What is Holistic Management?

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Forty years ago, Allan Savory developed Holistic Management, as an approach to helps land managers, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, policymakers develop strategies for managing herds of domestic livestock.

It is based on a decision-making process that allows practitioners to mimic ancient wild herds in a manner that heals degraded soils, improves ecosystem function, and builds biodiversity in grasslands.

It was a key insight, that livestock must be managed as an integral part of the wider ecosystem, that has helped thousands of ranchers around the globe to restore their degraded soils using Holistic Management.

Making Decisions Within the Context of a Wider Ecosystem

For many years, large areas of grasslands around the world have been turning into barren deserts. This process, called desertification, is happening at an alarming rate and plays a critical role in many of the world’s most pressing problems, including climate change, drought, famine, poverty and social violence.

One major cause of desertification is mismanaged agriculture – or the production of food and fiber from the world’s land by human beings for human beings. In the past, large wild herds of grass-eating herbivores migrated and were pushed along by predators over the grasslands.

These herds grazed, defecated, stomped and salivated as they moved around, building soil and deepening plant roots.

Over time, the wild herds were largely replaced by small numbers of domestic, sedentary livestock and populations of predators were mostly destroyed. Without the constant activity of large numbers of cattle, the cycle of biological decay on the grasslands was interrupted and the once-rich soils turned into dry, exposed desert land.

Does Holistic Management Work?

Holistic Management has been successfully implemented on nearly 9 million hectares across nearly 10,000 trained managers. It is successful because it is a cost-effective, highly scalable, and a nature-based solution. It is sustainable because it increases land productivity, livestock stocking rates, and profits.

More than 10,000 people have been trained in Holistic Management and its associated land and grazing planning procedures and over 40 million acres are managed holistically worldwide.

The Savory institute trains land managers to use Holistic Management through our Hub Applications, online courses, and accredited professionals program. It is through the hub model that we can bring Holistic Management to a global scale.

It’s not just a change in technique. It’s about demonstrating measurable improvements on the land.

The Savory Institute has also developed the Land to Market Program as a way to implement results-based measurement on land that is under Holistic Management.

This measurement process, called Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV), is a toolkit for ranchers and farmers to document and measure real improvements in soil health, ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Improving Resource Management

Resource managers everywhere are challenged by declining land productivity, increasing costs of production, pressures from the global marketplace, onerous government regulations, extreme weather, changes in societal attitudes about land use, and a host of other concerns.

Most people who want to learn more about holistic management have already heard about the solid results people achieve: increased profits, stocking rates, and crop yields, and the return of springs and creeks along with increased production of many perennial grasses, much more wildlife, and improved quality of life.

Holistic management will help you assess your situation and manage it from a holistic perspective. By understanding how nature functions and managing your resources to enhance symbiotic relationships, everyone wins. 

You are not simply a land manager, but a land steward. And, when you consciously address your social and economic needs in the process, you will have a greater ability to sustain the progress you have made on the land. 

Healthy environments support a variety of different living things, from the tiniest soil organisms, to the plants that grow above the soil surface, to the animals that harvest them and cycle the nutrients back into the soil. This biodiversity brings strength and balance to an environment. If you do a good job managing your land resources, you build and sustain diverse populations of living things and enhance the environment that sustains us all. 

Holistic management, simply put, helps us make better, more informed decisions that balance social, environmental, and financial considerations, while leading us in the direction we want our lives to take. 

Holistic Planned Grazing: Getting animals to the right place, at the right time, with the right behavior

Holistic Planned Grazing is a key practice for managing livestock under Holistic Management. It enables you to plan livestock moves and a host of other factors that will prove key to your success —financially, environmentally and socially.

The grazing planning procedure enables any farmer, rancher, or pastoralist to produce the best possible plan at any time by adding value to the knowledge he or she invariably has already in his or her head.

It is an extremely effective way of addressing the full complexity involved when managing soil, plants, animals, and integrating the animals with any other activities on that land. 

Most people cannot deal with more than a few variables at once and none can plan the complexity involved in managing livestock to regenerate grasslands and livelihoods using only their memory, a notebook, or calendar.

Every possible consideration is addressed one by one in the steps and recorded on a grazing chart until a clear picture emerges of where the animals should and should not be at certain times.

The moves of the animals are then plotted, to ensure that animals are where they need to be at the right time, and with the right behavior (based on what you are trying to achieve).

Suggested Viewing

More Resources

Free eBook: Foundations of Holistic Management »

Holistic Management Textbook »

Holistic Management Courses Online »

Apply to be a Savory Hub »

Accredited Professional Training »

Holistic Planned Grazing »

What is Desertification? »

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