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Question for Allan on starting on a new piece of land

 
Alex Ojeda
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Allan! You've been a hero of mine for quite some time! This is a thrilling opportunity. I have many questions, but here's one. When you arrive on a piece of property with zero growing and you start paddock-shifting your animals, I've heard you say that you don't have to feed them anything outside of the system. How do they live until the land starts growing food. Is it just that they can survive with no food for a certain amount of time? How are they watered? Am I getting this wrong? Very interested in your response.

Alex Ojeda from Jacksonville, FL
 
Allan Savory
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Alex this bothers many people and was a major question following my TED talk. the answer is simple so let me explain.

I have never, even in the worst situations come across land with absolutely no feed in the form of sparse grass, leaf fall and twigs from trees or browse on small desert bushes, etc. The exception being true desert with no rainfall which we do not try to change, or mine reclamation where there are relatively small totally bare areas. In the latter (mine reclamation) we do use brought in feed in the form of the cheapest nastiest hay we can find full of seed of weeds, annual grasses or anything to provide some feed but mainly litter.

On the land with larger areas as I say there is always something there supporting usually pathetically few poor animals. So there we begin and we use the simple principle that all biological functions follow an S shaped or sigmoid curve. i.e plants grow slowly and gradually accelerate till full grown and we want them to be allowed to get past the slow initial growth rate to the fast growth rate or steep part of that curve so we need to buy time for that to happen once they germinate.

If we take any area of land as time not area is what matters most - that area of land can say presently only carry X number of animals (goats, cattle, donkies or whatever) but it can carry them for a year. So therefore if we divide that land into two it can carry X for about 180 days on half the land. And that leaves any plants establishing on the other half 180 days to grow unimpeded if they germinate. So if we divide the land into four then a quarter of the land can carry X for about 90 days - so that leave plants establishing on the bulk of the land about 270 days of unimpeded growth. Hope you get the idea. Now if we can also increase the animals and change their behaviour to more bunching behaviour we can overcome the greatest problem with such desertifying land (over resting the land) by increasing the animal impact (hoof action, breaking soil capped surface, dunging and urinating) and through this get more plants germinating and establishing. Any plants are needed to begin providing both more feed for animals and more litter for soil cover.

So with this principle in mind I first tested this out before going public. We chose the worst land we could find in the driest and most desertified part of Zimbabwe. Land on which perennial grassland had disappeared and we had not one single plant we knew of in over 100 miles drive. Taking the worst piece we could in that area (a 4,000 acre piece of it) we divided it into 30 using fencing at that time (1960's) Now I would not use fencing any longer as we can do it more effectively with herding at lower cost. Anyway on that land we doubled X (the number of animals it was carrying) and that proved too little so by end of first year we went to 3X. And that with holistic planned grazing resulted in the animals on average being on any unit of the land for one to two days only with enough existing feed for so short a stay. And they did well on the available forage (mostly initially twigs, leaf fall and a few small shrubs as there was no grass at all). And through the greatly increased animal impact (3 x numbers on only a thirtieth of the land) plants, or many species, began to germinate and most with recovery periods of uninterrupted growth of between 30 to 60 days established well enough to be grazed or browsed without overgrazing or overbrowsing. We found this led very quickly to solid perennial grassland developing. No feeding and no need to reseed or plant grass, shrubs or trees. All began establishing themselves.

We began immediately in the dry season because I was trying to see if I could cause holistic planned grazing to fail and pushing it to extremes no rancher would in their right minds do. We could not cause it to fail and it simply got better and better year after year. Normally because ranchers do not have my experience and thus confidence I suggest they do not start healing such land in the dry season but begin at the beginning of the humid or growing season as they gain confidence. I hope this helps you get the idea.
 
Alex Ojeda
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Thanks Allan! I watched your TED talk and was thrilled to find you educating us in your methods. I was just unsure of the answer at the end of that video. Now, I understand what you mean. Thanks!
 
Alex Ojeda
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I had another question. I get hit with this one a lot while talking to people about paddock-shift, perennial grass-fed grazing. Is there a way to use vegetation that equals the power of soil building that your method has? I can understand if you don't have an answer for this, but if anyone has this answer, I was thinking it had to be you.

I love the idea of animals being employed to do what they do best, which is exactly what nature needs all animals to do. Disturbing the ground, the vegetation, fertilizing the ground and spreading plant diversity. Thanks for any info on this.
 
Allan Savory
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Alex I began answering but it disappeared – old age and computers mix about as well as oil and water ! Trying again.

I am not sure I understand your question. “Is there a way to use vegetation that equals the power of soil building that your method has?”

