"Improving Our Lot" - Planned Holistic Grazing, for starters..

Gave that a little more thought, and I know who you mean now!
The "Succession" guy.

Found this little pearl too -http://blog.ranchmanagement.com/the-3-secrets-for-increasing-profit/ and strangely enough it doesn't tell us "which beef breed" or "what pickup" is going to help us succeed :whistle::hilarious::hilarious:

Any links to your blog, Will?

Savorys original book was Holistic Resource Management

https://www.facebook.com/people/John-King/100001494371716 - I've never met him

http://willoutwest.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/holistic-management.html - while ago now

And some good reading for those who like it (who I enjoyed)

Greg Judy - Comeback Farms
Paul Syltie - How Soils Work (got a copy for free here if someone wants it)
Grass Fed Cattle - Ruechel
Dan Dagget - Gardenders of Eden
Jim Howell - For the love of the land
Walt Davis - How not to go broke ranching
Bill Murphy - Greener Pastures - On your side of the fence

But at the end of the day I'm not a grazer I'm a cropper because thats my instinct at the moment. Can't make grazing pay with the lifestyle I want (and need at the moment - have my children every other weekend, fixed costs of farm equipment, TB, even little things like fencing posts are crap nowadays make it expensive etc.). I have toyed with packing up with no till to go to a next stage of sustainability using animals and planned high input grazing but not sure I want it enough at the moment - but again that's part of my plan

Interesting stuff HM though so I like talking about it. I'd love to do a refresher course

@Farmer Roy - Something I've always wondered about Oz. What do you think the Australian landscape would have looked like now if Aborigines hadn't arrived?

And Roy please discuss:
https://www.theguardian.com/environ...r-wants-a-revolution-how-is-this-not-genocide - is he having an influence anywhere? I'm almost tempted to buy his book for curiousity but at £21 its a bit over my limit!

@martian - John King may be a good left field speaker for Groundswell one year?
 
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Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
...the problem was, they weren't thinking 'holistically', but with a reductionist approach, looking at one or two things in isolation. They were focussed on moving mobs every ' x ' days, for example, rather than observing plant growth & recovery...
Couldn't have said it better, really, that neatly sums up my own feelings on pasture management

Especially when I see reference to "NZ style grazing" - what the feck is that, I live here and have no idea what is meant by it;

Feeding animals with grass? :hilarious:

Pete style management though, I know what that is.
I know what outcomes I want and have a reasonable plan to achieve them, much of it really hinges on the FACT that my tractors- :love: -are something I want to leave parked up.

It is a cost.
It compacts my soil.
It uses fuel that I can't make here, and turns it into carbon emissions and wheel marks.
It is a handy thing when you need a handy thing, but my preference is to have the land and pasture and stock working together to achieve the outcomes, not have to mow, spray stuff, drag stuff around to do that.

Even in saying that, I mow, and spray stuff, and drag stuff around, but that isn't how I want to be - the world is full of these type of farmers and it causes good stuff, and bad stuff as well.

I want to mould our own systems so they take less input from me: I can think and look and do some things for free, so that is my "focus" if I have one - fortunately grass based farming really is easy if we step back and stop trying to intervene so much, being such a natural system it doesn't take much imagination or knowledge to graze around things you want to happen - long steady food supply, plant reproduction, good water and nutrient cycling, minimising parasite pressure, making decisions to reduce expenses.

That is probably NZ style farming 101, "achieve more by doing less"

-Australian style farming is probably even a better example as scale is bigger again, the climate is tougher again, so the landscapes are harder to put effective bandaids on if/when you cock up your management :)

Hence it is that ranch model we follow, we could do exactly the same on land too high/ dry/ steep/ rocky/ big to tractor around it all, or anywhere else that plants grow for that matter.... it doesn't look like the Great Plains but looks can be deceptive, the running costs/acre are very much the same, other than things outside our control the animal costs are similar as well
 

Dead Rabbits

Member
Location
'Merica
Couldn't have said it better, really, that neatly sums up my own feelings on pasture management

Especially when I see reference to "NZ style grazing" - what the feck is that, I live here and have no idea what is meant by it;

Feeding animals with grass? :hilarious:

Pete style management though, I know what that is.
I know what outcomes I want and have a reasonable plan to achieve them, much of it really hinges on the FACT that my tractors- :love: -are something I want to leave parked up.

