BECOME A SUCCESSFUL GRAZIER


                     Seeing the Big Picture                             

 

 

by IAN MITCHELL-INNES

 

Author’s Note: I am presenting a series of articles in this pub-lication based on my experiences of grazing in an unconventional way. I have been ranching all my life and have had experience in both feedloting and extensive ranching, and all types in between. At the age of 50 I learned about Holistic Management, and this opened my mind to the fact “there is another way” of managing animals — that you can achieve healthy animals with minimal input.

 

Unfortunately, because of the way we are taught, from kin-dergarten to university, our minds can only contemplate “parts” and not the “whole.” This means we have had success with linear things — mechanics, computers and sending people to the moon

 — but when it comes to ranching, farming and the environment, which operate with “wholes within wholes,” with interconnecting parts, we have failed.

 

 

 Holistic Management decision-making puts a complex, multi-dimensional problem into a step-by-step format, enabling us to make the best decision possible and lead us toward our goal (Holistic Goal), making sure we have a full understanding of the impact that decision will have on the environment, our finances and the social aspects within which we live.

 

 

 I am grateful to those people who had an impact on my learning: Allan Savory, Mark Bader, Dick Richardson, Elaine Ingham, Betsy Ross, Christine Jones and Ray Archuleta, to name but a few. I have made mistakes, and all the practice I have done has been with my own money, so the learning curve, at times, has been extremely steep. Unfortunately there are no silver bul-lets. Many of the practices I discarded when starting out I have brought back, since beginning to understand the “whole.” I do not wish anybody to make the same mistakes I have made and so I travel, teaching groups how it is done. These articles are not intended to take the place of attending one of my trainings where I am able to deal with individual problems and perceptions, particularly the comment, “it might work for you, but it won’t work where I live.”

 

 What I teach has been successfully practiced by ranchers, farm-ers and dairymen in all environments; they have been able to achieve good animal performance, improve soil life and increase the diversity of plants growing on their properties.

 

 

It is impossible to write

about all my experiences, but I hope these articles will help people, who have attended or have yet to attend one of my schools, from making some of the mistakes I have made. Use them like a set of notes to remind you what to do next.

 

My passion is to keep people on the land, not just making a subsistence living, but living comfortably and getting a return on their investment (the land) which is comparable to, or better than, their colleagues in town.

 

There is another way. It is possible to be happy, have fun and make money from ranching.









 

 

 

                                                    

 



 


 


 


 


 

 

Milking off Grass, with increase in diversity of plants (Rob & Pam Moore, New York

 

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 Repairing a wash, using animal impact(Greg & Jan Judy, Missouri)






 Animals Grazing in a new paddock at high density (Addison Ranch, Oklahoma)

 

 

THE WHOLE

 

 

The grasslands of the world did not develop in a vacuum. There has always been a symbiotic relationship between the animals, soil surface, grasses and plants and soil life. This was enhanced by the predator/prey relation-ship that existed with the herds of wild animals that grazed these areas.



Allan Savory observed this and developed the process of Holistic Management, which enables us to look at complex, multi-dimensional situations pertaining to the environment. Use of the Holistic Management process puts all the complexity into a linear, step-by-step format which we can comprehend and enables us to research aspects with which we are not familiar. This enables us to make decisions, which will lead toward our Holistic Goal, taking into consideration the environmental, social and financial aspects that relate to that particular situation.

 

 

 

The reason many farmers and ranchers are interested in planned grazing, rotational grazing, MIG, mob grazing, compost teas, fertilizer and breed selection is simply be-cause of a desire to make more money. Some of these cost you and some help you. The best program is the one that considers the “whole” of the farm or ranch. The definition of the “whole” is the animal genetics, the diet (multiple spe-cies of plants) the animal eats, the growth and health of the plants and the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, worms, insects, etc. that are associated with the plants (as well as the finances and the social aspects of the farm). It is not only the diet of these organisms that needs consideration, but also the living conditions they require.

 

 

 

In our educational system we are taught to look at parts not wholes, and this has led to problems when making deci-sions relating to agriculture and the environment, which are so complex. Conventionally this focus on parts has tended to be on animal performance at the cost of the environ-ment. For those that are introduced to Holistic Manage-ment thinking, the focus tends to shift to the management of the soils, as it is easier to see change here. Unfortunately, before the discipline of looking at the whole becomes inter-nalized, we tend to monitor the land and forget about the other parts.

 

 

 

The animals are the financial part of the whole and, in order for the rancher to survive on the land, animal performance needs to be constantly ensured. This will lead to high conception rates, enabling the herd to grow, keeping the rancher financially viable. With greater animal numbers, the tools of animal impact and grazing achieve

 

 

 

 

quicker results. The most important part, though, is that the person managing needs to make a profit to survive and only then, with others, can he/she save the world!

