Managing the complexities of land & livestock

What is Holistic Management?

Holistic Management gives us the power to regenerate grasslands from an ecological, economic, and social perspective, and while regenerating Earth’s desertifying global grasslands is our mission here at the Savory Institute, Holistic Management is so much more than just grazing.

Holistic Management is about managing complexity.

The natural world is comprised of beautifully- and infinitely-complex adaptive living systems––land, animals, people, plants, fungi, and more all interconnected and in relationship––and the way we manage decisions amidst complex living systems matters. In this modern, industrial era, we have all been taught from an early age to reduce a problem down to its simplest components. This works for machines and other “complicated” systems whose individual parts can be fully defined, but when biology enters the picture, so too must humility and a shift from “control” to “cooperation.”

Holistic Management provides a framework for decision-making – rooted in the fundamentals of ecosystem processes – and with a suite of planning procedures that include planned grazing, land planning, financial planning, and ecological monitoring.

All together, Holistic Management equips us to understand the “whole” we are managing (not controlling) and make decisions that bring forth abundant outcomes, regenerating life for all involved.

Schematic of Holistic Management's components

By The Numbers

Hectares of Land Managed Holistically
Land Managers Trained
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How to Green the World's Deserts & Reverse Climate Change

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. 

Savory has devoted his life to stopping desertification, and with it the mindset that causes it.

Holistic Planned Grazing

Holistic Planned Grazing––one of the planning procedures of Holistic Management––is the practice of charting grazing moves that consider the time that a plant is exposed to a grazing animal so that the plant’s recovery is planned.

Holistic Planned Grazing accounts for the needs of land, plants, animals, and people.

The process aims to strategically mimic Nature and it is built on thorough planning and constant monitoring and re-planning.

Ecological, environmental, and human factors that influence the grazing plan are charted.

This facilitates healthy eco-system processes: water cycles, mineral cycle, community dynamics, and energy flow.

Moisture and minerals are carried down into the soil by dung beetles and other organisms.

As the herd grazes according to the plan, dung, urine, and old plant matter are trampled into the ground.

This provides a clear picture of where livestock need to be and when, and this determines how the manager plans their moves.



Allan Savory initially developed Holistic Management to halt the spread of desertification and the human impoverishment that always resulted. 

Livestock had long been blamed for creating deserts, but Savory realized it was how those livestock were managed that was the problem, and it was the management that had to change.

Savory developed a method for planning livestock grazing that enabled pastoralists to simulate the effects wild herds once produced on the land, and the results were dramatic. But more than grazing planning had to change in order to transform whole landscapes and keep them healthy. Holistic Management arose from that insight.

Savory developed a new framework for management that enables people to make decisions that satisfy immediate needs without jeopardizing their future well-being or that of others.

Although rooted in a quest to stop the spread of deserts, Holistic Management and its underlying framework, can also be used to better manage any situation that involves a web of social, economic, and environmental complexity.

Mexico-before Mexico-after (2)

Global Holistic Management Stories

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Learn Holistic Management

Online Courses

Take any of our five self-paced online courses to gain a solid understanding of the foundations of Holistic Management. This includes ecosystem processes, key insights, and decision-making.

For grazing or any of the other planning procedures, explore the other options below.

Engage a Savory Hub

Savory Hubs are accredited to teach the full curriculum of Holistic Management, plus they’re experts on how to apply it in a localized context. 

For the best learning experience, we recommend engaging your local Savory Hub to see what training or consulting offerings are currently available.

Textbook & Handbook

Read the textbook for an understanding of the “why” behind Holistic Management, then dive into the handbook for the “how” with charts, worksheets, and more.