It is a cost.
It compacts my soil.
It uses fuel that I can't make here, and turns it into carbon emissions and wheel marks.
It is a handy thing when you need a handy thing, but my preference is to have the land and pasture and stock working together to achieve the outcomes, not have to mow, spray stuff, drag stuff around to do that.

Even in saying that, I mow, and spray stuff, and drag stuff around, but that isn't how I want to be - the world is full of these type of farmers and it causes good stuff, and bad stuff as well.

I want to mould our own systems so they take less input from me: I can think and look and do some things for free, so that is my "focus" if I have one - fortunately grass based farming really is easy if we step back and stop trying to intervene so much, being such a natural system it doesn't take much imagination or knowledge to graze around things you want to happen - long steady food supply, plant reproduction, good water and nutrient cycling, minimising parasite pressure, making decisions to reduce expenses.

That is probably NZ style farming 101, "achieve more by doing less"

-Australian style farming is probably even a better example as scale is bigger again, the climate is tougher again, so the landscapes are harder to put effective bandaids on if/when you cock up your management :)

Hence it is that ranch model we follow, we could do exactly the same on land too high/ dry/ steep/ rocky/ big to tractor around it all, or anywhere else that plants grow for that matter.... it doesn't look like the Great Plains but looks can be deceptive, the running costs/acre are very much the same, other than things outside our control the animal costs are similar as well


Pete. my definition of NZ style grazing: One species, ryegrass, and if you are really adventurous, add white clover. Sward diversity is to be avoided to allow simple farm wide management.

The ryegrass will be measured and grazed with plate meter, eye estimates or other device at 3 leaf stage. Grazing will start at ~ 2600 kg dm/ha and taken to 1500 residual.

Anything that is not ryegrass will be killed. A pure stand must be maintained. As much N will be applied as needed to achieve maximum growth throughout the season.

Something along those lines.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
Sounds legit.... that was pretty much what the limited "education" I received, prompted me to believe was the best way.

Manage your residuals, don't let them get over that magic 1500kg or :nailbiting:

Use your mower to break the natural plant reproductive cycle, and be reliant... :rolleyes:
Give farming awards to most reliant, and maybe some 'sponsors product' as a prize..

Sorry, I said to not be cynical
 
Sounds legit.... that was pretty much what the limited "education" I received, prompted me to believe was the best way.

Manage your residuals, don't let them get over that magic 1500kg or :nailbiting:

Use your mower to break the natural plant reproductive cycle, and be reliant... :rolleyes:
Give farming awards to most reliant, and maybe some 'sponsors product' as a prize..

Sorry, I said to not be cynical

But to be fair to the practitioners of it - it does pay them, surely? And it is probably a lot easier than high density planned grazing to understand
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
But to be fair to the practitioners of it - it does pay them, surely? And it is probably a lot easier than high density planned grazing to understand
Yes it will have to pay... it can't not.
Especially the dairy sector, returns there seem to be quite sustainable - the dairy sector is so close to being "about ideal" in terms of grazing goals: twice a day shifting, high impact, large mobs of mobile ruminants.. just the plate meter could possibly be replaced with a planning calendar?

Full disclosure, I was a dairy farmer for 12 years of my life, and explored moat aspects of grass-based milk production.

This way feels like walking a tightrope in my experience, if I hadn't had any different experiences then it would possibly not have felt so odd as I wouldn't know any differently.
 

Agrispeed

Member
Location
Cornwall
But to be fair to the practitioners of it - it does pay them, surely? And it is probably a lot easier than high density planned grazing to understand

Staff makes a big difference I suspect. Certainly with the more holistic systems you need a team who can pull together and have a reasonable understanding of what you are aiming for.

Ryegrass and lots of N does produce forage, lots of it. Great if thats what you want, but there are other aspects of grazing too, cow and soil health probably being the biggest problems in that system.
 
Staff makes a big difference I suspect. Certainly with the more holistic systems you need a team who can pull together and have a reasonable understanding of what you are aiming for.

Ryegrass and lots of N does produce forage, lots of it. Great if thats what you want, but there are other aspects of grazing too, cow and soil health probably being the biggest problems in that system.

