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    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Another update on our Holistic Farming venture. Nature seems to be smiling on our venture. Where I farm is an area prone to drought. Summers are usually very dry. Some years you could follow a mouse through our fields! Not this year! Even the rabbits are finding difficulty trying to get anywhere in our thick dense sward of grass!

    Cattle numbers are now up to 292 with a further 70 arriving this week. The cattle are living very contented lives. They are moved to fresh pasture every two or three days. No worming necessary. The worm cycle is short circuited by shifting the cattle. I've noticed more ground nesting birds around the farm, including hawks. When I part the grass the soil underneath is all worm castings, lose and fluffy. When the cattle are moved the grass is partially eaten, partially flattened and partially standing. The soil is always covered providing providing mulch for micro organisms and protection from the sun.

    The world urgently needs this method of farming to revitilize desert areas. It's an obsolete myth that animals cause destruction of land . It's the modern method of farming that is the cause of desertification. The prairies of America used to support millions of large animals till man came alone and destroyed them, causing the dust bowl conditions and desertification. Research holistic farming and find out for yourself.

    My aim is to successfully farm holistically here and show by example that it can be done. The fertiliser companies will be screaming as no fert is used. The vets won't be happy either as no drugs are necessary. The only costs I have in this operation are the minerals I feed to the cattle and the fencing. Mainly fencing repairs at this stage and temporary electric fencing. I have no tractor and make no hay. The winter feed is standing hay. (Saved grass). The cattle are sleek and fat and fit. Our old house cow Alex is still feeding three calves plus a cheeky adult steer that loves milk!

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    thank you Carmen for this great thread that I just came across today. It gives me hope that eventually we will have our land restored as time goes by.

    When we purchases our humble 8 acres it has no signs of life except for the sage brush and I seriously wondered if it could be healed. It felt dead and it was loaded with tumbleweeds also. At one time, maybe 15 years ago the land had produced sugar beets. Now three years since we've been here there's an abundance of bees in 4 or 5 varieties, many birds and things growing everywhere. We did make some mistakes but now that is even healing. Our plan is to have two heads of cattle, a milk cow and a couple of pigs to share 3 relatively small paddocks including a divided three acre pasture with abundant grass and a 1/3 acre pasture in an other area. This summer the first amimals will go on if we get our fencing done.

    Grass fed beef is a growing preference here in the States. The farmers feed corn to finish off because they think it will make them more money as the animal weighs more... but the grass fed beef at this time brings a higher price if you are linked into good marketing connections.

    the best thing about raising your own or getting meat from neighbors out in the country is that you never pay more than 2.50 to $3.00 US a pound wether your having prime rib or t-bone or hamburger and you know exactly what you are getting...you see the farm, you know how its managed. I paid 2.00 for lamb a few months ago. Pork runs about the same for grass fed. All them folks that live in the city have no clue on how well country folks eat.. I certainly didnt till I got here.

    In my lasagna vegetable beds I found worms last summer. I didnt' put them there and the soil in general hasn't had any. I think they flew in and decided to stick around. I'll start looking for worms in the pasture this summer, we havent seen any yet, so I might even try planting some. When we started we cut the sagebrush, the machine pulverized it and turned it down into the soil, then we spread a hefty dose of manure then seeded. Next time we fertilize we will likely go with a fish hydrolized, sprayed on. Ive read that spraying on raw milk will increase the plant brix significantly also. Use about one quart minimum per acre diluted with water in a boom.

    Ive got a ways to go before feeling confident that we dont need to fertilize. So far we have harvested our hay and sold it so that makes me think I have to fertilize. But soon hay harvest will end when the animals come. This is what we are planning to use next to fertilize with. I need to learn more about how to get minerals into the animals. Please write about that if you can.
    http://www.neptunesharvest.com/hf-191.html

    You say that you dont feed the animals hay in the winter and that they forage. I dont know that we have enough land to do that (and becasue of this we have thought about getting yaks instead-dont know yet) The plan was to purchase two angus or similar somewhere short of a year old, 3 head (one being a milk cow we keep long term) on 3 1/3 acres may not allow for it. Our plan was to slaughter in the fall and only keep the milking cow through the winter then start again with a near yearling in the spring.