 

 

 

People making a living off the land are, by default, in the energy business. Yet we are the only people in this business who pump the energy back into the “well.” This is because energy is money, money is energy and time is money. We willfully pour soluble chemical fertilizer (money) onto our land and kill soil life and oxidize carbon by turning the soil, using more energy. A gram of carbon, when burned, releas-es 9,000 calories per gram. Take a soil sample and test it for organic matter and then calculate the number of calories you have just “burned” by ploughing your land. It would have been easier to withdraw a couple million dollars from your bank and burn them. This does not even include the time spent sitting on the tractor (which is money) and the gas/energy used.

 

 

 

The land is merely a solar panel and we manage the tools, which we have available, capturing the energy com-ing from the sun to produce a product (grass, timber, corn, etc.), which we graze/feed to animals, and produce food for human consumption.

 

 

 

The energy, which is captured by the grass, is what makes animals fat or dairy cows produce more milk. In terms of nutrition, this energy (hydrogen) is the illusive part of the equation. Because of the way we have managed our land in the past we have lost many of the better species of grass that capture energy efficiently (loss of diversity). These plants have been lost because of burning, overgraz-ing and other management practices.

 

 

 

Overgrazing is a factor of time and not numbers. As the palatable plants are overgrazed, nature grows plants which are less palatable just to try and cover the soil. When grasses fail then woody plants begin growing (sagebush and other less palatable plants) in a desperate bid to cover the soil. Fortunately the seeds of the palatable plants are still in/on the ground waiting for us to change our manage-ment, cover the soil and hold rain where it falls. Once the conditions are right these seeds will germinate and grow.

 

 

 

The animals, soil, plants and management are all reli-ant on each other. To cover the soil (and create the right conditions for the palatable grasses) we need management

 

 

 

— to get the animals to trample much of the grass onto and into the soil to feed the soil. Soil life is dependent on cov-ered soils to prevent big fluctuations in temperature and prevent the sun and wind from drawing out the moisture. Trodden plants and litter are eaten and incorporated into the soil by worms and also feed the Azotobacter which take nitrogen from the air and incorporate it into the soil in a form available to plants. The carbon (plant material) prevents erosion and acts as a sponge, holding the water where it falls and is food for bacteria and fungi in the soil. This is achieved by manipulating the stock density and movement of the animals (through management).

 

 

All life requires energy. The life in the soil gets its en-ergy, firstly, from the action of grazing when a shock of energy goes down the plant; secondly, from energy which is beaten through the soil surface by hooves (kinetic en-ergy); and thirdly, by what I call symbiotic energy, which is the energy around each animal, where one plus one

 

 

 

does not equal two but five. This can be observed on a summer evening when there is no wind. A large herd of animals will have what looks like a dust cloud over them. Birds will be feeding in this cloud, and it is an en-ergy field, which does not stop at the ground, but continues down through the soil surface.

 

 

 

This all requires planning, moni-toring and re-planning.

 

 

 

The result of planning, monitoring, and then re-planning properly will be an increase in the carrying capacity of the farm or ranch.

A more direct way of saying this is: with proper plan-ning and monitoring and re-planning a farm or ranch that can support one cow with calf per 3 acres for one year will now be able to support three cows with calves and not run short of feed. It is like buying two more farms to increase your herd numbers by three without paying for those extra

 

two farms. How much would those two extra farms cost? How much time would you be willing to spend planning, monitoring and re-planning to get two additional farms and not spend any money?

 

 

 

The next article in this series will address how to manage for fat, healthy animals.

 

 

 

Ian Mitchell-Innes is a South African rancher practicing various types of ranching from intensive to extensive and everything in between. He prac-ticed Holistic Management for 17 years and now teaches HM and mob grazing and how to get and improve animal performance while increasing pro-ductivity of soil and grass. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or blanerne@mweb. co.za.

 

 


 

 

 



 

 

Raising Healthy Grazers

 


 

 

 

by IAN MITCHELL-INNES

 

Figure 1

 

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

 

 




Fat, healthy animals are what all cattle ranchers/farmers strive for, but it seems to be quite an elusive goal. Most of us have experienced that the more grazing selection we give an animal the better the animal does, but very few of us have actually watched the animals and wondered why they graze and select the way they do.