I agree with you. How do you prove/ show the evidence that HM is better though? I know it works for you but how do demonstrate to others of its value? (Serious question - not meant to sound sarcastic - HM biggest challenge is getting the fact that it embraces and values complexities and that isn't where a lot of people want to point)

Alan Savorys biggest problem has always been absence of evidence. That doesn't devalue his contribution but it is a problem for his planning system I think
 

Dead Rabbits

Member
Location
'Merica
But to be fair to the practitioners of it - it does pay them, surely? And it is probably a lot easier than high density planned grazing to understand

It's a blinding system though in my experience. It narrows your focus so you can't see the things that really need your focus. It's not so much a flaw of that grazing system, more so a failure to take into account what agriculture really is and how it impacts everything around it.

And yes it is relatively easy to understand and teach someone. I have heard a general manager say he wants his farms to operate under the "McDonalds model". Everything is the same on every farm and easy to manage for any manager. One size and species for all. I can really respect the drive for efficiency and control, but ecologically it is always bound for failure long term.
 
It's a blinding system though in my experience. It narrows your focus so you can't see the things that really need your focus. It's not so much a flaw of that grazing system, more so a failure to take into account what agriculture really is and how it impacts everything around it.

And yes it is relatively easy to understand and teach someone. I have heard a general manager say he wants his farms to operate under the "McDonalds model". Everything is the same on every farm and easy to manage for any manager. One size and species for all. I can really respect the drive for efficiency and control, but ecologically it is always bound for failure long term.

But is it that bad? I mean really this system could be done with grass and white clover and a little urea and probably do 90% of what its doing now? Just askin!
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
Staff makes a big difference I suspect. Certainly with the more holistic systems you need a team who can pull together and have a reasonable understanding of what you are aiming for.

Ryegrass and lots of N does produce forage, lots of it. Great if thats what you want, but there are other aspects of grazing too, cow and soil health probably being the biggest problems in that system.
Cow and soil health - :D did you read my mind?
That was my biggest "click" lightbulb moment, when I finally made that connexion. It took a few months on a holistically managed dairy before I realised we didn't have sickness coming through.

I actually remember asking the manager, "where's all your mastitis cows?" because I had come to accept them as a part of dairying operation until that point, everyone has cows on withholding..
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
But is it that bad? I mean really this system could be done with grass and white clover and a little urea and probably do 90% of what its doing now? Just askin!
I don't think it is bad at all, it is reasonably profitable, the nutrient caps allow you to put enough N on to make it work, and as has just been said it allows farmers and staff to react to what is happening in a predictable way.

And, as far as facts and figures go, plenty of evidence that it works.
 

Dead Rabbits

Member
Location
'Merica
But is it that bad? I mean really this system could be done with grass and white clover and a little urea and probably do 90% of what its doing now? Just askin!

It's functional for now. Personally I think it creates more work for those involved and is more of a soil mining operation than it should be. See petes comments about soil and cow health. It has also gone as far as it is going to go. X amount of N will only result in X amount of growth. We are all starting to get into trouble for nutrient run off, over use of antibiotics etc.

Take some of the inputs away and it collapses almost immediately, it lacks resilience. It takes more than it gives from the soil.
 

Agrispeed

Member
Location
Cornwall
Cow and soil health - :D did you read my mind?
That was my biggest "click" lightbulb moment, when I finally made that connexion. It took a few months on a holistically managed dairy before I realised we didn't have sickness coming through.

I actually remember asking the manager, "where's all your mastitis cows?" because I had come to accept them as a part of dairying operation until that point, everyone has cows on withholding..

I had the exact same moment. I went in with a intensive mindset and the first month was very difficult. However, the longer I spent there the more it made sense, until I couldn't face going back to an conventional system!

It does take more thinking but a lot of it is common sense, once you think about what you are doing and why its actually quite intuitive.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
I had the exact same moment. I went in with a intensive mindset and the first month was very difficult. However, the longer I spent there the more it made sense, until I couldn't face going back to an conventional system!

It does take more thinking but a lot of it is common sense, once you think about what you are doing and why its actually quite intuitive.
I had always been the boy, and treatments/feet/animal health was something I enjoyed, so it was a BIG shock going to this farm and suddenly I was doing much different work after milking.
None of that, the boss said I would have to wait a few more months for a mastitis case (and he was right)

Strangely, it had a feeling of familiarity working there, as it had the same atmosphere as our sheep farm.