    Keep up the good work. Im wondering if there is a speciality market in NZ for grass fed, or if that is just what is normal there. Grass fed pork is uncommon here and we may turn to focusing on that.

  4. Link to Post #43
    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Another update on what is happening with my holistic farming venture. New Zealand is in a serious drought at the moment. The whole of the North Island has been declared a disaster zone. We are dry here in North Otago, but it's usually dry this time of year anyway. Well, this year I have plenty of grass in reserve even if it is dry on the top, the bottom is still green. My cattle are full and content and I'm really pleased with Holistic Management.

    Allan Savory, the founder of holistic management has a wonderful Ted Talk out. It was recorded last month. Very inspirational.

    My daughter and I attended attended a Joel Salatin seminar in Wanaka a fortnight ago. It was excellent. People came from as far away as Australia. This guy is a real practical supporter of the family farm. He farms in the Shanendoah valley in Virginia.

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Brilliant thread Carmen, thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it... you're an inspiration.

    Just shows how important it is to work with nature and trust your own feelings

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  8. Link to Post #45
    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Had an inch of rain in the last two days! With plenty of grass cover on the property every bit of it soaked in, no runoff when there is no bare ground. The cattle get very quiet when they are being shifted and checked every other day. My horse gets thoroughly licked if he stays still too long! I'm in the process of buying some more land. One very big attraction to this new land is that it has a set of cattle yards on it and at the moment I don't have cattle yards.

    I'm finding it very satisfying farming holistically. The people involved are free thinkers and innovators. I have lots to learn yet but it's one step at a time. I love the fact that holistic management is applicable everywhere, from African villagers to American ranchers. It's now being applied on five continents.

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  10. Link to Post #46
    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Another update on our Holistic Farming Venture. We are in the process of buying the rising two in-calf heifers we have been grazing over the past year. Our venture continues to be low cost. I did need a tractor to feed out large bales when we had a bit of snow but avoided having to fork out money on machinery that rusts and depreciates! I borrowed an old tractor from my son!

    Our cattle have adjusted well to our all grass regime, they were not particularly hungry for the hay we fed them. Our heifers are not huge animals, but they are very fit and active, which means they should calve easily. I love watching them climb steep hills, they are very athletic. We did have two premature calves born early (they must have found a bull before we took delivery!) The first one Frances missed and it died! She was very distraught about that! The next one spent its first night out in the paddock with its mother, with my old jersey on, wrapped in a blanket, and with a hot water bottle!! It has survived very well!!

    We did decide about a month/six weeks ago that our cattle were suffering from worms and lice! So, in keeping with keeping things natural and low cost, Frances stormed the Internet for info. She found good advice on a housecow site in America. The cattle were given cayenne pepper with molasses for the worms and we put them in the yards and rubbed sulphur powder along their backs for the lice. Both remedies worked well and the cost was less than $30.00 NZ for the whole process.

    We are looking forward to calving in Oct. our bulls this past season were fairly ordinary Angus so we are looking to get some better quality sires this season. They will either be better Angus or Speckled Parks, which is a relatively new Canadian breed. Fortunately most of our girls appear to be in calf.
    Last edited by Carmen; 9th August 2013 at 03:45.

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  12. Link to Post #47
    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    I love, love, love springtime, lambs and calves and daffodils and birds building nests, the herons coming back to nest in my tallest trees. The garden calls and things wake up again. I have lots of pet lambs this year. I bought in sixty more ewes that were going cheap! They have been very troublesome in their health and their mothering abilities! This year we are building more fences near our house to gain better control and this better management of our sheep. Our regular sheep are low maintenance. They are completely used to looking after themselves. We do not drench for worms or medicate them in any way. We do make sure they have grass and hay (When need be) and access to minerals at all times.

    We pregnancy tested our heifers yesterday. I thought we would have many 'empties' (non pregnant heifers) but out of 211 animals only 25 were empty, so that was pleasing. And most of the empty ones (please don't take offence at farming jargon!) were mostly the Charolais we had. They weren't pure Charolais they had a bit of highland blood and saler blood. They also had come from a flat land farm to our farm and took ages to get used to climbing hills. I've realised in the past year just how acclimatised animals become to their own 'place'.

