Grange Farm School Offers Holistic Student Farming Program in California

DSC_1419-XLHMI has been partnering with the Grange Farm School in Willits, California to add more Holistic Management Programming into their curriculum and to provide Holistic Management training to local farmers and ranchers. In fact, we are in the middle of a Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning series that is sold out.

We wanted to let our network know that the Grange Farm School is now accepting applications (deadline is March 1st) for their  14-week residential Student Program starting in April or July, which offers you the tools and confidence to manage a successful agricultural enterprise, whether in farming, ranching, or related fields.

IMG_3919-XLYou will live and work on a beautiful 5,000 acre ranch with diverse vegetables, grains, fruit trees, and livestock. Guest instructors and staff members provide a comprehensive curriculum in business management, industrial arts, animal husbandry, soil and ecology, and crop production, supported by an understanding of the theory and history of our food systems. You will leave with hands-on practical experience, and a framework for thinking outside the box, creative decision making, and communication that improves your business planning, community networking, and relationship building .

grangeGrange Farm School programs are designed for practical people who are ready to make a difference in the real world. Students with a desire to enter a career in agriculture equipped with essential skills, knowledge, and resources. Students who want to be among the million new farmers, ranchers, and small businesses this country needs in order to transform agriculture through creative and profitable enterprises. Take the next step by contacting them at [email protected] or visiting their website: OR blog:

Grange Farm School logo

USDA Revokes Grassfed Label Standard

Happy cows moving into new cover crop salad bar at SG&R Farms.

The USDA’s  Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) revoked the labeling standard for grassfed meat that many organizations have been working on developing the last 4 years. It had been finalized in 2006, and was supported by many national farm and consumer organizations.

AMS cited the key reason for this revoking based on potential confusion between  the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), which must approve meat labels and the AMS labeling grassfed standards which might not be approved the food inspectors.

The Federal Register notice on January 12th does give producers using the grassfed label 30 days to either change their current label into a private standard or develop a new grassfed standard of their own. For example there are other grassfed labels such as the American Grassfed Association standard that grassfed producers can still use if they want to have a national labeling.

The grass fed label claim standard now being revoked originally focused on such criteria as grass, forbs, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the feed during the lifetime of the grassfed livestock after weaning.

To read more about this issue, click here.

To read about the benefits of how properly managed grassfed animals help improve soil health and mitigate climate change, visit HMI’s webpage about soil health.

Mexican Holistic Management Workshop January 15-16, 2016

Gerardo Bezanilla

Gerardo Bezanilla

Environmental Services on Holistically Managed Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands
January 15-16, 2016

Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico

Local Livestock Association Ascension Building

10 am- 5pm

HMI is excited about partnering with Border 2020 Project to help deliver and support this workshop and training in Chihuahua, Mexico. This workshop will demonstrate how Holistic Planned Grazing can restore the health of the natural processes of pastures even in arid areas.

During the workshop, presenters will include livestock specialists dealing with different environmental variables who manage more than 65,000 hectares, including 9 cattle ranches in grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert (8 in Mexico and 1 in USA). These environmental variables are a) concentration and carbon change on the ground, b) fluctuating groundwater levels, c) air pollution by dust particles of wind erosion, and d) ground cover.


January 15th
10:00 Gerardo Bezanilla, Border 2020 Project, Holistic Management
11:00 Dr. David DuBois, New Mexico State University, The Effects of Dust
1:00 Lunch on your Own
2:00 Peter Donovan, Carbon Coalition, Carbon Monitoring
4:00 Dr. Carlos Ochoa, Oregon State University, Watershed Management and Riparian Hydrology in Arid Lands

January 16th
This field day will be held from 8:00 am on Rancho Las Lilas, located 25 minutes from Ascension City to Ciudad Juarez, where attendees can see in practice, some of the activities to be undertaken in the project ranches and learn how they can adopt new management practices to restore grasslands.
You get see a map for directions from the Ascension Local Livestock Association, to the Rancho Las Lilas).

