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Holistic Planned Grazing for maximum forage production and livestock gains

– This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of ACRES USA Magazine. Written by Abbey and Spencer Smith

In our courses and workshops, we meet many different livestock producers and graziers. We find that they come to our events to learn how to maximize livestock gains from forage. Holistic Management is an exciting solution because it provides a framework to work with the cycles of nature and create triple-bottom-line results. In other words, managing holistically makes work easier (fighting nature is hard and expensive, better to work with it!), produces greater profits and creates an abundant ecosystem.


Of course, maximizing livestock gains, at the expense of land productivity, can be achieved in other ways:

  • Growth hormones.
  • Rigorous supplement protocols.
  • Using high concentrate feeds such as grains to fatten cattle.
Holistic Planned Grazing, forage production, livestock gains

Cattle graze at the Springs Ranch in Fort Bidwell, California


Each of these input options should be checked for alignment with the context in which the holistic manager is operating, which he or she identifies at the outset for the business.  For us, personally, these inputs are not in alignment with our “holistic context” because they create a livestock production system that is dependent upon high levels of expensive inputs to operate. It is not sustainable. We want healthy, vibrant cattle. We genetically select for this in our herd. We want cattle that finish well with low inputs and on grass. We want our ranch to be biodiverse and thriving so we avoid de-worming and other such protocols that damage the insect life on the ranch.


The holistic context describes how you want your life to be based on what you value, plus the land and behaviors (future resource base) that will have to be in place to sustain it (we’ve hinted at ours above). y. Our daughter can describe our family’s holistic context, yet this isn’t to say we have Holistic Management  all figured out. Holistic Management is a journey, and it is one filled with many questions. It is up to the managers to find creative and resourceful answers to these questions.

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