Not predictable, but predicted, planned for... that was when I discovered what "holistic" meant.
'Proactivity'... the next tier above 'farm work'?

My next stop was a farm that had been conventionally managed, with a brand new sharemilker on his first contract - with our knowledge combined and put to use it was really confidence-building to get the same things working elsewhere - you do question "is it good luck or good management", or at least I did back then.

I would love to say we don't have vet visits - I don't think we have avoidable vet visits though.
This year alone we have had steer with a bloat that the vet had never seen, a bull with a broken penis and a steer that was full of urine (probably from being castrated wrongly) - all things the vets have said are 'once in a lifetime' experiences. :meh:

Given that information you would deduce that HM is actually worse than conventional management as it has put deathrate at nearly 3% for cattle for the season.

I can only begin to imagine how difficult it becomes in cropping to adapt HM to that system and then examine it's worth based on results alone, wheat doesn't get mastitis or go off its feet, and it's conception rate or 6 week in-calf-rate is pretty standard across the industry. :whistle:
 
I know you’ve toyed with the idea of introducing stock into your arable rotation, not sure how far you’ve got with it (not far if one tame Santa Gertrudis bullock is it) but how do you see a rotation with livestock and arable looking like on your country?

And further to that, how would you envisage the transition unfolding?

still something I want to do

haven't really had any moisture or anything grow much to be able to do anything

Scotty ( you may remember him from a cattle market video report. He had a horse & was going home for a cold beer :) ) is currently looking for some cheap low risk dry cows to put on my sorghum stubble. I will run a hotwire & set up a temporary tank / trough & cart water. I will supplement them with chickpea gradings which will provide a bit more protein & energy. I will experiment with moving water & gradings locations to see if I can influence mob movement / grazing, rather than strip grazing & moving fences.
We will sell them while still in good condition & before they run out of feed

The " plan " this year was to plant dual purpose winter wheat, so I could then graze cattle on that for a few months, say May / Jun / July, before locking up for grain.
Another part of the "plan" was to run vetch, oats & clover in behind the dryland cotton as a cover crop & utilise cattle on it to trample, eat, pee & sh!t all over it as well. Say from July - Sept
Unfortunately, I have pretty much missed planting the winter wheat due to lack of moisture & the cover crop plan looks to be going the same way

I am all flat floodplain cropping country. No fences. No water points. So temporary single hotwire & portable water. Ideally Id like to get hold of an old milk tanker of say 20 - 30000 litres & put a dolly under the front that could be towed around by a tractor. I have about 20 ha of slightly higher ground around my silos as well as approx. 60 ha on an " island " ( small hill on the floodplain ) on the block I lease.

Type of cattle would depend on individual situation, potential feed availability, cattle prices & availability etc etc. Eg, in the above winter wheat / cover crop scenario, I might buy weaner steers because Id be able to do a proper job on them & fatten them with little risk
In the current sorghum stubble / uncertainty with weather scenario, the dry cow option is the lowest risk. There is always a market for cows, you can cut their heads off at any time & if the season does turn around, they are suddenly worth more money again. Realistically, all I have to do is keep them in good condition, whereas trying to do a fattening job on young cattle, or raising a cow & calf, at the moment, seems just too risky. Cows don't really need to meet any strict specs to get their heads cut off, compared to steers.

As ive mentioned frequently on this site, we have two distinct cropping seasons - winter & summer
Traditionally, we work on a long fallow system, to store soil moisture. eg wheat planted in june, harvested in dec. That land fallowed through ( to build up soil moisture ) to October when sorghum planted. Sorghum harvested April. Land fallowed through till following June ( 14 months ) when a winter crop planted. Conventional full cultivation or full on zero till, same concept applies. However, this is a bit inflexible & means you miss out on some cropping opportunities, especially in wetter years. So, with the uptake of zero till planting equipment, " opportunity " or " double " cropping became popular. Basically, forgetting about fixed rotations & fallows - if there is moisture ( rough rule of thumb, 1 metre for summer crops & 50 - 75 cm for winter crops ) then plant a crop & use the moisture. The other option is to shorten the fallow period, ie, 6 month fallow, winter crop following winter crop, or summer crop following summer crop.
One of the biggest issues with long fallow is the period of time with no living plants or active biology in the soil, even under zero till ( although at least in zero till there is still ground cover, OM & roots etc in the soil ). It has long been recognised, called " long fallow disease ", basically a reduction in VAM ( which interestingly, we have know about for YEARS but still seem to ignore fungi commercially. Apart from trying to kill it of course ) which can have visible effects on some crops that are highly VAM dependent. The moisture conservation in the soil however is CRUCIAL in dry years like we are experiencing now though. It is very obvious in summer crop yields ( cotton / sorghum ) harvested this year, the "quality" of that fallow period.