 

 

 Wendell Bader observed and put forward a theory on why animals graze the way they do; why they se-lect what they graze and when. Mark Bader (Wendell’s son), of Free Choice Enterprises, put scientific figures to this theory. Mark emphasizes the im-portance of focusing on the basics of an animal’s diet first. This ensures the correct ratios of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. These four ele-ments make up 95 percent of the diet. Most nutritionists focus on the min-eral elements which only make up 5 percent of the diet (see Figure 1)

The balancing of these four major elements also leads to the creation of a bacterial paradise where the pH of the rumen is maximized. Bacteria are the basis of fodder digestion. The pH maximizes the ability of these bacteria to multiply.

 

True energy is when there is a chemical reaction of carbon and oxy-gen, which produces carbon dioxide, water and heat. Carbon cannot burn without the presence of oxygen.

 

All ruminant feeds have a value in terms of oxygen, hydrogen and pro-tein; a protein is a carbohydrate with a nitrogen molecule on the end.

 

Free Choice Enterprises has an expensive machine that can analyse a sample for Carbon,

 

 

 

 

, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, as well as all the trace minerals. This gives accurate figures, enabling the rancher to then calculate

 

 what he or she needs to add, as a sup-plement to the animal’s diet (grazing), to achieve the weight gain or pounds of milk wanted

 

 

 

Animal behavior is generally moti-vated by a survival instinct. An animal wants to live for another day, not to breed and reproduce, so it selects for hydrogen (energy). All of us have ex-perienced this to some extent. When an animal has been given the oppor-tunity to eat a bag of corn, it will keep eating. We have also experienced this selection for energy, when watching a herd of animals going into graze a new paddock; the animals will eat the plants or parts of plants with the highest energy, the tops of the plants. They will only come back for a sec-ond bite if they have no other option

 

 

 

— are fenced in and left too long.

 


Supplements are only a crutch to help the manager get his animals through a time when he is still in the learning curve. Over time this crutch, be it bales of hay or feed, should no longer be required. To have a bal-anced diet, management and a good understanding of the animal’s require-ments is needed. This experience is best obtained by spending more time with the animals and watching what and where they graze. Keep in mind that overgrazing is a factor of time and not numbers.

 

 

 Some feeds such as corn (46.5%), molasses (50%) and table sugar (58%) are high in oxygen, and others such as green grass (35.5%), soybean meal (34%) and fat (13%) are low. This can be manipulated in the supplement to get a maximum of 40.5% oxygen. The energy/protein ratio is then worked on to get the desired performance.

 

 

 In the spring, fresh green grass is high in protein, causing deamina-tion. The ammonia comes off, causing bloat and also permeates the stomach walls, getting into the blood stream and causing high BUN (Blood-Urea-Nitrogen) and MUN (Milk-Urea-Ni-trogen) tests. The liver and kidneys become clogged up and this affects the animals’ breed back.

 

The ammonia in the blood stream affects the ability of haemoglobin to transport oxygen from the lungs to the cells and animals start panting. Everybody thinks it is the heat, as animals all over North America stand in ponds of water. This is not the case; it is just a case of excess protein. The protein excess increases pH in the rumen, which then interferes with the with the absorption of minerals, causing the immune system to fail.

 

 

Unfortunately, ranchers equate the green grass in the spring with making fat animals, but animals slaughtered in the spring, with a high pH caused by excess protein, do not taste good. This is giving the grass-fed industry a bad name. This can be rectified by chang-ing the way the animals are grazed, and if this fails, then a supplement can be used, as explained above.

 

At all times, give the animal maxi-mum selection, within the parameters of fast and slow growth. The animal has the ability to select food which will balance the pH to maximize fod-der digestion.

 

My next article will explain how to plan to achieve the above.

 

Ian Mitchell-Innes is a South African rancher practicing various types of ranching from intensive to extensive and everything in between. He prac-ticed Holistic Management for 17 years and now teaches HM and mob grazing and how to improve animal performance while increasing productivity of soil and grass. He can be contacted at ian@ mitchell-innes.co.za or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


 



 


 

 

 



 

 

Planning for Successful Grazing

 

 


 

 

by IAN MITCHELL-INNES

 

 

 

 

If you have been a rancher or dairyman and have used convention-al methods, it probably means you stocked at the stocking rate recom-mended for your area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

 

 

If you are making money off the land, then by default you are in the energy business, as it is true energy (hydrogen) which makes animals fat and gets dairy cows to milk well. This energy comes from the sun.

