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Understanding the Benefits of Holisticly Managed Livestock



What does properly managed livestock mean?

In a recent post, I discussed why properly managed livestock are essential to saving civilization as we know it. Now let’s discuss what properly managed livestock means, because only by managing them properly will we be able to seriously address the complexity involved in both global desertification and climate change.

First let me be clear about what is not proper management.

By Allan Savory

Industrial factory farming of livestock.

Commonsense tells us that agriculture needs to be based on the biological sciences. Mainstream agriculture however is based on chemistry and technology driven by universities, corporations, major philanthropic funders, governments and international agencies – a consequence of reductionist management and policy.

Literally millions of cattle, pigs and poultry are managed in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). These include pigs bred in small cages with barely room for mothers to move. This does not constitute properly managed livestock. The Union of Concerned Scientists has criticized such practices.

Vegans and vegetarians who have expressed outrage are I believe correct – such practices are not only inhumane to animals, but treating animals in such a manner is degrading to humans. Apart from being inhumane and degrading, CAFOs are also damaging to the environment, economy and human health. In any nation calling itself civilized, such management of animals should be illegal. Unfortunately CAFOs have led many in society to vilify livestock rather than recognizing that the animals are innocent, while reductionist management and policies are the problem.

Properly managed livestock starts with managing the animals on the land in a manner that is good for the land and all life – well cared for until ending their lives as humanely as possible. Just as you and I would wish to be treated.

Managing animals on the land.

Here I need to differentiate between managing livestock in the more year-round humid environments (about a third of the world’s land), and managing them over the far greater areas of the world that are seasonally humid then dry environments. The first are nonbrittle environments in which dead leaves and stems crumple softly in your hand. The second are brittle environments where dead leaves and stems are so brittle they break into fragments in your hand.

Humid nonbrittle environments.

Remember that the countyside surrounding London is green year round, while that of Johannesburg with higher average rainfall is dry, dusty and brown much of the year, because these cities lie in entirely different environments. In the more humid environments, of say, East and NW coasts of America, or much of Europe, livestock have an essential role to play in the regeneration of soil life and health to decarbonize the atmosphere, but not in addressing desertification. In such humid environments – remember from my earlier blogs – no amount of overgrazing of plants or resting land (partial or total rest) leads to desertification.

As long as animals are out on the land and well treated in humid environments there are many ways of managing them. Past, and present, practices of centuries have involved either continuous grazing or rotational grazing. French pasture scientist Andre Voisin brought to light the shortcomings of rotational grazing. He developed a simple form of planning livestock grazing that he called “rational” grazing – meaning well thought out and planned, as opposed to simply rotated through pastures.

Here I need to digress to discuss the confusion that reigns about the many ways advocated for how grazing management should be done.

Cause of public confusion about grazing management.

Everett Rogers in his seminal book Diffusion of Innovations describes how new knowledge spreads in society. Because we are human with egos, when we learn something new we give what we have learned a new name and twist so that it appears our idea – and thus new ideas spread in a rather messy but eventually effective way.

From both Voisin’s work and my own people have come up with many new “grazing systems” of their own. Examples of some of these grazing systems are mob grazing, short duration grazing, management intensive grazing, high density grazing, cell grazing and adaptive multi-paddock grazing. Tragically in giving a new name and twist to the work of others the simple reason for success was lost. Like me telling your joke as my own, but forgetting the punch line! That dropped punch line was of course the decision-making and planning process.

What people in business understand easily is for some reason difficult for most ranchers and range scientists. Business people understand that a prescribed management system serves them well where things in the business are predictable.

For example they use an accounting system, or inventory control system – meaning a prescribed management system. However they would not dream of managing their entire business and all its unpredictability using any prescribed “business system”.

This confusion amongst farmers, ranchers and range management academics and in the public results I believe from our use of the word “system” to mean two different things. We refer to the ecosystem and other complex systems meaning the whole, or system, is complex – functioning in wholes and patterns, self organizing and indeed complex. In my second blog post in this series I discussed why our inability to manage what is complex is sinking humanity’s boat.