    Young animals, just like human children learn so much from their mothers. Whatever mother eats, they will eat, they follow example. Animals brought in from other farms that are used to being fed lots of 'goodies' will sulk and bawl and turn their noses up to ordinary foraging and eating all that's put in front of them. If they are given no choice they adapt sometimes quickly and sometimes gradually! Quite like human kids wouldn't you say?

    I now have sixteen pet lambs. The last one I've called James Last!! Hopefully he is the last. It takes a bit of time feeding them four times a day but they are mainly doing well. We use homeopathic s to treat any maladies and that seems to work really well and it's a whole lot cheaper than veterinary products.

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    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Here is some evidence of Allan Savory's holistic Management in action.

    http://youtu.be/xMjKcCfBtfI

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    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Here is another excellent example of an Aussie farmer switching to Holistic Management and regenerating his farm.

    http://youtu.be/j12BL3ZbChc

    http://youtu.be/j12BL3ZbChc

    Blast! How do I get the actual video here?

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    thanks for the interesting thread .I yearn for a bit of land to forest garden . I make do with a small suburban garden which I try and do my best with .
    Wondered if you had seen this Carmen if you cant watch all then go to 20min mark find this really interesting also the evidence for no tilling, very visual !
    Quote I've seen a program where in Europe there is an invasive flat worm that is consuming all the earthworms. This is causing the sheep yards to turn into swamps because the sheep compact the soil with there hooves. The earthworms effectively aerate the soil thus improving the soil drainage
    Unfortunately I have flat worms in my garden . Been hear about 10 yrs .When I 1st arrived we had loads of big fat juicy earthworms hated digging incase I cut them now I dig and nothing !
    Not sure how they got here could be from neighbours or importing on soil from bought plants but it has devastated the earth worms in my garden. Am thinking of getting a wormery but have been told not to put them loose in the soil as it will just feed the flat worms . There seems to be no cure for them either .worrying

    silver

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  19. Link to Post #51
    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Yes, I have seen this silverfish, but it's well worth seeing again. England and much of Europe would be termed non-brittle land where rainfall is reliable throughout the year. Growth is reliable in that environment. When the pioneers emigrated to the new world they discovered lands rich and fertile and farmed them as they did in England. Unfortunately, these lands were what is described as 'brittle or semi- brittle' meaning rain fell in smaller amounts sometimes only once a year. When the naturally fertility of these lands was depleted the land did not recover with rest as it does in non-brittle landscape. Often there was so much land available in the new country the migrants would just move to a new spot and repeat the farming method they were used to. These brittle environments need animal impact to recover and to be fertile again. Nature built up fertility with animals and the predators that accompanied them.

    It is a huge fallacy that is deep in the mind set of people that animals overgrazing causes land degradation and desertification. This is completely wrong and we see the evidence of this mindset in the bare desert conditions of much of the American West for instance. When we mimic nature and use animals in herds and move them often, we are mimicking how nature works. Grass returns in abundance to bare desert like land and water returns and with it abundant wildlife.

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    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Here is my attempt at posting a utube video.

    http://youtu.be/FyMg8mMPRY4[YOUTUBE]FyMg8mMPRY4YOUTUBE]

    Rats!!

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Quote Posted by Carmen (here)
    Here is my attempt at posting a utube video.

    http://youtu.be/FyMg8mMPRY4[YOUTUBE]FyMg8mMPRY4YOUTUBE]

    Rats!!
    Here's the corrected post:

    The raw input code for this looks like:
    [YOUTUBE]http://youtu.be/FyMg8mMPRY4[/YOUTUBE]
    (Close - you were missing an opening [ before the final YOUTUBE.)

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  24. Link to Post #54
    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Thank you thank you Paul. Having looked at this particular clip it could well go in the Save the World thread.

    Holistic Management can be applied anywhere, in any country (and is) and does not apply just to farming. The model is transferrable!
    Last edited by Carmen; 3rd September 2013 at 23:27.

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    New Zealand Avalon Member Carmen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    This is an interesting article from the Managing Wholes site


    The American Sahara
    The New Desert Beneath Our Feet
    by Thomas J. Elpel

    The world you see outside your window probably seems quite normal to you. Except for the new roads and houses it is the same world you've always known. That's the irony of it. We can transform half a continent of rich grasslands and forest into a wasteland, yet few people would ever notice the difference. It happened in Greece, where the lush Mediterranean forests were cut down and the rich, deep soils washed out into the sea. We expect Greece to be mostly barren and rocky. That's what the pictures show us of the old Greek ruins. It is normal to us now.

