We were excited to read this recent article in the North Queensland Register from Australia on “Grazing the Holistic Way.” Holistic Management Certified Educator Brian Wehlburg is featured in this article. Entities like the North Queensland Dry Tropics and the Dalrymple Landcare Committee have helped sponsor and collaborate to provide Holistic Management training in the area. The need to increase soil fertility and capture rainfall as rains come has proven to be a critical point of interest for these farmers as well as the desire to improve the profitability and resilience of their enterprises. If you are looking for someone near you who to answer questions about these practices, check out our Interactive Map.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
Lots of interesting talk among people
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:
|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%|
In this installment of the HM Podcast Series, we are joined by Colin Seis, an Australian farmer who has invented a new way to grow annual cereal crops. Pasture cropping, as it is called, involves the direct seeding of annual crops into perennial pastures that are grazed at high densities prior to sowing. Colin relates to us what he has learned over the course of a decade of experiential learning with pasture cropping, including how it is done, the economic benefits, and the improvements in soil health and biodiversity that result.
Download the mp3 file. Or listen by using the player below.
This podcast interview represents a unique collaboration between Holistic Management International and the Agroinnovations Podcast. The Holistic Management Series of the Agroinnovations Podcast is a series of eight interviews conducted with researchers and scientists. The focus on these interviews will be past and current attempts to use research methods for better understanding the relationship between the HM decision-making framework, the people who use it, and the land that they manage. These interviews will be available here on the HM Data and Documentation blog, and also via the Agroinnovations Podcast page. The Agroinnovations Podcast is also broadcast on WMRW, a low power FM station in the Mad River valley of Vermont.
In this first episode of the Holistic Management series, we are joined by Dr. Judi Earl of Holistic Management International Australia. Dr. Earl is a researcher who supports HM practitioners in Australia. We discuss the shortcomings of research in whole systems management, the use of animal impact as a tool to heal land, the differences between stocking density and stocking rate, the power of Holistic Planned Grazing, and Judi’s research on grass utilization as an indicator for effective management.
Use the audio player below to listen to the episode. Or, you can download an mp3 file by clicking here.
If you prefer to use iTunes to subscribe and listen, then click here.
A Decision Support Approach to Sustainable Grazing Management for Spatially Heterogeneous Rangeland Paddocks
Authors: Bellamy et. al. Published In: Rangeland Journal
The introduction starts out auspiciously from the perspective of an HM practitioner:
“Improvement in land management practices has been identified as the most significant factor needed to achieve sustainable agriculture ideals. However, the lack of feedback mechanisms to alert producers to problems that may arise from their actions or inactions, and of strategies to deal with them within the time-frame of of on-farm decision making, are considered to represent critical barriers to the adoption of more sustainable practices.”
In so many ways, this is what HRM is designed to do; the development of the holisticgoal and the importance of monitoring and modifying management towards the achievement of that goal fills precisely the need described in the previous quotation.
The authors choose to emphasize the complex variability in abiotic and biotic factors within oftentimes large paddocks on the Australian landscape. This complexity results in a matrix of under and overutilized resources within a single paddock. Conceptually, at least, Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG) should be able to deal with this complexity.
In contrast, the authors’ solution to this problem is described as a Decision Support System, specifically that of Landassess DSS. The focus is threefold: a key understanding of ecosystem processes, the identification of early warning indicators, the availability of effective tools to evaluate management options.
The paper then goes on to describe the development of a DSS based on these criteria. The DSS is a undoubtedly a software-based approach, using complex modeling, database, knowledge management and GIS agents to assist in the management and decision-making framework. This framework is compelling and by no means mutually exclusive with HM and HPG; on the contrary, the system could be used to factor in elements that are critical to the HM framework, like grazing planning, managed stock-densities, land health monitoring, and precise control over paddock recovery periods.
In this case, the DSS was used to develop a complex management model for the following factors:
- Land units (paddocks)
- System states-state tranisitions to classify paddock conditions under 5 category classifications
- Soil erosion risk
- Regression models for predicting pasture production
- Animal production
- Preferences for pasture condition, which allowed for the assignation of stocking rates
- Economic model to extrapolate value from predicted animal production
Ultimately, what the DSS allows the land managers to do is to run through a series of “What If” scenarios; these scenarios will then predict a number of interesting outputs: animal live weight gain, pasture production, soil erosion risk, and paddock gross margins. The article presents a couple of real world examples for the application of their modeling software.
The author’s themselves acknowledge that these types of models depend highly on the quality of the data and the assumptions on which they are built. Little is offered in terms of a detailed evaluation of their modeling software. Keep in mind, as well, that this paper was published 12 years ago; surely much progress has been made since that time. Questions abound, for example: How well does it predict things like pasture degradation and/or gross margins in the real world?
For the purposes of HMI, a real case could be made to engage researchers involved in these types of modelling and decision support framework efforts. By taking elements of the HM framework and incorporating them into these powerful modelling tools, HRM could experience an upgrade that allows it to deal with complexity several orders of magnitude beyond current capacity. To be sure, complex models have little value for small and medium scale ranches; but government agencies and large land holders stand to benefit greatly. This is, moreover, a powerful way to “institutionalize” HRM at very large scale landscape levels.