Everything we manage involves human organizations and nature – both defined as complex self-organizing systems. While that is fairly clear, confusion reigns when we then use the same word system in a different sense to describe a predetermined prescriptive way to manage grazing animals on the land.

This we do with rotational and the many other grazing systems. In doing this we ignore the social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity largely and present a recommended grazing system (like accounting system, or inventory control system) farmers and ranchers should use.

So in summary any of the plethora of grazing systems can be used in more humid regions where the land does not desertify, as long as animals are treated humanely throughout their lives. Land should improve as long as animals are bunched more and kept moving. People will be happy, as many good people and those advising them are, with what they are doing because they do not see the hidden costs.

For most small land holdings in the more humid regions Voisin’s simple planning process is excellent and superior to any grazing system. My wife and I had Voisin’s book republished by Island Press to make his original work more available for those wanting to do better than any grazing system can do.

Now we come to land that is desertifying, such as in the U.S. and over most of the world. Land where rainfall is seasonal, erratic and mostly below 400mm (16 inches) of rainfall – where no technology, tree planting or anything but livestock can practically reverse desertification and address climate change. Here we need to pay attention because such brittle environments cover the greatest land area on our planet – far larger than the tropical forests and humid regions.

Seasonal humidity brittle environments.

When in the 1960s I realized that we had no option but to use livestock to reverse desertification over most of the world’s land I faced a serious dilemma. How could this be done?

As explained in my TED talk on desertification, we had the experience of over 10,000 years of knowledgeable pastoralists herding their animals, while protecting them from predators and constantly moving them, just as they still do today. But that had led to the development of the world’s great man-made deserts of antiquity, and is still advancing desertification as I write. Clearly pastoral herding as it has always been, and still is, was not going to reverse desertification.

Then we had the experience of about a century of modern range management guided by range scientists, and this had increased desertification faster than pastoralists had done over thousands of years. That management included many grazing systems, fencing, water distribution, use of machinery, fire and chemicals. It also involved constant reduction of livestock numbers leading to pastoral genocide in Africa, Israel, China and elsewhere, as well as the dying western ranching culture in the U.S. – all clearly not working. So what were we to do? What are we to do?

All I knew decades ago was that we had to learn how to use the herding, bunching behavior of livestock in a manner similar to how they evolved in the presence of pack-hunting predators. Somehow we had to use livestock as a tool and as proxy for past intact grazing predator populations that no longer exist.

While managing livestock in a way mimicking nature we had also to manage very complex situations – socially, environmentally and economically. Voisin had provided a clue – use some planning process to address what is complex. I tried Voisin’s planning, but since it was developed on ever-green pastures in Europe it could not deal with the greater complexity we faced in African savannas. Nor could Voisin’s planning deal with the social and economic complexity.

Because we ecologists had never faced anything like this I began researching other disciplines to see if anyone had dealt with such complexity. The closest I found was in military experience developed over centuries in Europe. Military planners had been forced to develop ever more successful ways of planning extremely complicated, fast changing situations, in immediate battlefield conditions.

To do this smart minds had developed a simple way of producing the best possible plan at any moment in an often chaotic and changing situation. Rather than re-invent the wheel I merely cribbed what I had been taught as an army officer in the Rhodesian Army from Britain’s Sandhurst Military College – and that became Holistic Planned Grazing.

Holistic Planned Grazing (suitable for all environments).

In this successful and replicable process the first step is for those managing to use the holistic framework to manage what is so complex – starting with developing their own unique holistic context to guide management. This is the essential stage when people determine for themselves, in their own self-interest, whether livestock should even be managed and if so how.

Any farmer or corporation, in for example a Brazilian rainforest, would at this point realize that cattle should not be there. To run cattle on pastures in a cleared tropical forest would be socially, environmentally and economically unsound, and would not be in any person’s, corporation’s or nation’s long-term self-interest.