Anyway, if you are still with me, my "transition" plan is to go back to that long fallow model, but ideally establishing any sort of cover crop following harvest, keeping it for say 6 months to do its biology thing & increase ground cover, prior to terminating it by various means ( chemical, mechanical or animal impact ) to then begin the fallow period to build up moisture. ( Im interested in some of the USA & South American work of using thick covers to act as mulch to prevent weed growth, but am not sure if we can reliably grow that much bulk ). If livestock ( preferably cattle ) fit into that scenario & I can use them as tools to my advantage, as well as producing kgs of beef, then I will. Stock will just be bought & sold as needed at the time, rather than trying to run a constant herd. The biggest problem with trying to implement the " Gabe Brown " method of integrating livestock & cropping is our unpredictable & extreme rainfall conditions, the complete lack of a "snow melt" or a reliable "frost kill" of covers

My initial focus is to reduce & eliminate any synthetic fertilisers while building up soil biology & activity.
I would like to reduce my reliance on glyphosate as I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable about being so dependent on one product ( which is becoming increasingly less effective ) but also its potential negative effects on biology, however at this point, in a dryland cropping system, that is probably one step too far yet.
Largely, my 2 goals are decrease / eliminate external inputs ( $$$ ) and to improve soil / enviro health

err, is that enough for now ?



I never said it was easy :)
 
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Savorys original book was Holistic Resource Management

https://www.facebook.com/people/John-King/100001494371716 - I've never met him

http://willoutwest.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/holistic-management.html - while ago now

And some good reading for those who like it (who I enjoyed)

Greg Judy - Comeback Farms
Paul Syltie - How Soils Work (got a copy for free here if someone wants it)
Grass Fed Cattle - Ruechel
Dan Dagget - Gardenders of Eden
Jim Howell - For the love of the land
Walt Davis - How not to go broke ranching
Bill Murphy - Greener Pastures - On your side of the fence

But at the end of the day I'm not a grazer I'm a cropper because thats my instinct at the moment. Can't make grazing pay with the lifestyle I want (and need at the moment - have my children every other weekend, fixed costs of farm equipment, TB, even little things like fencing posts are crap nowadays make it expensive etc.). I have toyed with packing up with no till to go to a next stage of sustainability using animals and planned high input grazing but not sure I want it enough at the moment - but again that's part of my plan

Interesting stuff HM though so I like talking about it. I'd love to do a refresher course

@Farmer Roy - Something I've always wondered about Oz. What do you think the Australian landscape would have looked like now if Aborigines hadn't arrived?

And Roy please discuss:
https://www.theguardian.com/environ...r-wants-a-revolution-how-is-this-not-genocide - is he having an influence anywhere? I'm almost tempted to buy his book for curiousity but at £21 its a bit over my limit!

@martian - John King may be a good left field speaker for Groundswell one year?


I will get back to answer this, I promise :)

I have bought " call of the reed warbler " but haven't read it yet

check out Bruce Pascoe " dark emu " book ( I haven't read it yet either, but the following link to the radio show "Conversations" is a pretty good introduction)
http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2016/02/01/4397892.htm



 
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New report underlines need for joined-up action to protect rivers

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New report underlines need for joined-up action to protect rivers

Written by Defra Press Office

A wide river is in view in a valley in the background, a drystone wall is behind the river, and large, green trees are prominent in the scene.


The Rivers Trust has today launched its State of Our Rivers report aiming to allow the English public understand and explore the health of their rivers on a national and local scale.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow and Environment Agency Director John Leyland attended the launch panel to discuss the ways in which the...
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