Science Library

The Science Library is packed with inspiring peer-reviewed science backing the multiple benefits of Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture.

Category: Livestock and Climate

The health and resilience of the 777 Buffalo Ranch is directly related to the abundance and diversity of its plant and animal species. On the ranch, plant diversity is increasing having many species of native cool and warm season grasses, flowering forbs, shrubs and trees. Deer, elk, antelope, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, badgers, prairie dogs, porcupines, ground squirrels and many other animals share the range with the bison as they have for thousands of years. The ranch is also home to a variety of birds and raptors such as golden and bald eagles, red tail hawks, ferruginous hawks, prairie falcons and many others. Rare grassland birds such as the Baird’s sparrow and Long- billed curlew are found in abundance.
This paper finds that adaptive management using multi-paddock grazing produced superior outcomes on vegetative cover and soil. In a comparison of four grazing schemes: light continuous (LC), heavy continuous (HC), multi-paddock with adaptive management (MP), ungrazed areas - exclusion (EX), the MP lots were better in almost every measure. Factors measured included soil organic matter (SOM), water infiltration rate, water volumetric percentage, cation exchange capacity, fungal/bacterial ratio, percent bare ground and standing biomass of desirable and undesirable plants.
This papers shows that soils under a grazing method called “simulated holistic planned grazing” (SHPG) have the highest percent volumetric-water content (%VWC) of soils tested under three different grazing methodologies that also included “rest-rotation” (RESTROT), and “total rest” (TREST). The values for volumetric-water content were 45.8%, 34.7%, and 29.8% for SHPG, RESTROT, and TREST respectfully.
Organic dairy farm, Dharma Lea, experienced economic, social and ecological benefits when making the switch from rotational grazing to Holistic Planned Grazing. Improvements over three years included a 120% increase in the number of grazing days per year, from 76 days to 167 days per year, which translates into an annual savings of $27,300; a drop in feed cost from 60% to 48% of the total cost of production; improved profitability with a gross margin of 41%; increased carrying capacity of the land, with a 68% increase in grass harvested by cattle on pasture; and more.
In this 2015 whitepaper by the Savory Institute, grasslands are discussed as an important carbon sink for addressing the climate crisis.
In this 2013 document, the Savory Institute has compiled various case studies, practitioner profiles, and relevant articles discussing Holistic Management in practice.
In this 2015 whitepaper, the Savory Institute details the various components of Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG), as well as the differences between HPG and other rotational grazing systems.
In this 2015 whitepaper, the Savory Institute discusses the importance of soils for sequestering carbon, and how properly-managed livestock through Holistic Planned Grazing can help regenerate grasslands and soils.
This chapter appears in a book about sustainable land management, the development of water buffers, and the business case in favor of investment in natural resource management. The financial payback, economic dividend, and social impact of investing in integrated landscapes – if done properly – are rewarding: sustainable land management and water buffers transforms lives by providing economic security. Holistic Planned Grazing increases the rainfall infiltration rate of soil and its ability to sequester carbon, such that a greater amount of rainfall enters and is held by soil, helping to prevent flooding and improve drought resilience.
This paper refutes recent research that finds no benefits for vegetation or animal production under “multi-paddock rotational grazing” in comparison to continuous grazing. It finds that these studies were small scale and fixed protocol experiments that did not adequately match the experience of successful managers. Four key factors in successful “multi-paddock rotational grazing” are identified: (1) Planned grazing and financial planning to reduce costs; (2) adjusting animal numbers or having a buffer area available so that animal numbers match forage availability in wet and dry years; (3) grazing grasses and forbs moderately and for short periods during the growing season to allow adequate recovery; and (4) Timing grazing to mitigate detrimental effects of defoliation at critical points in the grass plant life cycle.
Article on Holistic Management by US ranch-owner who has used approach on his property. Explains why some scientists mistakenly rejected approach. Circle Ranch is a 10,000-hectare property in West Texas, USA. The owner Chris Gill introduced holistic management techniques under guidance from Allan Savory. Results achieved include livestock numbers have increased by 400%, amount of forage taken has tripled, and substantial increase in profitability.
