Holistic Management, Kirk Gadzia

This module was the one I had the least expectations surrounding because before entering into this course I had very little idea that this movement even existed.  Credit to Darren Daugherty for seeing how the fusion of HM and Permaculture Design is a great marriage.  HM is what I needed in many ways as it gives a financial planning model, a brilliant decision making process, and some great insight’s into the management of large grazing animals.

Kirk gadzia surveying a overgrazed pasture
Kirk Gadzia surveying an overgrazed pasture

Holistic Management is a movement popular in the ranching side of farming that was developed by the Boatswain Allan Savory after many years trying to restore habitat and keep alive wild populations of herd animals.  There are a lot of comparisons to be made of Allan and Bill Mollison as Pioneer species in spearheading their perspective movements.  Both prickly and stubborn, these individuals were able to forge new ways of thought surrounding land management comparable to Aldo Leopold’s ingenious insights into natural systems.  We look at Leopold’s revolutionary thoughts of the early 20th century as quite elementary now with of course we have to preserve habitat to conserve the species we so desire to perpetuate.  Allan Savory’s concept of farming to your landscape, Brittle (drylands) to non Brittle (humid areas) as well as designing pastures for cows as if they were a thundering herd of buffalo always on the move will be recognized in the future as elementary.  Right now there is resistance from many just as when Galileo stepped out on a limb that was sure to bring him death or misery by saying the Earth revolved around the sun.

Kirk Gadzia was a well prepared and quite knowledgeable, fun fellow to be with for this six days.  He really started to lay down the foundation for the carbon sequestration techniques.  His all surrounded around big animals and emulating the big herds of prairie landscapes.  Its pattern recognition really, which is classic Permaculture.  If animals once moved in this way and created the deepest, most carbon rich soils in America then why not again.  So animals in Intensive Rotational Grazing is the key to locking up carbon quickly, in fact much more so that trees.

Kirk led us through the decision-making process that is really the genius behind HM.  Allan Savory saw how impoverished countries with huge population growth compared to developed nations with wealth and slow growth yielded the same mishandling of natural resources including the soil.  This allowed him to recognize that decision-making was the ultimate cause of so many environmental troubles.  Businesses can’t just make mission statements, they must make holistic decisions that encompass Quality of Life and the ways in which you make this happen.  When they do this it is so much easier to make decisions that reflect the permaculture principles and ethics as well as others that normally wouldn’t be considered.  Often times mission statements are not in depth enough or surround profit only.

All of this leads to a need for financial planning.  Quite often farmers at the end of the year will collect all of their receipts for sales and purchases and take it to their accountant.  Here they find out if they have made a profit or lost money.  So throughout the year they have no clear cut way to do accounting.  This is solved by Holistic Managements relatively easy ways to do financial planning, which reflects the condition of the land.  By examining different types of costs in land management and how to cut out the ones that are marginal, farmers can monitor their income regularly and maximize profit.  This further contributes to the decision making process when times of stress come up in say a drought as you monitor your income stream.

Combined with the rotational grazing planning that allows you to plan in accordance for emergency feed, farms become less of a gamble and more of a full proof plan for profit, environmental stewardship and social well being.   One of the tools within the grazing plan is called the bull’s eye test which indicates Rangeland Health.

Bullseye test revealing overgrazed pastures
Bullseye test revealing overgrazed pastures

Due to the bare patches despite being in a non brittle landscape, we quickly determined this pasture was overgrazed.  This combined with mostly flat grasses growing, little biodiversity including legumes, and the overall “feel” of the landscape indicated its poor health.  Erosion along the banks  of the ephemeral stream indicated further the real cause of the problems- A broken water cycle.  Due to many factors including compaction, high soil temperatures, low biodiversity, and dead biology all contributed to the soil becoming non-porous for ample water and oxygen recharge.

Knowing the current state of the paddock allows you to continually monitor the pasture as you begin to implement your plan which is the final part of the process.  By examining the growth rates of pasture and herd size, you can determine how long to keep the herd in each given paddock.  All of this leads to higher stocking rates, greater land health, and economic viability.

Simply put this is brilliant knowledge that will help propel permacultue into a more balanced state.  A better understanding of decision-making on a wholisic basis and herding animals can only give permaculturists more tools for the extensive closet full of hangers that is permaculture.  If you get a chance take a Holistic Management class if you can and I do recommend Kirk Gadzia.

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