If, in line with their holistic context, those who were managing determined that livestock were essential to better their lives, and that nothing else could do so in that situation, then planning of the livestock management on the land would proceed. Proceeding that is with the knowledge that it was the right thing to do socially, environmentally and economically for their own lives and those of future generations.

How is Holistic Planned Grazing done?

Military minds had developed the profoundly simple idea of breaking a complicated situation down into small digestible parts to consider one by one. Even a stressed mind can do this. And then, having thoughtfully considered one small point, move on to the next, with each step building on those before to arrive at the best possible plan. I could see how this process could deal with an incredibly complicated situation even for people stressed and exhausted in battle, but there was another problem. Battles are fought for a short time.

People managing livestock have to plan for months or years ahead. They have to plan for unreliable changing weather, fires, plant poisons, predators, crops, other land uses, wildlife needs and more. At the same time they have to plan for changing nutritional needs of animals as they go through their breeding cycles. How could I use the military planning idea and solve such complexity over many months? Easily.

By simply laying out the planning on a chart we could reflect dimensions of time, area, numbers and many problems, issues, changing seasons and more on a flat piece of paper. So simple. We did this and it worked immediately. While I have seen thousands of farmers and ranchers fail to plan, I have yet to see Holistic Planned Grazing fail in any country. After all this process is based on more than 300 years of experience by bright minds.

Holistic Planned Grazing is quickly taught and easy enough for children to grasp. In Africa young people just leaving high school with no experience have learned to plan grazing in a day. In fact doing the planning is fun for any family or team of people, much like playing a game, with the knowledge in everyone’s heads pouring out onto the chart and then finally plotting the animal movement to produce the result all desire. Inexperience has yet to prove a difficulty because ignorance does not block learning in the way that what we already know, or our egos, block learning.

The steps for planning grazing are contained in an Aide Memoire (from the French meaning a memory aid) because of the origin in military colleges. This memory aid ensures the simple small steps are followed building, as they do, the final plan. The aide is universal (applicable in all environments and all manner of situations) reflecting the experiences in the field of thousands of farmers, ranchers and pastoralists.

Training, including self-teaching materials, is available and constantly updated from the Savory Institute and its world-wide network of locally led and managed hubs. And a simple version, together with community mobilization materials (developed with financial assistance from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in USAID), is available for semi-literate people, NGOS and others in Africa.

Young woman facilitating semi-literate villagers in Zimbabwe to plan the grazing of their livestock.

Does Holistic Planned Grazing work?

You might wonder if what I write is supported by results or recognition from reputable bodies. Results have been demonstrated repeatedly for almost half a century. Naturally people have done what they did to varying levels of ability, but so great have been the successes that the Holistic Planned Grazing process is now practiced on well over twenty million hectares on six continents. In the U.S. ranchers managing holistically have dominated awards for good land stewardship.

To date a few reputable organizations have recognized the work despite the fact that using livestock to reverse desertification flies in the face of society’s, and thus institutional, beliefs:
• Australian International Banksia Award 2003 – “for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a global scale.”
• U.S. Buckminster Fuller Award in 2010 -“for a strategy best addressing humanity’s most pressing issues”.
• Western A Price 2015 “for integrity and persistence in science”.
• Currently a finalist in the Virgin Earth Challenge, Sir Richard Branson’s $25m prize for scalable and sustainable ways of removing greenhouse gases from the air.

Criticisms and flaws.

Managing what is so complex was developed over decades of criticism helping to find flaws in either the logic or the science, as is normally how science and knowledge advances. Since the early 1980s further flaws have evaded discovery and only cosmetic change has occurred in the holistic framework, despite appeals to all scientists (as I still do) to help identify any flaws in either the logic or the science. Remember this is a decision-making and planning process that uses all available science as well as other sources of knowledge.