    Human activity is also responsible for eliminating the forests that once covered much of the Middle East. Even the Sahara Desert, spanning 3,000 miles across northern Africa, is largely a human-made desert. The fertile soils there once grew the grain that supported the Roman Empire. But all that is gone and the desert is "normal" now. We expect a desert there, because that is how it was on the maps when we were children.


    Forty percent of North America's crop and rangelands have turned to desert. Sand dunes are visibly forming along the farm fields in places like Mud Lake, Idaho.
    Today we are creating a new Sahara, an American Sahara, right beneath our feet, yet few people have noticed. Our grandchildren may think it completely normal to live in a world of sand dunes and barren rock, because that is the world they will grow up in. According to Newsweek, 40% of North America's crop and rangelands have already turned to desert. But there are many degrees of desertification, and we've only seen the beginning.

    For the novice the process of desertification is easiest to observe on rangelands with bunch grass ecology. The exposed soil between the grass is spreading, and you can watch it grow from year to year. You can watch the soil disappear and the ground become progressively more gravely, rocky and weedy. It is not climate change. The land is drying up and blowing away because there are very few new seedlings to replace the older grasses and forbs that naturally die out.

    Many ecologists are familiar with the problem of the dying cottonwoods. Cottonwood trees require periodic floods to initiate germination of new seedlings. Without floods there are no young trees to replace the old and dying ones. Look for it along the rivers where dams have altered the natural flood cycle. In controlled rivers you will typically find many old trees but few young ones. The problem on our rangelands is very similar. The old grasses are dying out and there are few young ones to replace them.

    Many people want to blame cows for wasting the range, but from the perspective of the grass, the species of animal (bison, cattle, elk, antelope, etc.) doesn't really matter, as long as they have sharp hooves and the ability to convert range plants to dung and urine. The root of the desertification problem is a simple change in the natural pattern of grazing and recovery.

    Historically western rangelands were grazed and maintained by massive herds of buffalo. The important part was not the buffalo, but the sequence of grazing. Predators forced the buffalo to stay clustered in tight herds for safety. Some herds were so massive that observers described them as miles wide and hours or even days long in passing. They destroyed everything in their path, trampling all the grasses, all the sage--every bit of organic matter--right into the soil. Their hooves and urine killed the moss while desirable plant seeds were pounded into the soil to germinate. Old or dead vegetation was trampled into the ground where soil microbes could break it down. The organic litter helped retain moisture for plant growth. Gradually the debris rotted and returned the nutrients to the soil. The roaming bison left the prairie to recover without further interference, allowing for lush and unrestrained growth.


    Livestock spread out and graze over wide areas--they no longer trample down standing dead grasses from previous years.
    Putting fences across the land and stocking it with cattle creates a new sequence of grazing, which logically has a different effect on the land. Without predators the cattle spread out and graze over wide areas--they no longer trample down standing dead grasses from previous years. This old material blocks sunlight, killing the new growth below. Old vegetation stands for years, slowly decomposing through oxidation and weathering. Valuable nutrients are locked up in the old growth--unavailable for living plants. With fences to keep the cattle contained, the young plants are eaten repeatedly as grazing animals return without allowing the vegetation to recover. Burning the range can accelerate desertification, stealing vital organic matter from the soil and putting it into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming.


    This cow track in freeze-thawed soil harbors dozens of new grass seedlings, while the surrounding soil is devoid of growth.
    Loss of organic matter also results in lack of soil structure, breaking down the granules or clumps of aggregated soil particles that allow air circulation and penetration of water and roots. Raindrops strike the exposed ground, pulverizing and separating the soil, just like you might find under the drip line of a house. The fine particles of silt, sand and clay dry to form a hard surface crust. Seeds cannot grow through the capped surface, and bare patches develop between the plants. Weeds, brush and grasshoppers thrive in the open patches. New moisture is lost as runoff and may cause floods. Water bypasses the water table and old springs can dry up. Freezing and thawing, plus wetting and drying can also cause the top inch of the soil to become so porous and fluffy that seeds dry out before they germinate.

