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High Density Grazing

 
Chris Stelzer
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Hey everyone,

Since I'm here answering questions I'd like to point something out about high density grazing, as a lot of people are excited about this grazing tool.

Yes, High Density Grazing (HDG) is great. However, a lot of people are ALWAYS grazing their livestock at high densities. This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.

I just did an interview with Australian Rancher Dick Richardson and he uses "random events" on his ranch that more closely mimics how wild grazing animals behave. Do wild graziers stay at high densities all the time? Not really, only when there are predators close by. Other than that they are grazing in a spread out manner. Other times, they are grazing as a dense herd walking in the same direction. Other times they might be REALLY spread out. The point it, change it up with your grazing practices. If you have an area of brush or poor species, it makes sense to use high density grazing to jump start that process toward more desirable forage species. But, if you are using high density grazing year after year, during the same time of year, that can lead to some undesirable things. I would try to use some "random events" in your everyday practices. Look for the interview I did with Dick to come out next week. All my interviews can be found at my site, listed in my signature area.

I hope that helps you to think about when and when not to use high density grazing.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Chris, I have never read that you mention Allan Savory anytime nor anywhere.
What do you think about his way of doing high density grazing?
Do you have some pros and cons?
 
Chris Stelzer
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Chris, I have never read that you mention Allan Savory anytime nor anywhere.
What do you think about his way of doing high density grazing?
Do you have some pros and cons?


Yeah I have mentioned Allan on my blog before. I think what he's doing is incredibly important, no doubt about that. But I think when he is explaining his concepts to the everyday person, he doesn't need to get into the how, what, why and when high density grazing should be done. But overall, I think he has changed the entire ranching and farming industry world-wide. We all owe him a great deal.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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All people doing HDG are doing his way? or are there already some differences and other ways that are coming from his?
 
Lm McWilliams
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Chris Stelzer wrote:Hey everyone,

Since I'm here answering questions I'd like to point something out about high density grazing, as a lot of people are excited about this grazing tool.

Yes, High Density Grazing (HDG) is great. However, a lot of people are ALWAYS grazing their livestock at high densities. This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.

I just did an interview with Australian Rancher Dick Richardson and he uses "random events" on his ranch that more closely mimics how wild grazing animals behave. Do wild graziers stay at high densities all the time? Not really, only when there are predators close by. Other than that they are grazing in a spread out manner. Other times, they are grazing as a dense herd walking in the same direction. Other times they might be REALLY spread out. The point it, change it up with your grazing practices. If you have an area of brush or poor species, it makes sense to use high density grazing to jump start that process toward more desirable forage species. But, if you are using high density grazing year after year, during the same time of year, that can lead to some undesirable things. I would try to use some "random events" in your everyday practices. Look for the interview I did with Dick to come out next week. All my interviews can be found at my site, listed in my signature area.

I hope that helps you to think about when and when not to use high density grazing.


Excellent points, Chris. Thanks for sharing them.

If I can sum this up, it sounds like a principle common to both Holistic Management and Permaculture:
observation of the responses of the land, plants, and animals to any action we take, and them adjust
our actions accordingly - does that sound right?
 
Chris Stelzer
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Lm McWilliams wrote:
Chris Stelzer wrote:Hey everyone,

Since I'm here answering questions I'd like to point something out about high density grazing, as a lot of people are excited about this grazing tool.

Yes, High Density Grazing (HDG) is great. However, a lot of people are ALWAYS grazing their livestock at high densities. This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.

I just did an interview with Australian Rancher Dick Richardson and he uses "random events" on his ranch that more closely mimics how wild grazing animals behave. Do wild graziers stay at high densities all the time? Not really, only when there are predators close by. Other than that they are grazing in a spread out manner. Other times, they are grazing as a dense herd walking in the same direction. Other times they might be REALLY spread out. The point it, change it up with your grazing practices. If you have an area of brush or poor species, it makes sense to use high density grazing to jump start that process toward more desirable forage species. But, if you are using high density grazing year after year, during the same time of year, that can lead to some undesirable things. I would try to use some "random events" in your everyday practices. Look for the interview I did with Dick to come out next week. All my interviews can be found at my site, listed in my signature area.

I hope that helps you to think about when and when not to use high density grazing.


Excellent points, Chris. Thanks for sharing them.

If I can sum this up, it sounds like a principle common to both Holistic Management and Permaculture:
observation of the responses of the land, plants, and animals to any action we take, and them adjust
our actions accordingly - does that sound right?


Yep observation is always the best tool, in my opinion.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:All people doing HDG are doing his way? or are there already some differences and other ways that are coming from his?


