Holistic Management

The big picture contains many small pieces.

Holistic Management (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, whole, entire, total) is a value-based decision-making framework that integrates all aspects of planning for social, economic and environmental considerations. Originally conceived as a means for reversing desertification, Holistic Management was developed in the 1960s by Allan Savory, a wildlife biologist, rancher, parliamentarian and military leader in Rhodesia.

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. Savory determined livestock could be substituted for natural herds to provide important ecosystem services like nutrient cycling.

Holistic planned grazing is similar to rotational grazing but it provides a framework for adapting to the four basic ecosystem processes: the water cycle, the mineral cycle including the carbon cycle, energy flow, and community dynamics (the relationship between organisms in an ecosystem), giving equal importance to livestock production and social welfare.

Holistic management planned grazing has four key principles:

Nature functions as a holistic community with a mutualistic relationship between people, animals and the land. 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 areas of the environment.

It is crucial that any agricultural planning system must be flexible enough to adapt to nature’s complexity, since 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.

Using Holistic Management at Circle Ranch, we’ve been able to increase water infiltration and moisture retention in the soil; increase organic matter in the soil; harness the sun’s energy instead of chemical inputs to increase vegetative productivity; and increase ground cover and heal erosion.

We are convinced management based on these principles will yield equally positive results in the grasslands and forests of the Rocky Mountain West.

Latest articles

Read more about holistic management practices

Management Comparison – Allan Savory

One minute of your attention could save civilization as we know it.

Lessons From the Prairie

 A Land-Management Legend Offers 50 Years of Soil-Nourishing Wisdom.

How to Let Grow

“How do we “rewild” areas where the native species are now extinct? In England, they use “exotic” species as substitutes. This common sense would collide with so-called “invasive species biology” in most of the US.

Baby Boomers Are Leaving Behind a Trail of Luxury Ranches

It is true that Western legend no longer captures American imagination as it once did. But the main reason many Colorado – and Western – ranch sellers can’t sell their big ranches is that so […]

Goats Clearing Meadows and Forest at Pitchstone Waters #1

On the Fall River in Idaho, 5-miles from the southwest corner of Yellowstone Park, we use goats instead of herbicides to control weeds and stimulate grasses in forests and meadows. It is fascinating to watch […]

Farm Animals May Soon Get New Features Through Gene Editing

Hybridization of plants and animals is as old as agriculture. However, most GMOs have made plants more tolerant to herbicides, and thus are essentially drivers for the agrochemical companies that sell both the seeds and […]

Back to Nature: Making Money While Restoring The Land

Going against the grain has paid off for these beef producers and even encouraged other conventional farmers to change course.

Who Gets to Own the West?

This article complains that private landowners won’t open their land to the public in Idaho, a state in which about 70 percent of all land already belongs to the public, but is mostly controlled by […]

Pitchstone Waters Roads #1

Eco-friendly forest thinning and road building next to Yellowstone Park, in Idaho.

Saving the World with Fake Meat?

According to the author, the UN’s most recent conclusion on climate change is that we must all adopt “demand reduction” of meat if the human species wishes to survive. In short, everyone must learn how […]

“Conserving” Wild Bison?

The conflict between private landowners and the bison and elk living in Yellowstone National Park exists in large part  because the Yellowstone herds are infected with brucellosis. Brucellosis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that […]

Can Cows Help Mitigate Climate Change? Yes, They Can!

Livestock and other so-called “invasive exotic” animals can replace missing wild animals’ beneficial effects on plants when they are managed to copy natural grazing patterns. These and other innovations of restoration agriculture practices are discussed […]

Living Soil Film

This 60-minute documentary features innovative farmers and soil health experts from throughout the U.S. Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as […]

22 Out of 25 Burger Chains Get F For Antibiotics in Beef Supply

More than 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to confined livestock—cattle, pigs and chickens—and by some estimates, about 75 percent of those antibiotics are passed through to humans.

America’s Ten Most Popular Cattle Breeds

European cattle descended from the species Bos taurus, unlike many Indian, Asian and African breeds which descend from Bos indicus. Beef lovers take note: The most successful commercial breeds in the United States are European […]

Aberdeen Angus Cattle: America’s Most Popular Breed

The Aberdeen Angus, sometimes simply Angus, is a Scottish breed of small beef cattle. It derives from cattle native to the counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus in north-eastern Scotland. Aberdeen Angus cattle have been recorded […]

The Rules that Govern Life on Earth – with Sean B Carroll

The author of ‘The Serengheti Rules’ has shown that in order to be healthy, grasslands need (1) keystone grazers, (2) many prey species and (3) many predators. In this 50-minute video he explains these ideas […]

Like Your Steak Aged 36 Months? Try 17 Years

As anyone who has had a grass fed steak in Argentina will tell you, mature beef raised on pasture is unsurpassed in flavor and texture.

Sheep on the Mountain

A great article from TWA. At Circle Ranch, we have enjoyed considerable success with Desert Bighorn. Here is our take on how to help these majestic animals get re-established in their native range: Increase water. Add […]

Trump Administration Seeks Authority for More Logging to Fight Fire Danger

Decades of neglect have turned much of America’s forests into fire traps. Many need immediate attention to reduce brush, dead trees and overcrowding. Excess trees could be logged to help pay for the cleanup. Aesthetics […]

Conserving Wild Bison: Finding Space for an American Icon

Bison might seem to be an obvious addition to wildlife at Texas’ state and national parks, but there are problems to be overcome. Rick Wallen, lead biologist for Yellowstone’s bison program, explains the challenges and successes […]