    Seedling germination in seasonal rainfall environments is always a challenge, even under the best of circumstances. The seeds must be thoroughly mixed with the soil and covered with organic matter and manure fertilizer to hold the moisture and protect them from the sun. Otherwise the delicate seedlings dry out and die before they become established. The more extreme or brittle the climate is the more difficult it is for new seedlings to germinate. The Salt Lake City area was once described as having "grass belly high to a horse", yet that is not the landscape you see there today. The "normal" landscape is gray only because the grass is gone.


    Hard capped soils prevent grass seeds from germinating. Those that do germinate deep down in the cracks are over shadowed by broad-leafed plants like weeds. Bennet Hills, Idaho.
    I've worked in other areas in the Great Basin where the range grass still grows more than two feet tall, but there is fifty feet of bare ground between one bunch grass and the next. The same process can be seen on even the greenest rangelands across the West, just at a slower rate in places that are less brittle than the Great Basin. The old grasses are dying, and there are few new grasses to take their place. The few species that can germinate and spread under those conditions are invasive weeds imported here from other countries--knapweed, whitetop, Dalmatian toadflax, cheat grass, and others.

    That's part of the irony. People have watched in despair as these foreign invaders have taken over ecosystems, wiping out the native flora, turning productive grasslands into weedy wastelands in the span of a few years. Exotic plants like spotted knapweed visibly accelerate the process of desertification, associating with fungi in the soil to pull carbon away from nearby grasses. While perusing a new wildflower guide from Montana's Bitterroot Valley I noticed that 25% of the species depicted--our most common "wildflowers"--were alien weeds, mostly adapted to desertifying conditions. Much of the Bitterroot Valley is completely devoid of native plants--a destiny which awaits the rest of Montana and the West. People are making an all-out assault on these invasive species, trying to kill weeds to save the range, but sadly doing nothing to stimulate the germination of desirable species.

    In a wet year the range greens up in a spectacular way, as the established grasses grow tall and cheatgrass and other weeds fill the voids. It looks pretty, and unfortunately, most people cannot tell the difference anyway. But without the impact of animals to break down dead vegetation and plant the desirable seeds, the extra moisture only stimulates the germination of more weeds, sometimes two or three crops in a year.


    The real problem is that our rangelands are turning to desert. Our land use practices lead to more and more bare ground between the plants, and bare ground is exactly what invasive weeds need to thrive. Pony, Montana.
    If you study the early stages of a knapweed invasion you can often see that the land is dying first, and the weed seeds are simply taking advantage of available niches in the ecosystem. Spotted knapweed was identified near Missoula, Montana eighty years ago, and has already spread across more than 5 million acres within the state. It continues to spread exponentially across the land. In advanced knapweed infestations, where all native plants are gone, even the knapweed eventually becomes spindly and sickly, because without stimulation the land continues to die. We are creating a new desert in America to rival the Sahara, but very few people can see a difference in their day-to-day lives. To most people the world seems perfectly normal and it always will, no matter what we do to it.

    Halting the process of desertification and turning these barren, weedy places back into fertile, productive landscapes is relatively easy, but it requires playing by the rules of the ecosystem. If we listen and learn the ways of the ecosystem then we can restore the health of the land and still get the productivity we want.

    Despite the promise of higher profits, most mainstream ranchers have yet to embrace this new concept of range ecology. Endorsement of the new paradigm implies that the old ways of doing business were wrong. It implies that wild animals and open ranges are better, and that the predator is an essential part of the ecosystem. It is little wonder that the new paradigm is often treated as heresy and treason among ranchers.

    But a few innovative souls like Don and Cleo Shaules, near Billings, Montana, have embraced the new ideas. They mimic the historical sequence of grazing with the aid of carefully laid out fences, to put more animals in smaller spaces for shorter periods of time. Additional impact may be achieved by herding the animals, or by putting feed or supplements in areas where impact is especially desired. The impact of the animals effectively breaks down old plants while also inoculating the landscape with bacteria in the form of manure. With heavy animal impact the Shaules have successfully trampled cactus and sagebrush into the dirt, while "rototilling" the soil to favor new seedlings. The rich, brown soil humus increased from 1/4 inch up to 1 1/2 inches in just ten years, and the Shaules have been able to more than double their livestock numbers.