This workshop is free and the doors are open to anyone who wants to learn. For more information please contact Gerardo Bezanilla, [email protected], Cel. Mexico (614) 184-1853, Cel. USA (361) 460-8266

Interview with Texas Holistic Management Practitioners

Holistic Mangement Practitioners, Birdwell & Clark RanchListen to this great radio interview of Deborah Clark of the 14,000-acre Birdwell-Clark Ranch near Henrietta, Texas. Deborah and her husband, Emry, have been practicing Holistic Management on their ranch, using their stocker operation to not only provide good income but also improve quail and other wildlife habitat. They can run as many as 5,000 stockers on as little as 45 acres to increase stock density, moving them 4-6 times a day.

Drought Busting Video

circle_ranch_drough_busters_101_feature-1200x550“Drought Busters” is an inexpensive, quick, physiologically and economically sustainable method of habitat and wildlife restoration developed by Chris and Laura Gill of the Circle Ranch in West Texas. They call it Drought Busters because it increases effective rainfall by rebuilding soil fertility and the soil’s ability to absorb and store water. This 21-minute video explains Drought Busters, and their experience on how wild and domestic animals, Keyline sub-soiling, and water harvesting can restore desertified grasslands. Thanks to Chris and Laura for sharing this video with the HMI community!


Faith Hollow Farm Open Gate Results

Studying soilFaith Hollow Ranch was the site of the November 14th HMI Open Gate near Corpus Christi, Texas. 23 participants joined owners Tracy and Bill Litle, HMI Program Manager Peggy Cole, Dr. Wayne Hanselka, Jose de la Luz “Pepe” Martinez, and Aislynn Campbell to hear about the restoration process, management techniques and considerations for assessing forage, and the lack of supply of locally grown food.



pepeThe morning began with Tracy Litle sharing the story of Faith Hollow Ranch and how she and her husband, Bill, were using animal impact to bring back the grasses in both the bare, cleared pastures and highly dense brush pastures. Through the use of Holistic Management planned grazing, the application of compost teas and the management and monitoring techniques they have learned through HMI, they have improved the soil health, enhancing the ecosystem processes that are critical to sustainable grasslands in the 3 years of practicing holistic management.


Tracy then gave a brief overview of the monitoring process and explained that they were currently using 2 methods to monitor the pastures and brush land. She taught the group one of the land monitoring methods and sent them out into the field to practice. A brief discussion followed regarding the observations and improvements seen.

The morning finished on a pasture walk with Betsy Ross, of Sustainable Growth Texas and Betsy Ross Grass Fed Beef, where she shared the why’s of what was growing in regards to the soil health and the soil biology. She explained the soil food web, the relationship between the fungal and bacterial organisms and how we, as land owners, can readily manage the soil web to produce the desired landscape we want.

betsyAfter a delicious, gluten-free lunch of brisket, homemade gluten-free bread, potato salad and macaroons, Aislynn Campbell of Grow Local South Texas, spoke to the need of growing the local food system and improving the access to nutritious food. She shared her concern over the lack of producers in the area, in spite of the ever increasing demand she experiences at the farmers’ markets. One of the goals of Grow Local South Texas is to grow the number of local producers through involvement in the Learning Garden which allows for hands on experience and ongoing educational programs for vegetable and fruit growers.

Pepe Martinez of The National Grazinglands Coalition and NRCS gave a short presentation on available forage for livestock and wildlife noting the diet composition by percent of grass, forbs and browse each species requires. Availability and seasonal differences were identified as well.

Following Pepe, Dr. Wayne Hanselka, a Certified Professional in Rangeland Management, spoke to assessing forage in regard to determining stocking densities and stocking rates, the management factors to consider, wildlife needs, and the changing forage requirements for the cow at different stages. He and Pepe then led the group in two exercises to determine the amount of grazeable forage.

Bill Litle ended the day with a show and tell in compost tea brewing. He explained the brewer, spraying equipment and compost requirements, answering questions as they surfaced.

Thanks to the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation for their support of this program, and to our collaborators: Sustainable Growth Texas, NRCS, Grow Local STX, TRM International, National Grazing Lands Coalition, and the Corpus Christi Downtown Farmers Market.

The 23 participants filling out an evaluation represented 17,746 acres with a variety of enterprises including cattle, pigs, goats, poultry, hay and vegetables.