Everyone does something different. All I'm saying is excess HDG will in the longer term be a bad thing. Production per acre will go down.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Well... Some assess better from the start and need to modify less than others!
More than observation is needed.
No one giving advises should be expected to be in the blank / 100% accurate / having a crystal ball... and so we should all be less afraid to be wrong (off target) when we give advices.

The best advice and guidance should include the parameters to watch after, and what can go up or down (numbers like number of animals of length of grass...) according to the parameters.

Edit: and an important parameter is "how to know, and what to observe, for not reaching excess".
What is excess and how do you measure it?
How do you know you come near to it?
 
Bob Anders
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I have been HDG for over 7 years and have noticed very few long term issues. The biggest issue I have had is the cattle will not walk over anything green without investigating and most likely eating. The only time I do not HDG is when we are breeding, or when we have a large snow storm.

Chris Stelzer wrote:Everyone does something different. All I'm saying is excess HDG will in the longer term be a bad thing. Production per acre will go down.

The production of eatable feed has increased over the years. I have not read any books about the forge declining over time.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Bob Anders wrote:I have been HDG for over 7 years and have noticed very few long term issues. The biggest issue I have had is the cattle will not walk over anything green without investigating and most likely eating. The only time I do not HDG is when we are breeding, or when we have a large snow storm.

Chris Stelzer wrote:Everyone does something different. All I'm saying is excess HDG will in the longer term be a bad thing. Production per acre will go down.

The production of eatable feed has increased over the years. I have not read any books about the forge declining over time.


Bob that is interesting. And of course I could be wrong but when certain practices, even if they are beneficial, are done over and over, that can lead to problems. You'll want to listen to the podcast I have coming out on Monday next week. Dick Richardson explains the how, what and why of high density grazing and how it can possibly lead to simplification of species.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Chris Stelzer wrote:excess HDG will in the longer term be a bad thing.


What is "excess" and how do you measure it?
How do you know you come near to it?
(I know this all vary, but some examples are welcome)

Do you advise to count the species and their occurrence or what else?
 
Chris Stelzer
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:
Chris Stelzer wrote:excess HDG will in the longer term be a bad thing.


What is "excess" and how do you measure it?
How do you know you come near to it?
(I know this all vary, but some examples are welcome)

Do you advise to count the species and their occurrence or what else?


Excess is doing the same type of grazing year after year in the same spot. So if you have 20 paddocks and you graze them all at the same density at the same time of the year, that is undesirable. Do wild herbivores graze the same way everyday and at the same densities? I dont think so.
 
Luke Vaillancourt
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Chris Stelzer wrote:
Xisca Nicolas wrote:
Chris Stelzer wrote:excess HDG will in the longer term be a bad thing.


What is "excess" and how do you measure it?
How do you know you come near to it?
(I know this all vary, but some examples are welcome)

Do you advise to count the species and their occurrence or what else?


Excess is doing the same type of grazing year after year in the same spot. So if you have 20 paddocks and you graze them all at the same density at the same time of the year, that is undesirable. Do wild herbivores graze the same way everyday and at the same densities? I dont think so.



Well said Chris, It's great getting your insights this week!
 
tim Trammell
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Thanks for all the great information.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Sorry, I do not agree here, especially after reading Allan Savory.
He insists about the cycle of verifying all choices.
And correct and re-plan.

doing the same type of grazing year after year in the same spot.

This is not "excess", this is blind following of a recipe.
This is not "excess" because you can do this without it being excessive.

Then "random events" would be the next step.
But what looks for us random when we look at animals' behaviours may not be random for them.
And it might be too sometimes!

Nature is made to work with randomness. Seeds go away, sprout, and some survive, some don't. This is not appropriate when we sow seed we have bought, so we study plants needs, animal needs etc, and mimic nature.

Then there is "knowledgeable planning", so that randomness is optimized!
That is why some people are more successful.
They learn from mistakes (this way of learning is soooo popular!) but they do more than learning from mistakes, they learn from past knowledge: they make less mistakes and know more!

To come back to "excess", this has to do with quantities, so it is possible to quantify it.
Thus my question: how to quantify it, how to measure it, what do we have to measure? All this does not depend on the personal area. This is general enough to be told to us. What will change will be the numbers each of us will collect.
Then all person that is able to see what goes up and what goes down will be responsible for acting upon assessments done.
 
wayne stephen
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Surely random events more closely mimics any natural cycle . What about the effects of multiple species grazing ? What about locality . Here the Earth is really telling you it wants to grow grass vs. say Chino Valley , Az. that would prefer a different biota at ground level ?
 
Chris Stelzer
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tim Trammell wrote:Thanks for all the great information.


No problem, thank you for reading!
 