That said, however, anyone doing a Google search will bring up constantly recycling claims that Holistic Planned Grazing is neither based on, nor supported by science. And that it has not been experimentally proven. Such claims, that opponents use social media to spread widely, arise from papers, reports and articles produced by vegans, environmentalists and by Professors at respectable universities adding “legitimacy as objective scientists.”

While always reading the critic’s articles, and peer-reviewed publications, in case they have found something new, we have yet to find this to be the case. Despite their academic credentials the authors of such papers have consistently studied one or other of the many grazing system derivations, but not the Holistic Planned Grazing process.

These authors also repeatedly cite one another. In one publication by 8 authors (all holding a PhD) 19 papers were cited in support of their criticism but when all those citations were followed up, including the papers cited by those authors, not one had ever studied Holistic Planned Grazing. To claim that because the grazing systems they have studied do not reverse desertification and therefore Holistic Planned Grazing is not proven by experimental science, is twisted logic indeed. This behaviour is perhaps best described in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.

We should never relax however and it is my hope that all of you reading my series of blog posts will challenge everything I write. Please feel free to, and do, share with any skeptics or critics you know, or can locate using Google search, and invite them to participate in the discussion. With the serious situation humanity faces all I ask is that you not be apathetic for the sake of future generations.

In my next blog I will summarize why it is that only by managing what is complex holistically – using livestock, properly managed, combined with the technology to develop benign mass energy – can we seriously address climate change and thus offer future generations the hope they deserve. Till then.

Source: Savory Global

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Chuck W.

The Interconnected structure of reality



Post 9/11: Truth or Continued Consequences?

What did 9-11, Covid19, the Covid variants, the end of our 20-year war in Afghanistan, recent extreme weather events globally, and a decline in democracy in many nations all have in common?  First, they were all predictable, predicted, and preventable. Second, more costly blood and treasure consequences are yet to come – unless we understand the root cause and urgently act on it.

By “The Other” Chuck Woolery

Everyone who was conscious on September 11, 2001, recalls the events of that day. But understanding both the origins and the results of 9/11 is far more important than any acts of remembrance that we might perform. If we truly care to honor those who died and suffered on that unforgettable day, we must use our powers of understanding to develop sustainable strategies for preventing the next terrorizing event that might occur. Understanding must matter more than body counts.

The Post’s lead editorial of 9/11 cites Abraham Lincoln’s statement that, when combating danger “the best defense (against the dangers of his time) …lay in cultivating robust ‘reverence for the Constitution and laws,’ ” as well as his hopes that doing so “would inspire and sustain the people’s commitment to liberty and equality.”

In his writings, Lincoln also described the Declaration of Independence as “our apple of gold” and the Constitution as its “frame of silver.” To my mind, these analogies reflect our foundational goal of equality for all people, as invoked in the Declaration.   But our “rule of law, as detailed in the Constitution ignores both the concept of justice and humanities inalienable rights.  The Constitution’s reliance on the proposition of independence — a deeply flawed concept rooted deeply in our minds has not delivered justice or consistently protected human rights since its creation.  From the start it was engineered into every level of our nation’s government.

Many Americans today proclaim their allegiance to individual liberty at the freedom to infect others in their communities.  For a significant portion US citizens “independence” has come to denote the license to act irresponsibly without regard for the medical, environmental, or economic consequences their actions on others (rejecting masks, refusing vaccinations, or denying climate change).

This prevalent fusion of “freedom” with “self-gratification” has long consequences for rest of the world too. For many decades our foreign and military policies have disparaged other cultures as unworthy of the respect and privilege that we ourselves take for granted; we’ve dismissed foreign casualties as “collateral damage”, communist or terrorist sympathizers, or humans irrelevant to our nation’s interests.

My studies as a biologist and student of the natural world have made the fundamental flaws in our Constitution to be “self-evident”.  They consistently ignore the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” expressed in the first paragraph of our “Apple of Gold” the Declaration of Independence.   Interdependence is at the heart of nature’s laws. Chief Seattle (1780-1866), the head of the Duwamish and Suquamish nations, saw this clearly: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”   Yet most of us ignore our irreversible global interdependence environmentally, economically, militarily, and health wise.   Without being responsible with our freedoms abroad we cannot expect to sustainably preserve our freedom, security, or prosperity here.