If you mean by this is there a way of using plants and technology instead of animals – i.e. planting trees, shrubs, grass and or laying lots of dead plant litter on the ground (none of which can be done without the use of energy and technology in some form) – then no, I am not aware of any method that comes close to what people can do using livestock properly managed to reverse desertification. Remember reversing desertification alone is not adequate – it needs to be done in a socially, economically and environmentally sound manner both short and long term.

Such methods (using labour, money and technology to restore plant growth) work well producing more food more reliably at lower cost, etc. where humidity is reasonably distributed as in the green zones or regions of the world I drew attention to in my TED talk. Regions where desertification is not occurring. However over most of the world with seasonal humidity where the large masses of herbivores developed with the soils and vegetation, and where desertification is occurring, I have not seen it equal what can be done mimicking nature with animals. I have seen, and of course heard of, projects in such areas showing very impressive results planting various species and laying litter with or without terracing or water harvesting measures. However analyzing such projects holistically, as we can now do using the holistic framework, always brings a fuller picture to light – and of course raises the question why did the plants need to be planted, the terraces need to be made, the water need to be harvested or the litter be laid with mankind’s help now but not in the past? In other words throws up the fact that symptoms are being addressed at high cost (money, energy and labour) and not the cause of desertification.

And these sorts of measures (using technology to restore plant life) inevitably consume much manpower, and /or fossil fuel and money in an addictive manner requiring constant attention and re-investment of such resources (because only symptoms are being addressed). Almost all of this people can avoid using animals addressing the cause, using solar energy and having no unintended consequences such as constant reinvestment of resources. There is also the matter of scale. If we are to reverse man-made desertification leading to most of today’s droughts, floods, poverty, social breakdown, violence, war and climate change we have to be realistic about scale – we simply have billions of acres to deal with and fast.
 
Alex Ojeda
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That's just the kind of answer that I was looking for. I just see these paddock shift systems as being too efficient to be paralleled any other way. Especially when you consider the energy input. Can I ask what you call what you do? Paddock shift? Anything else?

Also, I hear that there are places where this doesn't work. Aside from deserts where it's literally just sand dunes and desolation, is there another degraded environment where this technique wouldn't work?

Thank you for all of your time. I really appreciate this!
 
Natasha Turner
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Hi Alex, I believe I saw in a different post where Mr. Savory calls it Holistic Planned Grazing.
 
Allan Savory
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Alex, Natasha is right. Please read all the responses I am giving – I cannot keep repeating and as it is am taking much time responding over these 3 days and doing my best to help all. It is holistic management – and reading other posts you will learn that is two processes acting together, with one holistic planned grazing only kicking in when livestock are managed on the land.
And holistic planned grazing is universal as you will read, having been developed over about fifty years in all environments from true desert margins with almost no rainfall at all to very high rainfall areas with over 2,500 mm of rain. And over all soils and nature of country from open plains and savannas to mountains. In every situation the detail differs but the identical planning process is used and it has been (and continues to be) refined by our institute and changed every time we strike any new problem anywhere in the world.
 
Alex Ojeda
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Allan Savory wrote:Alex, Natasha is right. Please read all the responses I am giving – I cannot keep repeating and as it is am taking much time responding over these 3 days and doing my best to help all. It is holistic management – and reading other posts you will learn that is two processes acting together, with one holistic planned grazing only kicking in when livestock are managed on the land.
And holistic planned grazing is universal as you will read, having been developed over about fifty years in all environments from true desert margins with almost no rainfall at all to very high rainfall areas with over 2,500 mm of rain. And over all soils and nature of country from open plains and savannas to mountains. In every situation the detail differs but the identical planning process is used and it has been (and continues to be) refined by our institute and changed every time we strike any new problem anywhere in the world.


Thanks Natasha and Allan! Sorry about that. I didn't see the other posts. I keep seeing only my own. I'll bounce back a level and see what's going on there too. I'm happy to hear that this works just about anywhere. Thanks for the info. I'm going to be attending a class in August with Johann Zietsmann, Jim Elizondo and Mark Bader. I see that your institute endorse them. That's why I'm going to it.

I have a friend who has a friend who is working at your institute in Africa. I'd love to go help and learn. Thanks for all of your time and help!
 
Allan Savory
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Alex read my latest post to Natasha about the many derivatives. You are heading right into one.
 
Alex Ojeda
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Allan Savory wrote:Alex read my latest post to Natasha about the many derivatives. You are heading right into one.


I did just read it and it cleared up a big question I had. Thank you!
 
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