Here what some of the participants said:

  • Very informative & I liked the passion that was portrayed by each speaker.
  • Good qualified educators who respectfully worked together with different perspectives.
  • Very good. Brought to my attention the biology of the soil.
  • Very informative. Able to ask a lot of questions.
  • I intend to include cattle & goats in my grazing plan.
  • I intend to learn more about the biology of the soil.
  • I intend to start a book of pictures representing different pastures for “before” examples & soil examples.
  • I intend to look at root systems more closely, push to keep from using herbicides.
  • I intend to learn more about forage assessment & Holistic Management.

Here’s what the evaluations showed:

Outcome % of respondents
Better understand how grazing can influence soil health 74%
Feel more confident in their ability to see indicators of soil health 83%
Feel more confident in their ability to assess forage quantity and quality 74%
Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas they learned as a result of this event? 88%
Intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of this event?

Would recommend this event to others




Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to increase land health 65%
Expanded their network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to them? 100%



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:


Beginning Women Farmer in Texas 2015 Report


Beginning women farmers in Texas take turns explaining their land plan options in experiential exercises.

Beginning women farmers in Texas take turns explaining their land plan options in experiential exercises.

HMI’s 2015 Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the NE & Texas program funded by the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program, has been going full steam through the winter and spring with some states beginning to wrap up. The Texas program coordinated by HMI’s Program Manager, Peggy Cole, completed all 10 sessions by the end of February. Lead instructor was Holistic Management Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist and mentors for the program were Tracy Litle, Lauri Celella, Kathy Harris, Pam Mitchell, Lauren Bradbury, and Katherine Napper, and CD Pounds. We’ve been busy entering the data and crunching the numbers. Thanks to the USDA/NIFA BFRDP for their support of this program.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our 33 Texas participants who graduated:

Land Planning exercise during Beginning Women Farmer Training

Land Planning exercise during Beginning Women Farmer Training


Of the 28 participants responding

  • 27 are currently farming and all plan to continue farming
  • The average years of farming was 4 years (range: 0.2 to 9 years)
  • The average acres under production was 89 acres under production (range: 0.5 to 500 acres) with a total of 2569 under production
  • The average age was 47 years old (range: 24 to 75 years old)
  • The total retail customers of all participants was : 624 and 18 wholesale customers
  • 33 participants were trained and 32 graduated for a 97% graduation rate
  • Overall satisfaction of the program was an average of 94%
Beginning women farmers in Texas explore land planning options

” Beginning women farmers in Texas explore land planning options

Here’s what the participants had to say:

“The network has introduced resources and expertise I may never have encountered.”

“The network has supported me in many ways. With my mentor – my mentor supports me and assists me with such unparalleled generosity and expertise and kindness. She is an invaluable gift. With my mentee team – my fellow mentees are also great supports.”

“I think the relationships I made here have saved my mental health and will greatly enhance my effectiveness as a person for as long as I live.”

“The suggestions from others are invaluable. Seeing what others are doing helps generate ideas.”

“In the BWF network we have teamed up, borrowed equipment, bought/sold equipment & goods/services, exchanged information, troubleshooting, delivered programming, met with 3rd party & mutual friends, been introduced to new clients, etc.”

“My mentor visits are very helpful! Great ideas & knowledge!”

“It helps to know my decisions and goals are shared by others who also struggle to succeed – and some have made it!”

“My mentor will walk the land with me to help me understand our next steps.”

“The relationships w/fellow classmates is incredible.”

“I have made connections that led to borrowing equipment free of charge, volunteer labor and new customer base.”

“I feel like the class provided an inspiring network of other beginning & established farms & ranches with a wealth of knowledge & resource. Learned of new mentors & programs.”

“I know I can turn to many of these women, especially in my management club, with questions or for help in need. To have this support is invaluable.”


Katherine Napper Ottmer reviewing the testing questions during a land planning class.

Katherine Napper Ottmer reviewing the testing questions during a land planning class.











