Over the past four years On Pasture has shared articles about farmers and ranchers who have used Holistic Management as a tool to go from debt to profit, from mediocre animal performance to something much better, and from pastures and range that were in poor condition, to a landscape that is functioning and that works for livestock, wildlife and people. With all that going for it, we thought that this management tool might be something you’d like to learn more about. So we’re working with Holistic Management International (HMI) to cover what Holistic Management is and to share examples of how it has worked for a wide variety of grazing operations
Holistic Management is a framework for looking at the needs of the landscape, the needs of the animals, and the desires of the people, and then developing a plan that meets those needs and desires. As Ben Bartlett, a Holistic Management® Certified Educator in Michigan, puts it: “You look at what you’ve got to work with – your land, your animals, your labor, how many animals you’ve got – and you look at what you want to accomplish. Then you learn how to manage the harvesting of the plants by the animals for the good of the animals, the plants and the people.”
The plan you develop for doing this is informed by two basic principles. The first is that nature functions in wholes. Everything is connected so changing one thing in one spot can have unintended, or unexpected, consequences somewhere else. The second is that all environments are not the same. By understanding how your environment responds to different tools you can make better management decisions, so when you make a change, you’ll have a better chance of it working out well for you.
Making good decisions in the HM framework is supported by seven test questions
Not all the questions apply to every situation, but asking them can help you make sure you’ve looked at the decision from all the angles (social, environmental, and economic) and gathered the information necessary to make a truly informed decision. Once you make a decision and implement it, the next step of the Holistic Management process is to actively monitor what happens. If things don’t go according to plan, you can replan and make improvements
If you’d like to learn more about Holistic Management Planning, check out these resources from HMI. And stay tuned as we share more about the process and examples of how others have implemented it for themselves.
We know planning can be a daunting process, so we’re going to try to help you get started as easily as possible. If you have suggestions for what that might look like, let us know!