Until we grasp the wisdom and survival value of putting the global protection of human rights and the environment above the protection of national sovereignty and corporate power, our vulnerability to the kind of dangers inflicted on 9/11 will grow.  Sustaining what quality of life that remains and improving it for ourselves and our children we must abandon the illusion of independence.


Our interdependence within this nation and on this planet is accelerating and irreversible. Nearly every troubling trend we are experiencing today is a symptom of our delusion of separation. There is a medical term for this mental condition – anosognosia.  It is when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition.  In a world with the accelerating evolution of weapons, pathogens, failing democracies, and civil strife It’s time for a wake-up call.

Our human-created construct of independence is responsible for our persistent failure to understand and respond effectively to nearly every danger we face (pandemics, pollution, terrorism, cyber security, economic stability, drug trade, refugee flows, food insecurity, extreme weather events…), each with lethal and unfavorable consequences for all — both here and abroad.

We can no longer simply react when disaster strikes. We can no longer build back to what we had before. It’s imperative now that we build forward in ways that prevent dangers and conserve limited resources.  It is our only means of maximizing any sustainable prospects of freedom, security, and prosperity for ourselves and our posterity.  Most nations have agreed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.  It is the only comprehensive set of solutions we have, and humanity is not on track to meet them.  Time is not on our side…and e may not get another chance.

The truth of our interdependence can set us free.  Ignoring it will only have more unfavorable consequences.


Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”   -Albert Einstein.  As quoted in Quantum Reality, Beyond the New Physics, p. 250.

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Mea Culpa



Notes on 9-11, twenty years later.

This is the anniversary of a dark day in our country’s history.  It has also been totally eclipsed by the utterly horrifying death toll from a preventable virus.  So much so, that after this year I doubt anybody will be putting much emphasis on 9/11 anymore.  Too many folks are mourning their current lost loved ones to spend heaps of time on those of a generation ago.

I wanted to start this essay with “I told you so.”  It sure would have felt good, too; 20 years after warning y’all about the mistake of going to war to avenge a violent terror attack.  Who the hell would read that article though?  Nobody.

Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, least of all ‘Muricans.

We don’t.  We blew it on Viet Nam.  But then we spent the next two decades fellating ourselves with Rambo movies and Reagan and other such exciting fictions.  So when 9/11 occured, we were 100% ready and willing and able to make the same mistake again.  Then – – our short-attention span made it so that we turned away from the Afghan rebuilding project to double down and invade Iraq.  (I decried that invason too, to no avail).

We then whipped up some fancy ‘mission accomplished’ banners and photo ops, and… spent the next 19 years waiting to be greeted as liberators.  August of 2021 may have finally put that delusion to bed.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

I hate being Cassandra.  I do.  Nobody wants to hear the unvarnished truth, that much is clear.  But why?  How is it we would rather keep suffering, and keep on making other nations suffer; instead of doing the simple, basic work to fix the problems once and for all?  *This* question has become my life’s work.

There are solutions, by the way.  Never ever let anyone tell you these problems cannot be fixed.  Those folks are selling you something; and are not to be trusted.  We could never have built civilization in the first place, if we did not have solutions available for getting people to co-exist, within community.

So forget all about ‘I told you so’, and forget about who’s fault it is that we are in such a mess.  Focus your precious time on learning about solutions.  I have close to 20 essays up on now, and plenty of others have stuff posted here too.  That’s one possible place to start learning if you need resources.  For the busier or more skeptical among us, here (below) are some short takes that may be of use.

I am sorry that we’re still suffering.  Maybe I haven’t done enough to help relieve that suffering.  Maybe I can do more.  But it’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  It’s about the future. It really can be as bright as we want it to be.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is simply inertia –  – and that’s a choice we make every day.