 

 

 

The land is our solar panel, but because of the way we have managed it, we have destroyed the efficiency of that panel by destroying the life in the soil. We have lost most of the efficient plants that captured this energy, plant spacing has increased, and bare soil is being exposed to the sun, wind and rain. There is less organic matter in the soil (organic matter holds mois-ture), more capping of the soil, hence more runoff of rain, more dry spells and droughts. The overall result is less volume and lower quality of feed being produced.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undesirable plants left ungrazed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If “energy is money, money is energy and time is money,” then the amount of energy you are capturing is X, which is enough energy to do what you were doing, in terms of ani-mal performance or milking, with the number of animals you had. It is now known and accepted that if the man-ager is prepared to change, this loss of efficiency of the land (solar panel) can be reversed by practicing Holistic Management planned grazing and “mobbing” animals.

 

The use of Holistic Management planned grazing will result in the return of efficient energy-capturing plants, covered soils and increased organic matter in soils, resulting in more water-holding capacity and less erosion.

 

If one looks at the environment and agriculture, as influenced by weather, they are totally unpredictable and can be described as chaotic. Ranchers and dairymen have to manage this chaos. The easiest way to manage chaos is

to remain as flexible as possible, with ongoing monitoring. We know all systems will ultimately fail at some point, when pertaining to the land or the environment.

 

 

 To enable people on the land to understand what to do, I recommend a process which is calculated using known figures and then building flex-ibility into that process with ongoing monitoring. It is not necessary to buy any additional fencing. All that is required is the existing infrastructure.

 

 

 Figure 1 (above) is an example of how planned grazing works using the existing infrastructure on a hypotheti-cal property.

 

Draw in the days grazing on the grazing chart, as the Holistic Manage-ment Grazing Aide Memoire (obtain

chart and Aide Memoire from www. holisticmanagement.org) explains, esti-mating weather during that time of the month and when you expect slow or fast growth or anything in between. In the spring put all your animals in one herd and start moving them as indicated on the chart. The weather must be monitored every day (temperature and rainfall), and if you have started out with relatively slow growth, the day you wake up and it has rained or it is warmer, start mov-ing faster. Slow growth, slow moves; fast growth, fast moves.

 Do not force the animals to graze or tread the undesirable plants; if you do, you will lose animal performance. These ungrazed plants will die over a couple of years as no sunlight will begetting to the growing points at soil surface level. The dead plants leave a massive amount of carbon in and on the soil, holding water and enabling a desirable plant to germinate and establish itself.

 

 This planning will make sure that the condition of your 420 animals is the same or better than before, as the animals’ selection (units of energy grazed) are the same. Do not look at the ground and think there is more grazing left and leave the animals in that paddock longer. It is desirable to have grass left, standing or trodden on the ground — this protects the soil from sun and wind and prevents cap-ping from rainfall. When back in the paddock where grazing started, all plants would have had a good recov-ery and the area should have grown more grass than previously. Fewer plants would have had more than one bite taken, so the leaves would have been exposed to sunlight longer, capturing more energy. Make sure the animal rumen is always full.

 The recovery period required is different for all areas, as rainfall and brittleness varies, and the manager will fine-tune this over time. Ask gra-ziers, dairy or beef, what the required recovery period is in your area. For

the purpose of this example, I have used a 30-day recovery period.

 

For each and every paddock on the property, use this formula, which will

 give the average stay in each of the paddocks so that the animals will be back in paddock number 1 on the 31st day: Size of Paddock ÷ Size of Whole Property × Recovery Period = Aver-age Stay (Graze Period) (see pg. 29).

 

 The total days in this column for all the paddocks should add up to 30, or very close to it. Now build in flexibil-ity for fast growth and slow growth.

 

Fast growth (hot and wet condi-tions) requires faster moves and the days for all the paddocks should add up to, (or very close to), 20.

 

 Slow growth (cold and or dry con-ditions) requires slower moves and the days for this column should add up to, (or very close to), 40.

Enter all the figures onto a Holistic Management grazing chart, estimat-ing when you would expect fast or slow growth or anything in between, and plan the moves. Use the Holistic Management Aide Memoire to make sure you take all other considerations into account to ensure that you get the animals to the right place at the right time, for the right reason.

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: Ranch with existing infrastructure

 

 

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

 

 

 

Paddock No.

Size

Fast Moves

Average Stay

Slow Moves

 

 

 

 

 

1

303

3.5

4.5

6

 

 

 

 

 

2

297

3.5

4.5

6

 

 

 

 

 

3

185

1.5

3.0

5

 

 

 

 

 

4

215

1.5

3.0

5

 

 

 

 

 

5

223

1.5

3.0

5

 

 

 

 

 

6

170

1

2.5

4

 

 

 

 

 

7

181

1.5

3.0

5

 

 

 

 

 

8

197

1.5

3.0

5

 

 

 

 

 

9

134

1

2.0

4

 

 

 

 

 

10

95

.5

1.5

3

 

 

 

 

 

Total

2,000 acres

17 days

30 days

48 days