Holistic grazing

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Introduction

Developed 40 years ago by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean biologist, game ranger, politician, farmer, and rancher, holistic grazing attempts to provide a framework which results in ecologically regenerative, economically viable and socially sound management of the world’s grasslands. Holistic grazing is based on the concept of raising domestic livestock in a way that mimics wild herds grazing patterns.
In holistic grazing systems, carbon is stored into the soil, not the atmosphere which reduces greenhouse gas effects.

Why Holistic Grazing

Primary literature suggests a wide range of benefits from holistic management.[1]

  • Enhanced profits and livelihoods
  • More productive rangeland or cropland
  • More biologically active soils
  • Removal of existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • Less new carbon dioxide production
  • Increased carrying capacity
  • Maximum benefit from rainfall
  • Reversal of desertification
  • Protection from drought
  • Improved wildlife habitat
  • Better food security
  • Improved economic viability for organics production
  • Clean water

Using Nature as a Template

Holistic management attempts to replicate patterns of nature. In the sense of grazing, frequent movement of cattle throughout the landscape is essential to prevent desertifiction, or the transition of healthy grasslands into deserts due to poor management techniques. Joel Salatin, a farmer from Virginia, implements holistic grazing and uses animal rotational techniques to improve soil quality and in the longterm, increase vitality of the native perennial grasses. At Polyface Farms, Salatin grazes 300 cattle on a quarter acre of land for one day, then moves them to the next quarter acre. Three days later, chickens graze that same quarter acre, spreading the cow manure and eating bugs and parasites. The chickens are followed by meat birds, or broilers, then turkeys. Each species plays a unique role in optimizing ecosystem services and regenerative agriculture. [2]

Holistic Management at Jacob Springs

Jacob Springs values the way nature was created to be self sufficient as we attempt to facilitate natural processes throughout our production. Utilizing holistic management techniques has shown us that it produces a better harvest for both meat and vegetables, cuts costs as no fertilizers or added composts are necessary, and creates a healthier ecosystem as carbon is stored in the soil and natural functions are facilitated. Some ways we implement holistic management:

  • Rotational grazing of cattle followed by broilers
  • Grazing pigs on vegetable fields post growing season to fertilize fields, aerate the land, and clear out weeds
  • Integrating chicken coop compost in the vegetable field - use of the Eggmobile