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.
Read more about holistic land management practices
Dropping the Fences, Episode 2: RAIN
After reading the signs, Johnny’s predictions of good rain come true after seven years of drought. Within weeks the veld is transformed in a great renewal as seeds that have lain dormant for years come […]
Virtual Fences for Cattle Find a Home on the Range
“Virtual fences could be a game-changing grazing innovation, especially on public lands where permanent fences are prohibited. “I think it’s the best thing since barbed wire,” said Kristy Wallner, a BLM rangeland specialist in Colorado. […]
Dropping the Fences (Episode 1) – DUST
A South African story. Two families who have lived on N’Rougas Farm for generations embark on a project of renewal and hope together. In this episode, Veronica, the farm owner, sets out on […]
What is Holistic Management?
From the Savory Institute. The Savory Institute’s mission is to facilitate the large-scale regeneration of the world’s grasslands through Holistic Management. The organization’s educational consulting activities are turning deserts into thriving grasslands, […]
Cattle and the Environment: Leading the Way in Conservation
“As discussed below, properly grazed cattle can produce human food from land unsuitable for crops, regenerate land, reduce wildfire hazard, and help wildlife.
Beginner’s Guide To Rotational Grazing
Ever heard the term “Rotational Grazing” and wondered what it meant, or what the big deal was? I’ll explain all the basics, including how and why we do it. I’ll go over all […]
Stewardship with Vision, Episode 9: Sieben Live Stock Company
Sieben Live Stock Company is a family owned and operated ranch in north central Montana which raises cattle and sheep. The Hibbard family believes proper grazing techniques can improve overall land health. Their practices include […]
The Function of Time in Environmental Recovery
Understanding the grass and grazer relationship
2020 Tony Coote AM Memorial lecture – with Allan Savory
The Mulloon Institute presents a unique opportunity to hear from one of the world’s leading experts in Regenerative Agriculture, Allan Savory, as he presents the 2020 Tony Coote AM Memorial Lecture. NOTE: this […]
Small Pasture Management for Cattle
This video is about Utah Cattleman Darrell Yardley, who attended an NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) pasture management school and instituted a rotational grazing system on 23 acres. As he explains, this has produced more […]
What is Regenerative Grazing and Why Does It Work So Well?
“Domestic animals can either hurt the land, or heal the land.
Wildlife-Friendly Cattle Fences in an Idaho Forest
This is the most wildlife-friendly fence design that we have seen. It would work great on large properties, whether placed around perimeters or inside for pastures. It goes up fast and uses a minimum of […]
Guardians of the Karoo Rangelands
This article discusses the origins of high density, short duration grazing, and continuing work to implement it across Africa and the world. Quoting the authors, “As Allan Savory, John Acocks and others would prove […]
Bison Bunch Up to Protect Calves
Over millions of years, rangelands have evolved under grazing by nomadic herds that travel in mass, bunched up to protect both young and adults from predators. And, plants have evolved to need this. This observation […]
New Mexico: US Officials Authorize Helicopter With Shooters to Kill Feral Cows in the Gila Wilderness
In New Mexico as across the US, ‘conservationists’ are leading the War on Wildlife.
The Predator-Prey Connection
“Everyone understands that predators control animal numbers. But of equal importance is predators’ effect on animal behavior, and the consequential benefit to habitat – and wildlife – that result from how animals behave when in […]
Using Goats to Open an Idaho Forest
At Pitchstone Waters near Yellowstone Park in Idaho, we use goats to clear brush, weeds, and stimulate grasses on forest floors. Sixth in a series. Goats Grazing Idaho Forests from Christopher Gill on Vimeo. […]
A new documentary series in 10 parts (paddocks) directed by Peter Byck …please watch soil-carbon cowboys first. NOTE: this post was originally published to this site on June 22, 2020.
Climate and Big Beef
“San Antonio entrepreneur and rancher Lew Moorman calls BS on fake beef.
Beavers in Arizona Deserts
Beavers are keystone species in desert ecosystems. NOTE: this post was originally published to this site on July 30, 2018. And again on May 27, 2020.
Why This Cattle Farmer Moves His Cows Every Day
Methane emissions from cattle contribute to climate change – but Will Harris says he has a solution.