    We wintered our "herd" of one cow on the most brittle, erosion-prone part of our land. Hay was put out in a different spot each day, and any that was not eaten was trampled into the ground, resulting in an explosion of new seedlings and growth in spring.
    That's part of the irony too, since desertification is the reason so many people are calling for less livestock on western rangelands. It's only common sense. Cows are destructive beasts that waste the land where ever they go, consuming the choicest greens, trampling vegetation, crumbling stream banks and fouling the water. Logically, cattle are perceived as a negative force that must be removed or greatly reduced for the landscape to recover. Who would ever expect that these beasts could be good for the land? Cows are not the problem. The problem is our management practices, or lack thereof, that allows livestock to linger, overgrazing the same tender greens again and again, when they should be moving on, clustered into massive herds so that they destroy everything in their path and then leave it to recover.

    Stimulation of the soil may not kill out mature weeds, which come back from the roots, but it does encourage desirable plant species to germinate and out-compete new weed seedlings. In test plots knapweed seedlings were virtually eliminated, while good grasses like Idaho fescue were favored. Knapweed only lives five to seven years, so the important part is to change the conditions on the soil surface that govern germination. Stimulate the natives to out-compete the weeds and we can solve the weed problem and reverse the process of desertification.

    In every region of the world with vast grasslands there were also massive herds of animals and predators associated with them. That was true in the Sahara, where elephants, giraffes and other animals once grazed the abundant range, until the land started drying up 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Now the desert stretches 3,000 miles long, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east. The Sahara is 1,200 miles wide, spreading so fast that its boundaries can be mapped each year by satellite. There are regions within the Sahara larger than the state of Oregon that are completely devoid of all plant and animal life.


    Our one cow experiment led to a much tighter plant cover.
    It was also true in places like South Africa, where Dutch settlers sometimes named their towns after the free-flowing springs, like Elandsfontein, Springfontein, or Buffelfontein, using their word for fountain or spring. The settlers described herds of springbok (like antelope) so vast that they trampled everything in their path as they migrated through, including teams of oxen that could not be unhitched in time. But now the grasslands, the springs and the wildlife are all gone, and the remaining range supports very few livestock. The climate did not change, according to weather records, but the land still turned to desert.

    It happened hundreds of years ago in the desert southwest of this country, where the remains of numerous ancient traps for antelope reveal the past presence of massive herds. Archaeologists speculate that climate change, over-population or war led to the demise of the Anasazi, but more likely it was deforestation and the regular use of fire to drive the game that caused desertification and the abandonment of their settlements. People always like to point to climate change as the problem, because that is what it looks like when the land dries up and blows away! When our grandchildren look back at our own time and the long gone forests and grasslands, they too may point to climate change as the cause of desertification and the vast American Sahara, but the desert will be completely "normal" to them.


    Using animals to improve landscape health.
    Just think about the tumbleweeds you see blowing across western highways, or shown blowing across the fields in old western movies. They seem normal to us, but tumbleweeds are introduced weeds from other continents--there were no tumbleweeds here in the old West! Likewise, more than 500 species of native North American plants and animals are missing or extinct, but hardly anybody noticed. Did you? We accept our world as normal no matter what it looks like!

    Adding to the ironies of desertification is the fact that many environmentally conscientious people adamantly despise cows and are willing to do anything to remove them from public lands--precisely because these smelly beasts trample, manure and destroy everything around them. Environmentalists are even more conservative than ranchers to embrace the new paradigm of range ecology, because to do so implies an endorsement of cattle on public lands. They do not want to hear that cows can be good for the land, and they try to forget the idea as quickly as they hear it. In short, the environmental community is unwittingly fueling North America's greatest environmental disaster.


    Allan Savory on Keeping Cattle
    Cause or Cure for the Climate Crisis?
    Like many people, I would rather see a return to the massive wild herds of bison, elk and antelope, with their associated predators. There are a few key places, like the one hundred mile long expanse of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana, where we can start right now to buy back the grazing permits, to replace the cattle with bison and wolves. But for most of the west, we simply do not have enough wild animals to restore what once was. Until we do, we must work with cattle as the best available alternative. It would be foolish to do otherwise, to let the desertification continue.

    Today we still have the opportunity to change course, to give our grandchildren a living green world. We can win the West's war on weeds with the aid of animal hooves to stimulate the soils to support our native flora. We can create a world that is even richer and more abundant than the one we know today.