Results of Surveys

BWF PARTICIPANT BEHAVIOR CHANGE (completion of plans) % of participants
Holistic Goal/Whole Farm Plan 97%
Financial Plan 93%
Business Plan 78%
Marketing Plan 81%
Land Plan 100%
Biological Monitoring 90%
Grazing Plan (grazers in group) 95%
Forge Relationships That Positively Impacted You 100%


Tracy Litle explains concepts of brainstorming options during land planning

Tracy Litle explains concepts of brainstorming options during land planning

Post-Program Outcome Changes
Topic % Participants ExperiencingChange
Increased satisfaction with Quality of Life 79%
Increased satisfaction with Communication 86%
Increased satisfaction with Time Management 86%
Increased satisfaction with Ability to Determine Needed Profit 93%
Increased satisfaction with Ability to Make Complex Decisions 97%



Post-Session Impacts Achieved Percent of Participants
Human Resource Management  
Clearer sense of what you are managing towards 100%
Better Ability to Determine Resources Available to You 100%
More Efficient Use of Resources 90%
Improved Communications on the Farm 86%
Improved Decision Making 90%
New Policies and Systems Implemented 83%
Better Relationships 79%
Financial Resource Management  
Increased Farm Profits 21%
Increased Net Worth 21%
Increased Gross Income as result of training 43%
Ability to Identify Business Challenges from Previous Years 76%
Strategies for More Effective Reinvestment in the Business 83%
New or Improved Record Keeping Systems 76%
Enhanced Understanding of Your Farm Finances 79%
Changes in How Your Prioritize Expenses 83%
Reduced Farm Expenses 38%
Improved Ability to Prioritize Land Planning Investments 86%
Improved Ability to Incorporate Social, Environmental, and Financial into Your Land Plan 86%
Improved Ability to Articulate Goals and Objectives of Business to Others 83%
Improved Understanding of your Market and How Your Business Fits In 69%
Prioritized investments 66%
Improved ability to determine most effective enterprises 76%
Improved ability to effectively market products 62%
Natural Resource Management  
Achievement of Environmental Goals in Your Land Plan 48%
Increased Forage Production 24%
Reduction in Feed Costs 43%
Improved Environmental Conditions 48%
Improved Herd Health 43%
Improved Ability to Manage Animals 81%
Less Stress for Farmers 52%
Less Stress for Animals 52%
Longer Grazing Seasons 24%
Reduction of Overgrazed Plants 48%
Improved Understanding of Your Farm’s Eco-System 100%
Improved Ability to Determine Appropriate Management to Address an Environmental Issue 86%
Implementation of Specific Management Practices to Remediate an Environmental Issue 79%
Improved Understanding of Your Forage Composition 83%
Improved Environmental Conditions on Your Farm 59%
Desired Change in Species Composition 55%


