Australian Holistic Managers Share Farming and Financial Success

Sue and Jeff Trott
Sue and Jeff Trott

Sue and Jeff Trott

Several of the presenters at a recent HMI Open Gate in Australia were interviewed by Kallee Buchanan for Queensland Country Hour, resulting in two articles and radio interviews on

Holistic Management Certified Educator Jason Virtue was recorded teaching a hands-on forage assessment exercise at Glenrock Farm Day, and further explains holistic planned grazing.

“We actively decide as the farmer where the cows are going to be in the landscape, how long they’re going to be there and what they’re going to do in the landscape while they’re there,” he said.  “It’s not a case of just lock them in and say, ‘right-oh girls, see you in six months’, it’s a case of being actively, physically there with them on a regular basis…”  – Jason Virtue

Jeff and Sue Trott, area graziers who also presented at the Open Gate, share how practicing Holistic Management has improved both the health of their land and their finances.

“Part of the training is you do a big budget looking at your finances and honestly, for us, that was quite an eye-opener… I probably could have cried looking at where we were before we started this. However, the changes we’ve made just in the last 18 months financially we can see that we’re going forward and we’re looking to the future.”   – Sue Trott

Read and listen here:    link to full article and radio interview

Kylie Carr also presented at the Glenrock Farm Day.  She and her husband Mick live in Brisbane, and commute to their farm each weekend to care for their livestock.   In the following article and radio interview, they share their family’s experiences as weekend farmers, and how they are creating the quality of life they desire using Holistic Management.

Mick Carr said he felt the farm allowed him to make a difference in the environment and food production.  “You can see the difference in our property from when we first bought it to what it is now,” he said.  “You take pride in the cattle that you produce and the quality of the food that comes from those cattle.  “So it’s about having that connection and seeing the value or the change you bring about in the landscape.”

Click here for the full article:  link to “Weekend Farmer” article and radio interview


Cows, Camels, and Creativity Combine in Cloyna for Australian Open Gate

Kapernick's benefit from high density grazing planning


Camels at Glenrock add diversity and eat plants the cows will not eat and cannot reach.

Camels at Glenrock Farm add diversity and eat plants the cows will not eat and cannot reach.

Grazing camels with cows, and other creative management ideas were the focus of HMI’s Australian Open Gate on July 4th at Glenrock Farm in Cloyna, Queensland.  A diverse group (both full and part-time farmers, relatively new and more experienced) gathered to see the changes occurring on Glenrock Farm after only 14 months of Holistic Management planned grazing.  Many of the 63 participants were impressed with how quickly the changes are taking place and how little time the Kapernick family spends moving their herd.


Sixty-three participants learn about the benefits of biodiversity, and how to use Holistic Management grazing planning and decision making to achieve quality of life, financial stability and improve the land.

Sixty-three participants learn about the benefits of biodiversity, and how to use Holistic Management grazing planning and decision making to achieve quality of life, financial stability and improve the land.


The camels drew a lot of interest; the primarily cow/calf operator attendees enjoyed seeing firsthand the behavior of camels, what they eat and their effective coexistence with the cows.  There was a lot of discussion about improving the health and capacity of the soil, and also creatively marketing direct to consumers and starting other innovative farm enterprises.


Jason Virtue, HMI Certified Educator, examines cow poo manure and discusses its benefits.

Jason Virtue, HMI Certified Educator, examines cow manure and discusses its benefits.

Not only were successes discussed, but also how trials that didn’t work as planned were used as learning experiences. Holistic Management Certified Educator Jason Virtue explained, “Managing holistically is not about creating a magic farm, It’s about getting things approximately right instead of dead wrong… ‘cause I’m sure we all know what dead wrong looks like and we’re sick of it.”


Craig and Claire Kapernick, owners of Glenrock Farm, and hosts for the day, discussed how they have used Holistic Management to reap almost immediate positive changes.   Even though they have only been planning their grazing for about 14 months, participants could already see improvements in the health of their soil, its capacity to store water, and more desirable plants growing on their farm.   Where there was high animal density in just one previous grazing, the dung had been evenly distributed and the soil was much more friable.  Planned grazing has enabled them to make good decisions for their 480 acres, and despite inconsistent rainfall, they are seeing higher productivity even during hard times.


