Book review: Hoofprints on the Land

How Traditional Herding and Grazing can Restore the Soil and bring Animal Agriculture back in Balance with the Earth
By Ilse Köhler-Rollefson


When we think of livestock farming, we automatically think of cows. But animal husbandry goes much further. Not only sheep and goats belong to this branch of agriculture, but camels, yaks and water buffaloes are also kept and herded. In “Headprints on the Land”, author Ilse Köhler-Rollefson tells us about the ancient bond between humans and animals, and how this bond can be used to restore our soils.

Livestock farming is often identified as one of the drivers of climate change. At the same time, farm animals can help restore soil and thus absorb some of the climate change.  However, animals are not going to do that in stalls and pens, but rather when allowed to roam freely. Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, who has lived in India for more than 30 years and studied the Raika camel herders there, takes us around the world through examples of pastoralism. In these examples lie possible solutions for restoring our (agricultural) soils, cooling the climate, producing food for a growing world population and balanced nutrients for a healthier life. The author’s passion for the subject is evident throughout, as she meticulously portrays the lives and struggles of these herding communities, often overlooked by modern society.

Through her storytelling, Köhler-Rollefson, takes us to the vast landscapes and traditional lifestyles that pastoralist communities have preserved for generations. As we follow the author’s encounters with these herders, we gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they face in the modern world, such as climate change, cultural erosion, and pressure from contemporary agricultural practices.

Moreover, “Hoofprints on the Land” doesn’t just remain a tale of the past but also explores the relevance of traditional herding practices in the present and the potential they hold for a sustainable future. Köhler-Rollefson thoughtfully delves into the importance of preserving indigenous knowledge, and she highlights the potential contributions of pastoral communities to environmental conservation and biodiversity protection.

Of course, not every problem can be solved by roaming herds of animals. Arable farms should not suddenly start investing in a herd of beef cows. What can is if different types of farms work more closely together, where beef cattle farmers graze their animals on arable farmers’ green manures, as the Raika camel herders do with other farmers in their area. Closer cooperation could be part of the solution.


Hoofprints on the Land

How Traditional Herding and Grazing can Restore the Soil and bring Animal Agriculture back in Balance with the Earth
By Ilse Köhler-Rollefson


Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback, audiobook & digital format, 288 pages

ISBN: 1645021521


Buy the book (Amazon) –










This article was published in Women in Ag Mag 2023-002. Click here to read the magazine


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