Chris Stelzer
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wayne stephen wrote:Surely random events more closely mimics any natural cycle . What about the effects of multiple species grazing ? What about locality . Here the Earth is really telling you it wants to grow grass vs. say Chino Valley , Az. that would prefer a different biota at ground level ?


Multi species grazing is awesome. There were not just buffalo grazing the prairies of North America at one point but many different species. Luckily I got to see this while I was living in South Africa. So yes, multi species grazing is a good thing, IF YOU MANAGE IT CORRECTLY.

Regrading the question about Arizona, I don't know... never been there. But we have a tendency to think "natural" is what landscapes look like when we leave them alone. This is not necessary the case because when humans killed out huge herds of herbivores and built highways and fences everywhere, those animals could no longer freely graze as massive herds. Consequently the landscape degrades, in dramatic cases turns to desert. Is this natural? Yes, but it shouldn't be happening because we removed the large herds. So, I don't know what should be growing in that valley in Arizona, I'd look into the history of the area and try to find some historical pictures.
 
Bob Anders
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I have done a ton of thinking about this. “This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.” (from first post)

You will get soil compaction at first, but if you can make it into the second year most of the time it will go away on it's own. HDG will build up humus in the soil and with tap root plants will keep compaction at bay.

If you have a hard pan issue HDG will make it show up faster, but if properly taken care of once you should not have any other issues for years if you keep equipment off the land.

Simplification is P^Q / .'. Q They make forge yard sticks that have charts on the back to help with the calculation.
Some forages will not thrive in a HDG setting. There are plenty of grasses and “weeds” that would work great.
 
Amedean Messan
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Chris Stelzer wrote:
Excess is doing the same type of grazing year after year in the same spot. So if you have 20 paddocks and you graze them all at the same density at the same time of the year, that is undesirable. Do wild herbivores graze the same way everyday and at the same densities? I dont think so.


Is this criticism of HDG from experience or from a theory developed from readings?
 
Chris Stelzer
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Ok. Let me make something VERY CLEAR. I'm not criticizing high density grazing. I'm criticizing the fact that some people always use HDG, and get into a routine and pattern. This leads to a simplification of species. High density grazing is an incredibly powerful tool, but like all things, it has the potential to be abused. This is what I'm warning against. Be careful, make a plan, monitor and re-plan (just like holistic management teaches).
 
Chris Stelzer
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Amedean Messan wrote:
Chris Stelzer wrote:
Excess is doing the same type of grazing year after year in the same spot. So if you have 20 paddocks and you graze them all at the same density at the same time of the year, that is undesirable. Do wild herbivores graze the same way everyday and at the same densities? I dont think so.


Is this criticism of HDG from experience or from a theory developed from readings?


This comes from Dick Richardson who's one of the earliest practitioners of Holistic Management on two continents and now consults for ranches. He runs into this problem frequently with people who have been practicing Holistic Management for 5-15 years. He goes in and adresses their problems, and he said this is one of the most common. You'll be interested to listen to our interview that I have coming out on monday. It can be found at: http://agriculturalinsights.com
 
Chris Stelzer
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Bob Anders wrote:I have done a ton of thinking about this. “This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.” (from first post)

You will get soil compaction at first, but if you can make it into the second year most of the time it will go away on it's own. HDG will build up humus in the soil and with tap root plants will keep compaction at bay.

If you have a hard pan issue HDG will make it show up faster, but if properly taken care of once you should not have any other issues for years if you keep equipment off the land.

Simplification is P^Q / .'. Q They make forge yard sticks that have charts on the back to help with the calculation.
Some forages will not thrive in a HDG setting. There are plenty of grasses and “weeds” that would work great.


Bob I think you are right about some things you said, but I share a different opinion on others.

A lot of this has to do with recovery periods. If you have very long recovery periods, and are using HDG, you might be just fine. If you are using 60-90 day recovery periods using HDG, you might run into trouble. Again, you MIGHT. I got this information from Australian/South African Dick Richardson who frequently runs into compaction and simplification of species when people use HDG for long periods of time, over and over. With that being said, your situation might be different.

And it's also my understanding that HDG will break up hardpan or capping of the soil when used properly. Sounds like we might have a different definition of hard pan. Thanks for your comments.
 
Bob Anders
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So far this year...
day 1. Run cattle
day 25. Run sheep
day 30. Run chickens
day 60 - 70. Run cows or make hay

When we do not run sheep...
day 1. Run cows
day 5. Run chickens
day 30 – 40. Run cows or cut hay


At this point if all you will say is I will tell more on Monday then this thread should be locked until the new info is posted. I understand trying to get people ready for something to come out, but at this point this is to the point of stupidity.
 