Some of the day’s activities included:

Craig Kapernick explains their Grazing Planning chart.

Craig Kapernick explains their Grazing Planning chart.

  • Craig Kapernick showing their planned grazing charts and how they identify where their herd has been, where they plan to move next, and a demonstration of moving the herd
  • An interactive exercise measuring the forage available in the pasture and budgeting feed for the animals throughout the season led by Jason Virtue
  • Jason leading a group exercise to evaluate and monitor the health of the ecosystem processes by looking at the amount of bare soil and other key indicators.  Participants counted at least 10 different grasses and forbs in the pasture
  • A demonstration showing the effects of planned grazing on the soil by the ease of pushing in a screwdriver on the pasture (7 inches) versus an area that had not been managed using the mixed cow and camel herd (only 2 inches)
  • A group exercise on how to test a decision using the Holistic Management testing questions


Damien O’Sullivan, Government Extension Officer, and farmer (beef cattle and share cropping) explained the advantages of using holistic grazing planning to control African love grass.  In the past, he says, “I have ploughed, poisoned, burned it, hit it with a stick and even swore at it and nothing worked.”  The only result was “the local fire brigade and my neighbors were not impressed by the burning.”  But planned grazing using animal impact and herd effect have changed the species mix, increasing pasture diversity and productivity.  Damien also shared figures on the dollar costs of poisoning, ploughing, and planting new species.  Financially, these conventional treatment methods don’t stack up.

Speaker lineup:  Damien O’Sullivan and Sue and Jeff Trott

Speaker lineup: Damien O’Sullivan and Sue and Jeff Trott


Jeff and Sue Trott have been managing their property, Thooruna, land that has been in Jeff’s family since 1968, for the past 5 years.  They learned about Holistic Management in early 2014, and simply by changing the numbers in their herd and regulating how the herd moves through their land, they have created amazing changes to their landscape. Their creeks and water holes are holding water for months instead of weeks, they are experiencing better weight gains on their cattle, and are seeing more native animals and bird life on the property than ever before.  They shared challenges they’ve had with managing a large herd of 400+ animals, problems with portable fencing and cow conception rates, but also talked of how using Holistic Management has changed their lives by allowing planned time away from the farm (previously quite rare) to include fishing trips, laughing and enjoying themselves together.


Kylie Carr shares how Holistic Management practices have impacted her family and farm.

Kylie Carr shares how Holistic Management practices have impacted her family and farm.

Kylie Carr and her family began farming in 2010 on 211 acres of land that is a 2 hour drive away from where they live. She, her husband Mick, and their 2 teenage sons spend weekends and school holidays there, managing a beef cow herd and concentrating on soil health.  By using holistic planned grazing (no other inputs), they have doubled the organic carbon content in their soils in less than 2 years.  Their sons helped create a comprehensive holistic goal, which provides the context to test all of their decisions both on and off the farm. They then monitor, control and re-plan as needed.

Using Holistic Management practices, they have come up with some creative solutions like:

  • automatic gate open devices (batt latch) which open a spring loaded gate each day, double checked by their kind neighbor on his morning walk
  • a mobile back rub for fly control and free choice mineral trailer
  • a flock of virtually independent Guinea fowl that roost high in the trees and roam freely during the day to help control tick levels and maintain a chemical free herd


Here are some of the comments from participants:

Terrific – enlightening.

Very entertaining.

Very interesting & informative.

It was an amazing event, speakers great.

Very informative and well organized. Was good to listen to other people’s stories and what they’ve seen as successful and what was not.

Very informative day. Lots of good information.

Excellent, reassuring on right path, rebooting enthusiasm.

Very impressed & appreciated all presenters inputs, frankness, experience and for sharing.

Well presented, good speakers, good selection of information.

Enjoyed discussions and learning about others’ experiences.

A very good day. Good food. Enjoyable & interesting speakers.

Thanks especially for sharing the failures and the lessons learned from those failures.

