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Holistic management: plans that encourage both wild and domestic grazing?

Posts: 190
Location: Hendersonville, NC
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This is a question for Mr. Savory, or anyone with experience: I want to start rotational grazing of sheep, ducks, and small cattle. However, the area I want to graze is (infrequently) grazed by wild Elk. The Elk aren't doing all they can to help the grass graze itself, so I'd thought I would add some domestics. But how to do this without spooking the Elk? Are there known strategies for this type of situation, or is up to the Elk? The corridor the Elk have seems really small and I don't want to scare them away, but I have a lot of grass and other aggressive plants that I think something needs to be done. A question I would ask me is, What do the neighbors do? The neighbors have small herds of cattle and the Elk don't seem to mind them, but they only have a few. I plan a more intensive grazing system with a lot more than a few head of cattle.

Any help, however basic, would be great.
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If you can do read other responses to help me not keep repeating. As is the norm the reductionist management that humans have always practiced you have an objective with inadequate context. Once you have a holistic context you will be able to weigh up many alternatives within that context thus avoiding unintended consequences to you, the land or the elk I believe.

If when you are there you still feel using mixed livestock is the best way to move forward for yours and the elks sake then, again if you read other posts, you will see rotational grazing will be a no no, as will any intensive grazing system. You will find that all this complexity is easily addressed if you simply use the holistic grazing planning process in which all the obstacles, other land uses, elk needs as and when known are laid out and you can see where to place your management herd to have them always in the right place for the right reasons at the right time. You do not say how large the area is but do hint at many cattle so I assume it is reasonably large. Things you will need to think about to have all working well for elk and yourself are the type of fencing if as is likely you use fencing. Where there are many deer, elk or whatever one good move is to only have the fencing where the cattle are at any time with wildlife free to move over all the rest of the land. This can be done easily with less labour time using permanent posts but moveable wire or tape as I suggested to Kari a moment ago.

What we do on our Africa site because we deal with a great amount of varied wildlife is to remove all livestock bells and use nothing but low stress livestock handling learned originally from Bud Williams. The livestock are always pretty quiet and most game ignore them. Long ago we learned with the planned grazing that most wildlife soon adopted a pattern of feeding two moves behind our large cattle herd. And I have also witnessed them feeding amongst the cattle but leaving at dawn when human disturbance increased.

As you get into planned grazing there is more you will learn. For instance this coming season I will be training our staff through the planning to use the management herd to create even more wildlife habitat with more mosaic edge effect – we will be deliberately overgrazing almost all plants but with high animal impact to create open very short grass areas surrounded by longer grass and brush. Right now our herders have learned how to heal all the land as we are doing but to also leave chosen sites bare for wildlife needs and we have about ten such sites. Many species come to these sites frequently including francolin and other birds to dust themselves now hard to do over most of the land. The livestock you will find are an incredible tool with which to do so many things we previously tried to do at high cost and long-term failure using fire or various aspects of technology. We are using the livestock to heal gullies, eroding sites of all manor, improve crop yields, for firebreaks, thinning bush, creating fawning sites for bushbuck, social sites for other species and of course rendering so many so-called weeds or noxious plants harmless at no cost. The longer we go the more we learn and ours is far from perfect but is exciting continuous learning.
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