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

BLM to Finalize Rule Allowing Federal Leases Targeted at Protection of Natural Area

This rule is widely seen as anti-cattle and hunting.  

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox Vows to Sue Over New BLM Landscape Rule

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Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas

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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 AND on August 26, 2021.

Land Stewardship on Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands of Mexico

     Para más información, contáctenos: pastizales@birdconservancy.org   Bird Conservancy of the Rockies collaborates with private landowners across western North America, from the Northern Great Plains to the desert grasslands of Chihuahua, Mexico. We […]

Desert Aerators in Mexico

Where brush has grown into small trees, crushing the growth is a plausible alternative to poison.

Allan Savory and the Science of Tracking

Over the last 60 years, Allan Savory has at different times worn a wildlife agency shirt and crest, his country’s military battle camouflage, the formal attire of a parliamentarian, and rancher’s dungarees. His in-the-bush and […]

New Wolf Management | Montana PBS Reports: IMPACT

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is working on a new conservation and management plan for the state’s Grey Wolf population. Montana PBS talks with agencies to learn more about the changes and ranchers who are […]

Building Cattle Pens in Minutes

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

Holistic Grazing in the Arizona / Sonora Borderlands

Cattle are grazed in any spot for 6-hours, followed by 18-months recovery.

Brush Sculpting

“Much has been said about using cattle as proxies for bison: What about bison as proxies for cattle?  

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 Note: this post was originally posted to this site on August 2, 2021

REGENERATIVE GRAZING: Using Cows to Rebuild Soil After a Century of Tillage.

This episode shares the story of Stephen Brass of Walnut Grove Brass Family Farm in Stillman Valley, Illinois, and how he successfully transitioned his 160 acre farm from a chemical intensive, commodity crop operation to […]

Functional Traits – Not Nativenes – Shape the Effects Of Large Mammalian Herbivores on Plant Communities

For decades the assumption shared by conservation dogma and Invasive Species “Biology” has been that non-native animals – by definition – harm native habitat and plants. This belief is often used to justify the ongoing […]

Amazing 23-Year-Old Permaculture Food Forest – An Invitation for Wildness

The idea that forest and farms are mutually exclusive is incorrect. Doing what this video show alongside wildlife is difficult but possible.      In the small town of Riverton at the bottom of […]

Biodiversity and Holistic Management

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

Invasive Species vs. Native Species

Presented below is a scholarly article on the issue of whether so-called invasive ‘exotic’ species like feral pigs, goats, buffalo, and horses, are by definition harmful to environments in which they did not evolve, or […]

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.”

Farming Sustainably with Regenerative Agriculture | Restoring Paradise

Regenerative agriculture offers a future for sustainable farming of meat in line with nature’s needs, by using holistic management and organic/biodynamic practices and even sequestering carbon in the soil – so important in our response […]

What Are Farm Animals Thinking?

“Quoting the article below, “These are not dumb creatures. They have a rich emotional life and personality.”  

Elk in Paradise: Rancher, Ecologist, Hunter

Here is an excellent video by the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) a free market conservation think tank based in Bozeman.   Quoting PERC: The ancient pathways of elk are the heartbeat of the […]

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Follow along as we manage the resources within our fence lines, but think beyond the box.