Thanks for taking the time to explain how grass grows after the animals graze, and how the process of over grazing works and why it is bad for both the land and the hip pocket!


Here are the outcomes for the day:

Outcome% Participants
Overall Satisfaction of this event (rated good to excellent) 100%
Facilitator’s effectiveness (rated good to excellent) 100%
Presenters’ effectiveness (rated good to excellent) 100%
Intent to complete or modify an enterprise analysis as a result of today’s event 89%
Intent to complete a biological monitoring on your land as a result of today’s event 88%
Intent to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned in this event89%
Expanded network by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you 100%
More confident in ability to determine plant recovery 60%
More confident in ability to monitor & analyze ecosystem health 55%
More confident in ability to determine land health 55%
More confident in ability to improve ranch profitability 45%
Would recommend this event to others 100%


Canadian Farmers Demonstrate Success at Open Gate Series

Canada Flag

Holistic Management Certified Educators Blain Hjertaas and Ralph Corcoran were recently featured in the Manitoba Co-operator for their involvement in a series of on-farm learning days as a part of HMI sponsored Open Gate series in Canada.  The article discusses Holistic Management practices that improve soil health to increase the quality and diversity of forage, which then translates into increased profits and better quality of life for the farmers.    Held on site at various farms across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, the Canada series of Open Gates started in July and continue through early October.

The article also highlights Neil Dennis of Sunnybrae Farm, a long-time Holistic Management practitioner.  Neil shares some of improvements he’s seen on his land, like the 300-400 increased carrying capacity, or more than 20% sugar content of his forage, which translates directly into weight gain on his cattle.

You can read the article here:    (link to full article)


Passionate Presentations Warm Up a Cold Day in Coolatai, Australia

Judi leads a discussion on forage assessment, utilization and grazing planning

Holistic Management Certified Educator Judi Earl, owner/operator of Glen Orton, leads a discussion on forage assessment, utilization and grazing planning

A tour of Glen Orton

A tour of Glen Orton

Sixty four hardy souls braved the coldest day in Coolatai, New South Wales in many years to attend HMI’s Australian Open Gate held at Glen Orton on July 17th.  Although some registrants weren’t able to attend because they were unexpectedly ‘snowed in’, many people traveled long distances from Queensland, the northern rivers and New England tablelands regions, and the diversity of the audience was a feature of the day.  The presentations, open fires and great food provided the catalyst for the start of many interesting conversations.

Glenn Morris shares about livestock management at Fig Trees Organics

Glenn Morris shares about livestock management at Fig Trees Organics

Judi Earl, Holistic Management Certified Educator and Glen Orton owner/operator shared how she has applied the principles of Holistic Management to regenerate the land and ultimately improve pasture and livestock production.  Since 2011, Judi has been using cattle at Glen Orton to manage Coolatai grass, the dominant low-quality forage in the area.  There was a lively discussion about how she has increased the productivity of her land in spite of 4 years of drought, and how her holistic goal has impacted decisions about health care for her livestock.


Other highlights of the day included:

Organic beef pies, compliments of Glenn Morris and Fig Trees Organics

Organic beef pies, compliments of Glenn Morris and Fig Trees Organics

  • Glenn Morris, manager of Fig Trees Organic Farms, passionately presenting on creating a culture of honesty and respect for the land and society in our food production systems.  He shared how they use Holistic Management and organic farming to regenerate ecosystem processes, enhance health and stimulate the economy, and how this creates strength in their marketing.

    A great lineup of presenters:  Phillipa Morris, Judi Earl, Glenn Morris, and Alex Dudley

    A great lineup of presenters: Phillipa Morris, Judi Earl, Glenn Morris, and Alex Dudley

  • Philippa Morris of Peach Trees, discussing how micro-producers can use good environmental management and good livestock handling practices to help market their animals.
  • A delicious lunch featuring Glenn Morris’ organic meat pies.

    Alex Dudley, the biodiversity ‘bug man’ is also a wildlife photographer

    Alex Dudley, the biodiversity ‘bug man’ is also a wildlife photographer

  • Zoologist Alex Dudley inspiring and entertaining with his passionate discussion of biodiversity, and how we are all part of the ecosystem and dependent on biodiversity.

