not to say we don't supplement with hay but the goal is to rotate throughout the winter as well. If we leave in one area and feed hay for multiple weeks we are still creating a chronic stress on that area and hampering it's ability and well as not providing the best nutrients for our animals.

What happens when we don't move on?

Not moving produces the chronic stresses that can be debilitating to an operation. It doesn't allow the grass the ability to recover, it creates compaction in the soil which can block the nutrient transfer, and it doesn't provide cattle with the nutrients they need to stay healthy and productive. Look at the feedlot system. Nothing but chronic stress on those animals as well as the environmental stresses it produces. Would you want to eat a sick animal? No, you want healthy animals! A sick system produces deficient products and a system that emphasizes chronic stresses is a sick system. It's not healthy and it is making us unhealthy in return.

Avoiding chronic stresses in our farm practices also provides folks with the food options that help them avoid nutritional chronic stress. One of our goals is to give you an option that is free of all the harmful chemicals found in our food supply. Pasture-raised meats are significantly more beneficial for your body than the mass-produced, confinement-raised, chemical-filled meats. The mentioned chemicals have this same effect of chronic stress. While one meal that contains all these harmful chemicals can be handled by the body and overcome, meals daily that are packed full of them will have the chronic effect on our bodies. We have to avoid the thought-process of "it's just one meal it won't be that bad" and then repeating that meal daily. It will slowly destroy our gut, mental capacities, promote diseases and create an unhealthy environment for long-term health.

By supporting local, responsible, sustainable farms you support health as a whole. It promotes healthy soils, healthy pastures, healthy animals, and most importantly HEALTHY PEOPLE.


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