    Let me point out though, that there is a big difference between knowing what to do versus knowing how to do it. Beating the heck out of the landscape with massive herds of wild or domestic animals is an easy idea to portray in the few lines of an article. But there are also logistical concerns--people, money, and conflicting goals or unique situations--that require dialogue, planning, testing and monitoring. True sustainability has little to do with what happens on the land, but everything to do with the people that manage the land. Our efforts to restore the health of the land will only be successful when we work together through a holistic process towards a common vision, with a framework for making and testing our decisions.

    Additional Resources:

    Charley Orchard specializes in training people to assess land health and make better management decisions with the aid of his Land EKG monitoring system.

    Brian Sindilar at Rangehands, Inc. provides a consulting service to ranches to assess rangeland health, set goals, and create workable and sustainable management plans.

    Be sure to check out the book Holistic Management: A New Framework For Decision Making and the video Creating a Sustainable Civilization.

    Also be sure to visit the Center for Holistic Management.

    Continue with Brittle and Non-Brittle Environments

    References:
    -Burleson, Wayne. "Our Fences are Shrinking." The Whole Approach: Belgrade, MT. Vol. 1. No. 1. Pgs. 7-8.
    -Jackson, Wes. New Roots for Agriculture. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NE. 1985.
    -Kurtz, Caroline Lupfer. "Plant Interactions: Knapweed Gets a Boost From Fungus." Research View (A Publication of the University of Montana-Missoula) Vol. 1, No. 2. June/July 1998. Pages 1-2.
    -Olson, Bret E., Roseann T. Wallander, and John R. Lacey. "Effects of sheep grazing on a spotted knapweed-infested Idaho fescue community." Journal of Range Management. Volume 50, # 4. July 1997. Pages. 386-390.
    -Rohr, Dixon. "Too Much, Too Fast." Newsweek. June 1, 1992. Pg. 34.
    -Savory, Allan. Holistic Resource Management. Island Press: Covelo, CA. 1988.
    -Tilford, Greggory. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Mountain Press Publishing Co.: Missoula, MT 1997.

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    WooHoo, we are officially calving. Have five gorgeous calves on the ground. We did have a tragedy a couple of days ago when we lost a cow and calf with a difficult calving! Unfortunately it was a problem we bought in as the heifer (unbe known to us) was already in calf when we bought her and the sire produced a huge calf that the heifer was unable to calve herself. We were gutted but you have to expect some loses even though we do our best. The bulls we used were little Angus bulls and the calves are relatively small for ease of calving.

    We were thrilled this morning as we had another cow having difficulty calving. We walked her down to our ancient old cattle yards (they are 100 plus years old) and successfully calved her using the calving jack. It's an instrument that is very gentle and can be used by anyone. Our old yards are made of stack stone walls, very cosy and sheltered. We left mum licking her new calf with great wonder and precision. A very satisfying outcome.

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    We are over half way through calving now and heifers and babies are doing well. I wish I could post photos as it's a lovely scene. Cows, like other herd animals have crèches for their young. A dozen or more little calves will be sound asleep with one nanny cow looking after the babies. Cows can be quite generous with their milk and don't mind a another calf drinking with their own calf. Not all are like this but some are. The grass is growing well now and we have to make sure the heifers still to calve don't get too fat as that's not ideal because it can lead to calving difficulties.

    In this system we don't mollycoddle our animals. They are well fed, have plenty of available minerals and fresh clean water. We do not make them drug dependant as in drenching them for worms or external parasites. We have used some natural remedies but mainly we are breeding by natural selection, as does nature. Any animal that can not handle the system is culled. We have a small flock of sheep that have adapted well to our system but last summer I added another sixty sheep that were going cheap. Big mistake! They were obviously used to regular drenching and foot rotting procedures, non of which we do. We are shearing them soon and I will get rid of the ewes that have definitely not handled our system and give the rest a chance to adapt.

    I've been reading about the characteristics of wild horses in Australia and USA. They are quite different in character seemingly from domesticated horses. They are a lot tougher physically, great hooves, a quiet temperament once handled and an enhanced attachment to the handler as 'leader'. Probably high strung horses would freak out coping with the wild and the herd instinct with attachment to the dominant horse would insure survivability. Those that had poor feet would not keep up and be picked off by predators. Nature has its checks and balances always.