    Warm fires and great discussion

    Warm fires and great discussion

  • A tour of Glen Orton looking at residual herbage and soil surface condition of a number of paddocks recently grazed as well as ones the animals were about to enter.
  • Judi leading an exercise and discussion to assess available feed, plan grazing days, and determine and increase stock density.
  • Gathering around campfires for tea and more discussions
  • Alex pointing out important features of biodiversity in the landscape, and what can be done to retain and create habitat for diverse creatures
  • A good group of participants staying afterwards for a BBQ, drinks and more conversation which eventually wound up around 9pm

Here are some of the comments from participants:


It was a good day despite the cold. Loved Alex the bug man and his knowledge.

Very social, very  informative, very helpful to me personally, and the food was GREAT! Please thank the food providers for me. The pies were delicious, and the salads very special.

Very worthwhile

Thank you for an excellent day at your lovely property on Friday. I’m so glad I ignored every obstacle and  continued on my mission to attend.(Everything was leaning against me!!!!!)

Well put together, very informative, thanks for sharing your knowledge

Very interesting

Lots of interesting talk among people

Very good!

Both of us really appreciate how generous you are with your knowledge and the networking with other producers implementing sustainable and planned grazing and farming practices was encouraging and useful.   Higher stock density and more water to our “POMP = paddock of much potential” are priorities.

Thanks for an interesting and worthwhile open day at Glen Orton. The good food and fires were a bonus.

 Networking – very good

It was great to see your comprehensive plant list.  It is always amazing to see how widespread a lot of species are.

Well done (great food)


Here’s what the evaluations showed:

Outcome% Participants
Overall Satisfaction of this event (rated good to excellent):97%
Facilitator's Effectiveness (rated good to excellent):97%
Venue (rated good to excellent):84%
Intent to change management practices/apply ideas you learned in this event? 70%
Intent to complete biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event? 60%
Expanded network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you? 97%
Would recommend this event to others:100%



New Videos Released from Namibian Project


These videos are from a DVD created by the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), a Namibian NGO and co-sponsored by the Namibian Department of Agriculture and the National Namibian Farmers Union. The video documents the development of a rangeland program focused on Holistic Management, spearheaded by Colin Nott, who has been trained in Holistic Management. Our thanks to IRDNC for developing this project and documenting their work. For more information about this project, contact Colin Nott at: [email protected]

Hear an overview of the project and see some of the participants in “Herding the Future”.

In “Cows n Boys 1” you will see a demonstration of low-stress livestock handling by Holistic Management Certified Educator Guy Glosson. Colin brought Guy over from Texas to teach the Namibian herders low-stress livestock handling so they could better manage their herds to improve land health and wildlife habitat. He is given the extra test of getting the “old wild bull” that no one can herd to go into the kraal (corral) and teaching the young herding boys how to do the same.

“Cows n Boys 2” is interspersed with Guy’s powerpoint lecture on Holistic Planned Grazing and low-stress livestock handling as well as more video footage of actual handling demonstration.

There’s Magic in the Soil


In support of the UNs pronouncement of 2015 as the International Year of Soils, we  recommend you take a few minutes to read “Soil Health Movement Gains Converts, Holds Key to Rancher’s Survival” by Mychel Matthews of  The article features a number of producers that have learned the importance of soil health and sustainable principles as part of their management plan. One of the featured producers is Holistic Management producer, Gabe Brown.  Here’s an excerpt…

“Proponents of sustainable farming warn against pulverizing the soil year after year, a practice they say destroys microbial life and dries out the soil before planting.

They also warn that pouring inorganic chemicals to the field in hopes of increasing yields and staving off pests and plant diseases creates an imbalance in the soil and in turn an expensive dependence on more chemicals.”…

Read the entire article on the site 

Find more information about how to create and maintain healthy soil on the HMI Healthy Soils page.