Knowledge Change Summary Per Session
Course % Participants Experiencing Knowledge Change
Session One – Goal Setting
Defining Effective Management Team 85%
Inventory Farm Resources 85%
Develop a Whole Farm Goal 94%
Define What You Are Managing Towards 85%
Identify Needed Farm Systems and Protocols 79%
Integrate Social, Economic, and Environmental Factors into Decision-Making 94%
Session Two – Time Management
Ability to Make Complex On-Farm Decisions 97%
Assess How Time is Spent on Farm 100%
Understanding Seasonal Time Demands/Flows 88%
Effectively Manage Time on Your Farm 97%
Session Three – Financial Planning I
Attitude Toward Financial Planning 76%
Ability to Develop Balance Sheet 83%
How to Increase Farm Net Worth 86%
Determining Viable Profitable Enterprises for Your Farm 93%
Determining Your Farm’s Projected Revenue 90%
Identifying Logjams and Adverse Factors on Farm 97%
Session Four – Financial Planning II  
Skills in Developing Whole Farm Financial Plan 100%
Getting Profit You Need from Your Farm 88%
Delineating Farm Expense Categories 88%
Prioritizing and Cutting Farm Expenses to Guide Reinvestment 92%
Assessing Farm Cash Flow 92%
Monitoring Your Financial Plan 92%
Session Five – Marketing  
Using Whole Farm Goal and Financial Plan to Develop Marketing Plan 100%
Profitably Price Products and Services 93%
Effectively Promote Products and Services 86%
Marketing Outreach Towards Your Whole Farm Goal 93%
How to Develop a Marketing Plan 86%
Session Six – Business Planning
Knowledge of Resources for Developing Strategic Plan for Farm 93%
Attitudes Towards Value of Having a Business Plan to Guide Farm 74%
Ability to Develop a Business Plan for Farm 89%
Ability to Use Holistic Goal to Guide Business Strategic Plan 96%
Ability to Use Financial Plan to Determine Viable Markets for Farm 89%
Ability to Implement Systems and Projects to Move Towards Whole Farm Goal 89%
Session Seven – Leadership and Communication
Effective Communication Tools for Farm 85%
Conflict Resolution Skills for Farm 85%
Incorporating Diverse Learning Styles toward More Effective Leadership and Communication 85%
Using Whole Farm Goal to Guide Communication on Farm 85%
Session Eight – Land Planning
Prioritize Land and Infrastructure Development/Investments 84%
Design Strategies to Build Resilient, Diversified Farms 97%
Assess Management Considerations to Guide Land Planning 87%
How to Incorporate Natural Resource Issues into Land Planning 87%
How to Incorporate Social/Legal/Contractual into Land Planning 81%
Session Nine – Grazing
Value of Grazing Planning 89%
How to Assess Recovery Periods 100%
How to Assess Quantity of Forage in Pasture 96%
How to Improve Land Health with Livestock 100%
How to Determine Number of Animals Your Pasture Can Support 93%
How to Determine the Number of Paddocks 96%
How to Determine Grazing Periods 100%
Session Ten – Soil Fertility
Importance of Improving Soil Fertility Sustainably 71%
Value of Organic Matter in Soils 79%
Benefits of a Covered Soil 82%
Benefits of Biodiversity 79%
Indicators of a Healthy Farm Eco-System 86%
Ability to Monitor Farm Eco-System Health 96%


Increased Confidence as a Result of Session % of participants
Developing Written Whole Farm Goal 94%
Identifying Systems and Protocols for your Farm 82%
Manage Your Time on Your Farm 100%
Make Complex Decisions on Your Farm 97%
Using Testing Questions for On Farm Analysis 97%
Determine Your Farm’s Net Worth 83%
Increase Your Farm’s Net Worth 69%
Determine Viable Profitable Enterprises 76%
Getting Profit You Need From Your Farm 65%
Prioritizing Cutting Farm Expenses to Guide Re-investment 69%
Determining Weak Link in Farm Enterprises 81%
Identifying Cash Flow Issues on Farm 73%
Pricing Your Farm Products 72%
Promoting Your Farm Products 90%
Developing a Marketing Plan that Meets Your Farm’s Needs and Goals 83%
Assessing Your Competition to Understand Your Farm’s Strengths 66%
Developing a Business/Strategic Plan 89%
Identifying Resources to Assist You in Developing a Business/Strategic Plan 89%
Implementing Important Strategic Systems and Projects 89%
Communicating with Decision Makers 81%
Communicating with Farm Workers 81%
Providing Leadership on Your Farm 78%
Ability to Prioritize Land/Infrastructure Improvements on Farm 94%
Ability to Incorporate Natural Resource Issues into Land Planning 94%
Ability to Incorporate Social/Legal Considerations into Land Planning 71%
Ability as a Grazer 89%
Assessing Recovery Periods 81%
Assessing Quantity of Forage and Pasture 81%
Determining the Number of Animals Your Land Can Support for Grazing 78%
Calculating the Number of Paddocks for your System 78%
Determining How Long Animals Will Stay in Each Paddock 74%
Monitoring Your Farm’s Eco-System Health 100%
Improving Eco-System Health on Your Farm 89%
Building Organic Matter in Your Soils 79%



Texas Grazing Planning for Drought Mitigation Results

Ryan Reitz, Grazing Manager at Kerr Wildlife Center

Ryan Reitz, Grazing Manager at Kerr Wildlife Center



On April 24-26th, participants of HMI’s Drought Mitigation Series in Texas met at Kerr Wildlife Management to spend 3 days learning about grazing planning to improve productivity of land even in drought. This portion of the series was taught by Holistic Management Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist and long-time Holistic Management practitioner and rancher, Walt Davis. Participants had a lot of time both in the classroom and out on the land to learn about key grazing strategies and implementation as well as work on their own holistic grazing plan.

