HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT

WHAT IS HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT?

 

BEFORE WE LOOK AT HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT, LET’S TAKE A PEEK AT THE WAY LIVESTOCK IS FARMED TODAY…THE INDUSTRIAL-AGRICULTURE STANDARD THAT WE’VE COME TO ACCEPT AS “NORMAL” …

Animals, both omnivore and herbivore are fed a diet of mostly (if not all) grain, often genetically modified which may include animal byproducts, growth hormones and antibiotics.  Massive annual monoculture crops whose dependence on fossil fuels, fertilizers, and pesticides are required to meet these feed demands.

They’re held in close-packed barns where bacteria and disease can spread easily, requiring routine antibiotics to stave off disease.

Their waste runs off or is gathered in massive manure lagoons and dispersed in “sprayfields,” toxifying the land and adding resistant pathogens and harmful bacteria to the groundwater.

 

The result? Destruction of the vital ecosystems above and within the soil, leading to erosion, desertification, contamination of the land and water…not to mention greenhouse gas emissions worsening global climate change!

Now – instead of this modern “normal,” imagine a systemic approach to farming that restores the land by recreating the way animals evolved to interact with their environment. This approach, called holistic land management, was developed and popularized by ecologist, farmer, environmentalist, Allan Savory.

BECAUSE HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT RESTORES THE SOIL ECOSYSTEM NATURALLY, WITHOUT THE NEED FOR CHEMICAL TREATMENTS, IT OFFERS LONG-LASTING BENEFITS:

Soil becomes more biologically active as the underground ecosystem is restored.

Deep-rooted native plants tolerate drought, purify groundwater water, and sequester atmospheric CO2 in the soil.

Waste dropped by grazing animals is managed through stocking density so that it biodegrades and fertilizes the land in place.

Fertile, usable cropland and rangeland increase.

Livestock outdoors on pasture pick up fewer pathogens and require less medication than confined animals.

INTEGRATING OUR ANIMALS WITH THE ECOSYSTEM

Nowhere in nature will you find an ecosystem of only one species of animal consuming only one source of food! It simply doesn’t happen: instead, you’ll find a wide variety of species with symbiotic relationships. And that’s how it is here: our cows, sheep, pigs and chickens interact with the land, the plants, the bugs, other animals – and each other – in unique ways, just as they would in the wild

ROTATIONAL GRAZING: COWS & SHEEP

Cattle and sheep are herbivores: they evolved to roam the grasslands in herds, consuming a wide variety of plants while aerating the soil and leaving their manure behind, in just the right amount.  They were not meant to stay on the same patch of ground for too long, or their waste would overpower the surrounding ecosystem.

We rotate the animals through a series of small paddocks so that they graze off all of the forage in the paddock evenly, applying an appropriate amount of manure (fertilizer) before they are moved to their next paddock. The previous paddock is given time to rest and re-grow with added vigor before the herd visits it again. By managing the grazing time of our herd on each paddock, we build the health and fertility of the land while eliminating the need to haul manure off farm.

We often graze the sheep right alongside the cows because they prefer different plants and graze in different ways. This ensures that more of the plants are eaten in each paddock, using each unit of land for maximum efficiency, while maintaining a better ecological balance among plant species. Sheep will eat weeds that the cattle won’t touch and this comes in handy when we get a weed outbreak:  we don’t need to worry about applying herbicides, the sheep will take care of it!

There’s another, gut-level benefit, too: because gastrointestinal parasites from goats or sheep cannot survive in the stomachs of cattle and vice versa, multi-species grazing may reduce internal parasite loads. 

Finally, we’ve found that the presence of our cows helps to deter predators from attacking the sheep. While the sheer bulk of a cow may slow small predators down, however, we also have a livestock guardian dog, who protects both the sheep and the cattle.

SPOT FERTILIZATION - CHICKENS

Chickens play a double role in our farm ecosystem: they clean up the pastures and intensively fertilize them wherever they go.

Our chickens are raised in a brooder for the first few weeks because they are highly temperature sensitive when they are young.  But when they are ready, they move out to pasture in portable housing that is frequently moved, following after the cows and sheep. The chickens eat fly larvae and other bugs along with the pasture grasses, and we supplement their diet with local grain and fruit/vegetable waste.

Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen, and after they’ve gone through a pasture, the land is so heavily fertilized that you can easily see the difference when you are walking by (or even in an aerial photo!). The plants are so lush and green that the rest of the farm looks drab by comparison!

WASTE MANAGEMENT – PIGS

Our pigs also have a unique job here: cleaning up after the cows, sheep, and people!

It starts in the spring: rather than housing our cows and sheep in a barn through the winter, we give them shelters bedded down with plenty of straw and feed them hay. These packs of leftover hay, straw and manure can grow up to five feet tall…come springtime, we would normally use a tractor or Bobcat to come in and move the mess off the fields.

Instead, we send in the pigs! They have a grand old time, digging and rooting through the piles, eating the hay and straw and turning it into manure, which eventually ends up on our garden or (if we ever get enough of it) on our pastures.

For the rest of the year, they gobble up our fruit and vegetable trimmings along with the greens, vegetables and legumes they forage in the pastures, supplemented with a grain mix we grow and mill on farm.

OUR #1 POLLINATORS – BEES

They’re not the kind of celebrities who make a big fuss, but our bees are the secret star of the Farm One Forty show: if they were not buzzing about, busily pollinating every flower in sight, much of the food we eat and the diverse plant populations that feed our livestock and delight our souls simply would not exist.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without bees, but such a world is becoming possible: many studies have shown a decline in bee health and population, likely due to pesticide exposure, loss of habitat and climate change.

A few years ago a friend of ours, Ross Phillips, was keen on raising bees but didn’t have the space in the city where he lives so he asked if he could bring a few hives out here.  Of course we were excited about the idea because we knew the benefits of having bees around but didn’t have the expertise to get into it ourselves.  Ross started with 3 hives here and we are now up to about 10 hives.  The bees pollinate our pastures and gardens and we receive a double benefit as they provide a handy by-product: delicious, raw honey, which we use both as sweetener and as medicine.

BOTTOM LINE? OUR BUSINESS IS BUILT ON THE WEB OF LIFE.

We’re super excited to be getting back to old-fashioned way of farming, where all of the animals played a role in sustaining each other and the land, as well as the people. The old-time farmers knew about those relationships and used them for millennia, but modern-day practices of specialized industrial farming have gotten away from that natural symbiosis. And the results are evident around the world: erosion, desertification, drought, and worse.  

Our own experience, and emerging science, is bearing out what the old farmers knew: when plants and animals are given a habitat that is appropriate for them, they will flourish naturally… and the land, water, and climate will flourish as well. We’re committed to creating that verdant future on Farm One Forty, and we hope you’ll come to experience it!

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FUN FARM FACT

FUN FARM FACT

Did you know that local, unpasteurized honey can act as an antibiotic on wounds, and has been linked to decreases in seasonal allergies and asthma?  But it has to be local to give you the antibodies for your local allergens. Imported, pasteurized honey (or heaven forbid, the artificial industrial substitute that’s taking over the grocery shelves) just isn’t going to do the job.

WE ARE BUILDING: SOIL, BIO DIVERSITY, AND RELATIONSHIPS WITH FOLKS LIKE YOU.

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