Ranney Ranch Day Delivers Lots of Learning

Ranney Ranch Wildlife Friendly Stock Tank Conversion

Ranney Ranch Wildlife Friendly Stock Tank Conversion


It was a beautiful August 4th for HMI’s Open Gate at the Ranney Ranch. 47 participants, who influenced 280,289 acres, were engaged throughout the day as presenters and participants talked about their experiences of improving land health through better grazing planning and other ranch management practices. These practices are critical to deal with the tough challenges of drought and changing markets. The focus was on improved management of resources and increasing profitability through better marketing and developing effective infrastructure to serve multiple needs including wildlife habitat that provides important ecosystem services as well as serving as viable enterprises.

Open Gate at Ranney Ranch headquarters

Open Gate at Ranney Ranch headquarters

The day began with Ann Adams, HMI Executive Director,  welcoming everyone and introducing Ranney Ranch owner, Nancy Ranney, and ranch manager, Melvin Johnson. They explained how they have been using holistic planned grazing and other practices to improve land health (resulting in a 25% increase in soil organic carbon) as well as help contribute to the gross income of the ranch.

Ranney Ranch Grazing Assessment Demo

Ranney Ranch Grazing Assessment Demo

From there, we went out on a ranch tour with the first stop being a new stock conversion project that was funded by NRCS. Dan Taylor, of Bat Conservation International, had helped with the construction and explained how the project was done to not only improve water infrastructure for the cattle but also provide water for wildlife. In particular he shared that bats provide $3.4 billion in pest control in US/year. He also mentioned if you provide a 10’ minimum stretch of water to safely access the water then 45% of bat population can utilize that water. Most bats have a 2-mile radius so they need water every night. When large ranches provide these kinds of stock tanks it can dramatically help the bat population.

Nancy Ranney

Nancy Ranney

John Hartung, from the NM NRCS, also explained the various NRCS programs for supporting producers in developing infrastructure that improved grazing management and wildlife habitat. As he noted, ranchers are in the grass business not the cattle business so the focus on improved land health is critical for sustainable, resilient landscapes.

At the same stop we talked about how to perform a forage assessment for both monitoring purposes but also to help determine forage inventory to plan grazing periods and stocking rates. Dr. Nick Ashcroft, New Mexico State University (NMSU) Extension Range Management Specialist, and Leigh Ann Marez, NMSU Extension Educator, led this portion of the program and people had an opportunity to look at some of the easy tools and processes used for this type of monitoring.

Melvin Johnson

Melvin Johnson

After one more quick stop to see an area that had been thinned which resulted in more grass production and greater carbon sequestration, participants headed back to ranch headquarters to eat a great lunch which included Ranney Ranch grassfed hamburgers.

After lunch the focus was on exploring more about how the Ranney Ranch decided what infrastructure development to take on in a given year based on both the grazing plan and the financial plan. The focus of this discussion was how to maximize profit or government programs to invest in good years to help the ranch cash flow in leaner years or to build resilience for drought.

The next portion of the program was how to improve profitability from effective marketing. Joseph Ranney, Manager of Online Beef Sales for Ranney Ranch, shared what the ranch’s beef sale program was like and answered questions from the audience about pricing and promotion.

Laurie Bower, Executive Director of Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, talked about how to use the Holistic Management decision making process to help address the challenges of direct marketing . She talked about how people really needed to look at whether different marketing and production options will work on their specific ranches and in their communities.

Beth Spitler, Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinator of Animal Welfare Approved, shared with participants the importance of good labeling to help consumers get the products they want amidst a confusing array of offers and what terms like grassfed or natural or grass finished mean.

The last portion of the program focused on government programs that are available to producers. Kenny Walker from the NM Association of Conservation Districts and Stewart Liley of the NM Fish and Game talked about the programs their organizations are involved in and the effect this money has had in improving management practices by investing in key infrastructure.

Thanks to the Thornburg Foundation for funding this program. Thanks also to our sponsors: Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Claunch-Pinto SWCD, Carrizozo SWCD, NM Fish & Game, NMSU Extension, NM NRCS, NM Association of Conservation Districts, Animal Welfare Approved, Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, and Bat Conservation International. Special thanks to the Ranney family and the Ranney Ranch staff for making this Open Gate day a success.