Walt Davis shared his knowledge about ranching and participants learned that raising animals is not a system or a program. He said, “It’s applied logicand that plant diversity in our pastures is key. He talked about the stocking rate, which is the number of pounds of animals you stock per unit of grazing land for the grazing season. He also noted that if the stocking rate is wrong, nothing else works and it will significantly compromise an operation that is facing drought.

Walt also noted that the recovery period for pastures is equally important to stocking rates. If you keep cattle in a pasture too long, they may graze the grass too short, damaging the roots so the plant recovery will take longer. We actually grow more, by leaving more. He said if we get in the habit of two-day grazing periods, we will greatly reduce horn flies and the recovery of forage will be quicker. If cattle stay in a pasture and eat grass down to two to four inches, they may have parasite problems because parasites will crawl up high enough on the short grass for the cattle to ingest them. He shared that the longer animals grazed a pasture, the poorer the animal performance. High stock density grazing can increase land resilience with proper recovery.

Walt went on to discuss factors that increase profitability. He mentioned that we need to use Enterprise Analysis and pay close attention to risk to our potential profit. In his opinion if you are not making a 50% profit in an enterprise, don’t do it. Be sure that your enterprise fits your resource base. The best genetics are those that work under your management. These production strategies and management decisions are what make a difference for a ranch to survive challenging times, including drought.

Thanks to the Dixon Water Foundation and the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation for their support of this program.

Here is what participants had to say:

I learned how to do the grazing plan & the plane of nutrition and how to keep good animal performance with grazing.

I learned how to balance expenditures, and the best cow types for grassfed beef.

I intend to begin measuring soil organic matter to show/monitor improvement of water holding capacity.

I intend to begin measuring soil organic matter, but usually though looking at litter, degree of decay and surface/subsurface life.

I know from past experiences which soil test it is too low – now I know how to improve.

I intend to break my large pasture into paddocks and manage each individually.

I intend to have a more thorough grazing plan ready so we can estimate and predict our pasture usage.

I learned that the quality of the grazing material needs to be utilized in optimum relation to the stock needs – protein, life/stage.


Outcome % of participants
Are you more confident in your ability to assess forage volume for grazing planning as a result of this course? 64%
Are you more confident in your ability to complete a grazing plan as a result of this course? 91%
Are you more confident in your ability to monitor ecosystem health on your farm as a result of this course? 100%
Do you intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event? 100%
Do you intend to create a grazing plan for your livestock as a result of this workshop? 100%
Do you intend to begin measuring soil organic matter as a result of this training? 100%
Increased knowledge of the difference between a growing season plan and a non-growing season plan 100%
Increased knowledge of the relationship of planned grazing to increased water storage in the soil 82%






Pronghorn and Desert Bighorn like Holistic Planned Grazing




If you are interested in seeing some Pronghorn and Desert Bighorn making use of the “amenities” on the Circle Ranch, click on this link to see wildlife camera video footage. Note the wildlife ramp at the stock tank so smaller animals have access to the critical water needed to survive in West Texas. But water is only one resource the Circle Ranch provides to increase wildlife numbers and improve wildlife habitat.

Circle Ranch’s recipe for abundant pronghorn and bighorn is:

  1. Encourage animal biodiversity
  2. Periodically, use cattle under planned grazing to improve plant conditions
  3. Maintain lots of free water
  4. Copy nature for wildlife “management” practices

The Circle Ranch has been doing a great job of improving rangeland soil and productivity. We encourage all Holistic Management practitioners to send us pictures and videos of the results you are achieving on your land through your practice of Holistic Management. Send an email to Sandy Langelier, Communications & Outreach Director with attachment or link.

Together we can show how Holistic Management makes a difference in the lives of the people, animals (livestock, wildlife, microorganisms, and more), plants, and soil. Help HMI celebrate the International Year of Soils by archiving as many Holistic Management success stories as we can!