Simply change your mind, decide to find a new model to live within.  Better days lie ahead.

Further Reading:


Daniel Quinn shared this insight with us: Most folks would say that “the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer it.”  But of course that is just mythology, nothing about it is true.  It’s far more accurate to say that “the world is a sacred place and a sacred process – – and we are part of it.”  Our fundamental mis-understanding of how the world works is the key to knowing why we keep going on foolish crusades overseas, why we keep destroying the climate even though we know better, and so many other maladies.  It’s time to change those habits.

I often recommend this book, and do so again today because it’s more relevant NOW than ever before.  “Beyond Civilization” by Daniel Quinn.  See also: “Providence”, and the 3 “Ishmael” novels… which would make one hell of a great miniseries, if there are any TeeVee producers reading this post.

Speaking of ‘more relevant than ever’, Bucky Fuller’s classic book-length essay Grunch of Giants came out in 1970 for crying out loud; it’s too bad we’ve never taken his wise advice.


Here let us read in their own words, some post-war thoughts from a selection of unindicted war criminals.  They only barely register any remorse, and sure are twisting themselves in knots to justify their murderous idiocy.  NOTABLY ABSENT IN THESE INTERVIEWS: THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANYBODY AT ALL WHO WARNED AGAINST THE INVASIONS BEFORE HAND.  Such as Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Medea Benjamin, or any of the Gold Star Mothers.  Funny how the media is falling over themselves to ask the guilty how they feel about being guilty.  It’s too damn bad the media doesn’t truly want to prevent future mistakes since that would be bad for their ratings.  Le sigh.

For a more rational change of pace, this journalist ignored the fatuous glad-handers who lied us into war and instead talked to the soldiers on the ground.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the last entry and just read this one.


Here I offer a hat tip to my friend Alice Shikina, who has pointed me towards a far better means of conflict resolution – guided mediation & arbitration.  Groups such as SEEDS exist here in the Bay Area and similar ones are in most any big city near you.  We don’t have to spend our precious time being angry, or blaming the ‘other guy’.  We can instead work on listening and finding common ground.  There WAS common ground to be had with the Afghan people, for example, but we never once tried to find it.  We simply imposed a top-down model on them and then, were puzzled why they despised it.  What a huge missed opportunity.  Don’t you make that same mistake.  Check out the better options that are available and cost almost nothing to implement.

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Idjitz Stoopidshitz and-Dumfux



Idjitz, Stoopidshitz, and-Dumfux

That’s how the growing resentment against the unvaccinated is best expressed.   Somehow these people regard their decision to flirt with imminent risk as an act of patriotism, the pure expression of American individualism boldly spitting in the wind of governmental control and the face of death itself.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we might do well to remember the heroic efforts of the true patriots among us, first responders and committed civil servants, and not the swollen pride of the few who carried the banners of plastic flagstaffs, boldly flapping stars and stripes, on the roll-up windows of their Cadillac Escalades to tailgate parties on the weekends that followed.  Some people can sure talk the talk, and the rest, Hillary’s deplorables, show up at events like that of January 6th.

But to be certain, those patriots on September 11th who went into those collapsing towers were heroes not solely because they put their lives in danger, took a risk to save others, selfless acts in defiance of the most certain of consequences, but because they truly cared about you and me.  All of America was in those towers.

Looking back on the death toll that day, as staggering as it was, it was even more shocking that the event occurred in our sacred homeland, a place of safety where we Americans enjoy our freedoms unhindered by fear.   To secure that same future, we accepted a massive loss of freedoms to embrace the Patriot Act and we shipped thousands of young Americans to distant lands, many to fall at the hands of unseen terrorists’ IEDs while on patrol.

So why is it that with the overwhelming statistics on Covid deaths, rising infections, the many at-capacity hospitals and the lack of safety for our unprotected children, do these anti-vaxers maintain that their so called freedoms take precedent over the safety of the community at large?  These people are not patriots.  They are the worst kind of self-serving cowards!

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