Here’s what the participants had to say:

“Programs like this one boost my confidence level and give me important network contacts.”
“I gathered several ideas on infrastructure projects.”
“Needed a longer time frame. So much good resource information needs more time.”
“This event had good balance. As always we like as much discussion out on the land.”
“Very enjoyable – well organized.”
“Very welcoming and upbeat – good emphasis on cooperative management.”
“It was very informal. I really liked it.”
“Great organization & interest from participants.”
“Great people & great learning experience.”
“Loved it!”
“Great example of innovative livestock and grassland management.”
“Well organized, great networking.”
“HMI did another first class selection of location, speaker, and keeping it moving.”
“Excellent. A day well spent.”
“A great education providing useful tools.”


Outcome % Participants
Overall Satisfaction of this event (Rated good to excellent): 100%
Overall Satisfaction with the facilitator and presenters: 100%
Would recommend this event to others? 100%
Expanded network by meeting new people or learning about resources available: 96%
Have intent to complete or modify your grazing planning as a result of today’s event: 71%
Do you intend to explore government programs as a result of today’s event?: 81%
How to improve ranch profitability through marketing 81%
Have intent to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned at this event: 80%

Here’s what the evaluations showed:


How often do you test your decisions?

Mimms Open Gate. Cows Holistic Management practitioners in TExas, hmi

Holistic Management Certified Educator trainee, Tuomas Mattila, from Finland has been exploring ways to consistently test his decisions. He came up with his “portable memory aid” which is always “handy.” The idea was to break the testing down and do it regularly. Tuomas has started a blog to document his learning in HMI’s Certified Educator Training Program and you can go there to read about his portable memory aid as well as other topics on his blog.

New Programs & Office Assistant at HMI

Stephanie Von Ancken,  Programs & Office Asst.

Please join us in welcoming Stephanie von Ancken as our new Programs and Office Assistant.

steph and kohlrabi

At the Farmer’s Market with a kohlrabi

Stephanie grew up in the small village of Corrales, New Mexico, but brings a decidedly international flair to HMI. She most recently worked with Casa Xalteva Education and Culture Center, a non-profit in Nicaragua, where she worked bilingually in program development, outreach and scheduling.  With a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Management from the University of New Mexico (UNM), her studies included long periods of time living in France and Finland, where she has achieved proficiency in both languages. She is a member of the Rio Rancho Rotary Club with a leadership role in International Youth Exchange.

Her love of the outdoors and interest in the environment, prompted Stephanie to minor in Sustainability Studies, and get involved with steph in rainforestlocal farming and food systems including projects in Urban Egg networking and the LOBO Grower’s Market at UNM. If she is not in the office she can be found hiking the hills at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, trying to teach herself to play the ukulele, cycling, Latin dancing while practicing Spanish, or throwing ceramic pots.

She is looking forward to becoming part of our local team here in Albuquerque and using her skills to support HMI’s mission.

Introduce yourself to her when you get a chance via email, phone or at one of our upcoming local events!

Canadian Rancher Almost Doubles Carrying Capacity

David Pogson, Manitoba, Canada rancher and holistic manager, was recently interviewed by the Manitoba Farm Journal, and featured in an article on Pembina Valley Online.

Pogson talks about how using Holistic Management practices to plan livestock moves on his ranch over the past 8 years has improved his soil and allowed him to almost double his carrying capacity.   He also shares how he’s used cover crops to both feed cattle and improve the soil.

Pogson credits Holistic Management with the improvements to his pastures.

….it’s really unbelievable… all we’ve done is moved our animals with this planned grazing….we’ve probably upped our carrying capacity  about 95%…

You can read the full article and hear the entire radio interview here:

Manitoba Farm Journal interview

Pembina Valley Online article

Pogson Ranch was one of the planned sites for Holistic Management International’s Open Gates, our on-the-land, interactive learning days to encourage collaboration and networking.  HMI’s full slate of 2015 field days can be found at this webpage, including 3 more scheduled in Canada this year:

HMI’s on-the-land learning days