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  • Ian Thompson

Holistic Pasture Management Class

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

This week, we're in Wisconsin, taking a class on Holistic Pasture Management from Roland Kroos of Crossroads Ranch Consulting.

This strategy for land management is impressive. It involves creating a holistic goal, looking for the most effective inputs to move towards that goal, implementing them, observing the outcome, and re-planning. A key land management technique is holistic pasture management. This involves subdividing a pasture into many paddocks, bringing in a high stocking density of grazing animals, and rotating them from one pasture to another after a short duration. We've heard a lot of testimonies about the effectiveness of this technique in rebuilding topsoil. The idea is that when plants are grazed, they have to pull up nutrients stored in their roots. This leaves carbon behind in the ground. Through this system, the grazed plants are given adequate time (often measured in months) to rebuilt their roots. Then, the cycle repeats as the rotation brings the animals back into the pasture. This tends to mimic the natural relationship between moving herds of grazing animals and the land.

In the image above, Amy stands in a field that was bare clay a few years ago. It's been managed by the Graese family of Northstar Bison Ranch, using the holistic management techniques and no fertilizer. This pasture has been recently grazed, but in others, the grass was so thick and vegetative that it was hard to walk over!

In other news, we've found a piece of land that is suitable for our new farm. The negotiations with the sellers and potential lenders are underway.

Note- Since this post was written, we've learned that the best way to have healthy soil is to foster a community of diverse native plant species. This is done by matching the size of our herd to the natural carrying capacity of the land, grazing them in a way that leaves tall and short patches, using range fire, and constantly monitoring and changing rest/grazing periods on the landscape. As we've gained experience with prairie restoration, we've learned that ultra high stocking densities are not compatible with healthy, balanced ecosystems. See posts on 10/31/20 and 1/30/21 for where we are now in our understanding of these issues.

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