Holistic management is a comprehensive approach to managing grasslands, livestock, and water resources that focuses on the interrelationships between these components. Developed by Allan Savory, a biologist and farmer from Zimbabwe, the system has been adopted by ranchers and farmers worldwide as a regenerative and effective way to manage their land and livestock.
One of the main advantages of holistic management is its ability to address a wide range of issues that often plague conventional farming practices. These issues include soil compaction, soil depletion, desertification, erosion, drought, and dependence on feed. Holistic management can also mitigate pollution and nitrification, combat invasive species, and increase biodiversity and vegetation vigor.
Through holistic management, landowners can restructure their grazing patterns, using livestock to mimic the natural grazing patterns of wild herbivores. This results in more efficient use of pastures and allows for faster recovery of grasslands. Additionally, the strategic use of livestock can lead to increased soil fertility, better water retention, and a healthier ecosystem overall.
Holistic management is particularly relevant to larger properties with over 20 hectares of land, such as the Montados Alentejanos in Portugal. These large properties often face significant challenges in managing their land, including soil erosion and declining production of cork, a key resource in the region. By adopting a holistic management approach, landowners can turn these challenges into opportunities for ecological regeneration and increased productivity.
The key to successful holistic management lies in the integration of several components, including water management, vegetation management, and livestock management. A well-designed water management system can increase water infiltration and retention, leading to a more resilient ecosystem. Vegetation management involves promoting biodiversity and healthy plant growth, which can increase the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients.
Livestock management is critical to holistic management, as it involves carefully managing the grazing patterns of different species of livestock to optimize their impact on the land. By using livestock to mimic the grazing patterns of wild herbivores, landowners can increase the fertility of their pastures while also improving soil health and promoting the growth of native plants.