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    I am prompted by Dawn to speak some more of our experiences with Holistic Management.

    When I first read about this system I saw its practical application worldwide. I have always felt so stymied to do anything about the destruction of our natural world! I saw with Savory's system that degradated land could be brought back to fertility, water ways restored, and people feeding themselves off smaller holdings economically without the need of bigger and bigger farms with more and more large machinery used.

    I saw that it was something I could apply on my farm and hopefully prove the system to other farmers. My acreage of 700 acres is not considered an economic unit in our area. It's too small to support the number of stock or the cost of fertilizer to be economic but with holistic management which has no fertilizer added accept for the natural fertilation of grazing animals I am confident it can work. We have been working this way for eighteen months now. Our first season was fabulous as we had plenty of rain to keep grass growing in the spring and early summer, but late summer and autumn we were in serious drought. With allowing the grass to grow to maturity and moving stock constantly we had plenty of feed.

    The system is kept simple by having practically all our stock in one mob. We haven't included other animals at this stage but all the cattle in one mob is going well. Our calving was very drawn out as we left the bulls in with our heifers for months. This past season we leased bulls over the summer. They are away now. It will be interesting to see if we get the same conception rate as last year. We have now bought large bull calves who will be sexually mature come spring. They will be left with the mob as they would be in nature. According to holistic practitioners heifer calves left with their mothers do not mature early sexually so they do not tend to get in calf when too young. Nature knows best with this I would think.

    I really enjoy working with the cattle. Ours are very quiet from being moved constantly and some are very friendly. We are culling cows with too much dairy genetics. These animals are bred to produce milk and they will do that to their own detriment and become very skinny with great big blooming calves. The beefy breeds will naturally wean their calves when they start losing weight. They have much more self preservation. We kind of like a balance.

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    It's calving time again for me in New Zealand. My cows are calving with no problems at all at this point in time. My system means that the animals are shifted to new grass daily, depending on the size of the paddock. Grass is growing well but we could do with rain! One observation, or two actually, is that the calves are getting up and moving much easier with their mothers this year and they will cross water. Last year there was always calves left running round the paddock when the cows had moved through and the water crossing last year was quite a problem. Some of them just would not cross. They obviously have a new instinct or two to add to there brain neurology!

    The cows and also the calves are quieter again from last year. Because I check or move them daily, they are totally used to me, vehicles, other people and dogs. I take the dogs on the back of my truck to get the cows used to dogs around their calves.

    I am researching and will probably implement, line breeding of my herd. That is, not buying in, or leasing outside bulls for mating. This is what nature does. The dominant bulls come up through the ranks and gets to breed with the cows. I also keep my herd altogether, one mob, so the bulls will be running with the herd all year round. It easier that way. It will be interesting to see when calving happens. It's a bit of a risk but if I keep my animals well fed there will be no problem. I used to do that with my sheep and it worked fine. Another descision I have made is to over winter the calves and sell them in the spring as yearlings. I will have to sell some cows in the autumn to make sure I have enough feed to carry everything during the winter. Our winters are cold but we have no snow generally so our winters aren't as severe as other places.

    I have been developing the farm quite extensively with new fencing and new cattle yards. Everything adding to ease of day to day management. All my fences are electrified and a new system I am putting in I can monitor the electric fencing and see via remote where any 'shorts' are. The electric fencing is a bit of a learning curve for me as I am nervous about electric shocks. It's probably more about learning new stuff, truth to tell.

    One major improvement on the farm from holistic management is that the spring which used to supply all our house water but had failed due to over grazing, is back running better than ever. I love, love, love the fact that holistic management of land brings back water to the land!
    Last edited by Carmen; 5th October 2014 at 00:31.

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    Default Re: Holistic Farming

    Another move I've made is to run my few sheep, 22, with the cattle. This is working well as last year I reared a calf that thinks it's a sheep so the sheep are well used to hanging out with cattle. I'm going to invest in a Wilture ram next autumn to put with my ewes. They are the ones that shed or semi-shed their wool so they have clean bums. I didn't have the heart to get rid of my daggy prone sheep as seventeen of them are pets I reared last year! So I will breed out the daggy (dirty bummed) tendency in my little flock. I guess some of the New Zealand farming terms with be double Dutch to many people on this forum!

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