This dissertation asks what can be done to revitalise degraded rangelands, and suggests that Holistic Management can help practitioners and pastoralists re-apply indigenous knowledge and skills under modern conditions to re-establish a dynamism important to rangeland health. Holistic Management uses a simple decision-making framework, confirms the principles for optimal grazing, and gives insight into the effects of other tools used in rangeland management on the health of the ecosystem (e.g. the long-term disadvantages of fire-maintained rather than animal-maintained grasslands, the negative impacts on rangeland productivity by excluding grazers, and the tendency of perceived solutions such as bush clearing to treat the symptoms of land degradation rather than the underlying causes).
This paper contemplates the role of livestock and livestock management in providing helpful ecosystem services, “re-greening the earth,” through a literature review considering both the well documented injurious and highly beneficial outcomes of ruminants on landscapes, such as promoting perennials on landscapes. It thus acknowledges that livestock can be both “stressors and benefactors,” at the onset and builds from there. It offers seven questions for which to frame the discussion of livestock management and research that can be seen through the lenses of “systems,” “place,” “time,” and “community.”
This paper investigates the grazing management assessment reports authored by university researchers David Briske and Jerry Holechek that were critical of methods they had attributed to Allan Savory. Criticisms of the Briske and Holechek assessments are provided from three sources: rancher, researcher and writer, Chris Gill, Texas A&M university researcher (and Briske colleague) Richard Teague, and Allan Savory himself. It is shown that the grazing trials assessed by Briske and Holechek - typically fixed time rotations - were not representative of methodologies advocated by Savory or employed by Holistic Management practitioners. It is shown that the Briske and Holechek mischaracterized Savory’s work and that, in fact, the types of trials they reviewed are precisely the type that Savory himself discourages. Missing from their review, as explained by Gill, Teague, and Savory, are management approaches that incorporate ecological goals, that use a proper schema for densities and timing, and are fully adaptive to allow for maximum plant recovery as needed.
This paper examines the origins of the “rotational grazing” debate in range management and suggests that discrepancies between scientific findings and manager experience can be rectified through a context of “complex adaptive systems” where social and biophysical factors are considered as well as experimental evidence. The paper mistakenly equates the work of Allan Savory with rotational grazing, and never refers to “multi-paddock rotational grazing” or “adaptive rotational grazing” to acknowledge the nuance of what Holistic Management (HM) is clearly about, even though those terms, which more closely define HM, were in wide use at the time this paper was written. It also fails to recognize that management for complexity in unique situations is precisely the point of “holistic” management as a “decision making framework” in the first place - clearly akin to the “complex adaptive system” approach the authors advocate for. Also, although mischaracterizing Savory and seemingly dismissing his work - while nonetheless borrowing and renaming the basic premise - the paper still recognizes the value of the Savory approach, for example, citing research which showed that it produced significant vegetative improvements in certain circumstances and proved helpful in managing for fires.
This report provides an overview of systems of production that reduce negative agricultural impacts on the use of soil, water, and biological resources; many highlighted approaches (e.g. maximizing crop residue, enhancing nutrient and water cycles, etc.) regenerate ecosystem resilience and ecosystem services. Planned grazing strategies recognize that it is not livestock per se but the choice of grazing management system and its suitability for the landscape, that leads to positive or negative effects. Holistic Management (HM), which uses timed controlled grazing to replicate the behaviour and effects of wild herds of ungulates in original ecosystems, particularly in semi-arid areas, is the best known grassland management system that uses livestock as a tool to enhance productivity and ecosystem function. HM has been used effectively on different continents to restore grassland ecosystems in the absence of increased rainfall or irrigation.
Much anecdotal evidence from producers suggests that, if applied appropriately, multi-paddock grazing can improve forage and livestock production. By contrast, recent reviews of published rangeland-based grazing systems studies have concluded that, in general, field trials show no superiority of vegetation or animal production in multi-paddock grazing relative to continuous yearlong stocking of single-paddock livestock production systems. Perceptions differ among rangeland managers who have effectively used multi-paddock grazing systems and the research scientists who have studied them.