Managing Holistically

The big picture contains many small pieces.

Holistic means understanding that in nature, all the parts of anything and everything are interconnected, and understandable only in terms of the whole.

Management means the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.

At Pitchstone Waters Ranch, we look at the big picture and manage the resources in our care holistically.

In the 1960s, a Rhodesian soldier, parliamentarian, rancher, wildlife biologist, and range scientist named Allan Savory added his observations and experience to previously proven science, combining these into a simple yet radical understanding of nature. Savory's insight was that all of nature, not just predator and prey, is intertwined. Because any change in plants, animals, water, soil or sunlight reverberates throughout the entire ecosystem, decisions must be made with an awareness of all consequences, both intended and unintended.

Proceeding from this viewpoint, early in his work in Africa Savory concluded that the spread of deserts, the loss of wildlife, and the resulting human impoverishment were related to the reduced size and number of large grazing animal herds, and, even more importantly, the changed behavior of the few remaining herds. Applying these insights as a rancher and wildlife biologist, Savory determined that livestock could be substituted for natural herds to provide important benefits to plants, animals and soil life.

Well-managed grazing allows us to improve the four basic parts of an ecosystem: the water cycle, the mineral cycle (including reducing carbon in the atmosphere by storing it back in the soil), the flow of the sun’s energy which powers all life, and the relationship between all living things of whatever size or type. By managing holistically, we can use livestock production to achieve economic and environmental benefits to people, domestic and wild animals, and their habitat. These include cleaner water, cleaner air and wildfire suppression.

Our grazing methods, which we have adapted to our own operation and landscape, are based on four key principles identified by Savory:

  • Nature functions as a holistic community in which people, animals, plants and the land are mutually dependent. If you remove or change the behavior of any keystone species like the large grazing herds, you have an unexpected and wide-ranging negative impact on other parts of the environment.
  • It is crucial that any agricultural planning system must be flexible enough to adapt to nature’s complexity because all environments are different and have constantly changing local conditions.
  • Animal husbandry using domestic species can be used as a substitute for lost keystone species. Thus when managed properly in a way that mimics nature, agriculture can heal the land and even benefit wildlife, while at the same time benefiting people.
  • Time and timing is the most important factor when planning land use. Not only is it crucial to understand how long to use the land for agriculture and how long to rest, it is equally important to understand exactly when and where the land is ready for that use and rest.

By managing holistically for more than two decades at Circle Ranch in far West Texas, we’ve been able to increase water infiltration and moisture retention in the soil; increase organic matter in the soil; use the sun’s energy instead of chemical inputs to increase plant productivity; and increase ground cover and heal erosion.

We are convinced that continuing to use these principles as we holistically manage our land, forest, livestock, wildlife and fishery will yield equally positive results in the grasslands and forests of the Rocky Mountain West.

Latest articles

Read more about holistic land management practices

Counterfeit Cows: Cheating the Grass-Fed Beef Label

“Why “grass-fed” doesn’t mean what you think.  

Desert Permaculture: Using a Stock Tank for Irrigation

Stock tanks can be easily and cheaply modified to serve the additional purpose of restoring grasslands for cattle and wildlife.   NOTE: this post was originally published on April 24, 2017   

Native American Lawmakers Seek Federal Help on Montana Bison

“Because they are mismanaged, bison carry and spread brucellosis, a highly contagious, bacterially-caused disease that causes spontaneous abortions in cattle and other animals, and also poses a serious threat to human health. The goal of […]

Miracle in the Nevada Desert

Beaver and cattle are symbiotic. Together they can turn desert into wetlands.   NOTE: this post was originally published on April 19, 2017. 

Grazing Forested Rangelands

“An excellent discussion of why, how, when and where to graze Canadian forests.  

Plow and Tractor for Desert Grassland Keyline Subsoiling

What plow and tractor combination is most cost effective for restoring desert grassland with Keyline water practices? We call our method of desert grassland restoration Drought Busters. It combines: (1) subsoil plowing, (2) water harvesting […]

Can Beavers Restore Far-West Texas?

Two so-called invasive species, cattle and beavers, have the power to restore desert habitats.   NOTE: this post was originally published to this site on April 12, 2017.

Holistic Grazing in the Arizona / Sonora Borderlands

Cattle are grazed in any spot for 6-hours, followed by 18-months recovery.   NOTE: this post was originally published on April 5, 2017  

Desert Aerators in Mexico

Where brush has grown into small trees, crushing the growth is a plausible alternative to poison.   NOTE: this post was originally published on March 22, 2017   Aerators can sometimes work where grades or […]

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas

A beautiful portrayal of a unique part of our country.   NOTE: this post was originally published on February 17, 2017.      A WALTZ ACROSS WEST TEXASWyman Meinzer, the Texas State Photographer, used […]

How Holistic Planned Grazing Works in 60 Seconds

How does holistic planned grazing heal the soil? We explain it in this short introductory video.   For more visit: http://savory.global

Conserving the Legacy by Wyman Meizner

“The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism.   Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we […]

Building Cattle Pens in Minutes

Considering the difference in populations, the Aussies are way ahead of the US in their cattle practices.   NOTE: this post was originally published on December 2, 2016   Neil Dennis 41 seconds from Peter […]

Biodiversity and Holistic Management

These excellent thoughts on the importance of biodiversity apply to wildlife as well as agriculture.  

Healing the Land with One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts

Healing the Land with One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts” is an inspirational short film that discusses regenerative agricultural practices on a Georgia farm.   This dying farm was regenerated using multi-species grazing in which all […]

Creosote, Cows & Keyline

“Creosote, Cows & Keyline is a 5-minute video which discusses a quick, cheap method to restore desertified desert grasslands. It was filmed in the high-mountain deserts of far-West Texas.”

Plug and Spread Made Easy

This is a 4-1/2 minute video about the “Plug-and-Spread” method of harvesting water from gullies. Water harvesting including Plug and Spread, in combination with Keyline sub-soiling, wild animal impact and planned grazing of cattle are […]

Grass-fed: a Label Ingrained with Misleading Claims

“According to the article below,  “The term grass-fed has become just another marketing strategy co-opted by large-scale meat-packers to trick consumers into buying grain-finished meat…”  a scheme in which the regulatory agencies are complicit.  

Drought Busters 101 : A 21-Minute Video on Desert Grassland Restoration

“Drought Busters” is an inexpensive, quick, physiologically and economically sustainable method of habitat and wildlife restoration. We call it Drought Busters because it increases effective rainfall by rebuilding soil fertility and the soil’s ability to […]

Holistic Management at Work

Holistic management uses a long term planning process that assigns to environmental and social outcomes the same importance as profits.  In addition to being particularly suited to the deserts of far-West Texas, its grazing and […]

Demand for Farmland Fueled by Grain Rally

“Rising commodity prices are very good for farmers. They have caused a rise in the price of farmland.   In addition to more income, rising land values increase farmers’ net worth.   However, the massive […]