Michael Cox
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Bob Anders wrote:
At this point if all you will say is I will tell more on Monday then this thread should be locked until the new info is posted. I understand trying to get people ready for something to come out, but at this point this is to the point of stupidity.


Bit over the top Bob - why should he give time to us repeating info that he knows is going to come out in two days time? Chris has already been answering questions in this thread. Also, your post doesn't actually contain a question - just a list of grazing days with no context. What exactly would you be hoping for an answer to? Chris would surely need to know about the state of your pasture, your climate and rainfall, your grazing objectives etc...
 
Adam Klaus
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Wow Chris, tough for a brother to get a break here. Thanks for taking the time to generously share your knowledge and experience. I see that some are taking a bit of your advice a little too personally, seems like some outside issues coming into this discussion; that's too bad.

I agree, based on my experience, that doing the same thing each year is not desirable for pasture health.

Chris Stelzer wrote:Do wild herbivores graze the same way everyday and at the same densities? I dont think so.


In my case, particularly grazing the same pastures first or last during the year seems to have less than desirable results. Similarly, rotating pastures based on some fixed number of days between grazings. Or grazing pastures to the same height with each rotation. Any or all of these habitual regimines seem to have underirable outcomes.

Recognizing the randomness of natural systems, attempting to introduce a certain amount of managed randomness into our grazing systems seems to be a good way to imitate nature. I find that my pastures are more productive, with a stronger component of desirable species when I follow this philosophy. So in short, I concur with Chris. Settle down fellas.
 
Bob Anders
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Michael Cox wrote:Bit over the top Bob - why should he give time to us repeating info that he knows is going to come out in two days time? Chris has already been answering questions in this thread. Also, your post doesn't actually contain a question - just a list of grazing days with no context. What exactly would you be hoping for an answer to? Chris would surely need to know about the state of your pasture, your climate and rainfall, your grazing objectives etc...

I have asked questions if you want to go back and read more than one of my posts. The post you read was a response from something said.

I might of posted a bit over the top. I still see a lot of half way answered questions and a lot of repeating the same stuff over and over with out going into any detail. From the first post...
Chris Stelzer wrote:Yes, High Density Grazing (HDG) is great. However, a lot of people are ALWAYS grazing their livestock at high densities. This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.
has not been elaborated on into any detail. If the details do not come out till sometime Monday than all we are going to read about is the same info over and over.


Even if you grazer every set number of days there are a ton of variables that change between grazings that would make it random. Different temps, amounts of rain, amounts of shade (from trees and sun angle), grazed to a different height, grew to a different height, amount of trampling (how long it takes to recover), and so on. The random items make different grasses or weeds grow at different rates with in the pasture.

I do know one person that grazes before the grass hit's X " because he has issues with pink eye. Because the pastures are always about the same height at grazing time he can eye ball the tonnage and set out padlocks right at the sweet spot every time.

But I do think in the long term I need to stop responding to threads that are leading traffic back to web other websites or that will only exchange details on a time line. When I first posted in this I thought it was going to become a great thread to exchange information between a group of people that had HDG or that were interested in HDG and I was wrong.
 
Lm McWilliams
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Chris Stelzer wrote: You'll want to listen to the podcast I have coming out on Monday next week.
Dick Richardson explains the how, what and why of high density grazing and how it can possibly
lead to simplification of species.


Hmmm. Seems like this may be another case of not just WHAT tool is used, but HOW it is used.
My initial reaction is that the reduction on species diversity might be more a matter of the rest
periods than the high density stocking...?

Looking forward to the new podcast!
 
Chris Stelzer
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Adam Klaus wrote:Wow Chris, tough for a brother to get a break here. Thanks for taking the time to generously share your knowledge and experience. I see that some are taking a bit of your advice a little too personally, seems like some outside issues coming into this discussion; that's too bad.

I agree, based on my experience, that doing the same thing each year is not desirable for pasture health.

Chris Stelzer wrote:Do wild herbivores graze the same way everyday and at the same densities? I dont think so.


In my case, particularly grazing the same pastures first or last during the year seems to have less than desirable results. Similarly, rotating pastures based on some fixed number of days between grazings. Or grazing pastures to the same height with each rotation. Any or all of these habitual regimines seem to have underirable outcomes.

Recognizing the randomness of natural systems, attempting to introduce a certain amount of managed randomness into our grazing systems seems to be a good way to imitate nature. I find that my pastures are more productive, with a stronger component of desirable species when I follow this philosophy. So in short, I concur with Chris. Settle down fellas.


Adam you are in the correct mindset, keep up the good work. Thanks for sticking up for me as well! If something works for Bob, and he is happy and enjoying his life and work, then I see no problem with what he's doing.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Michael Cox wrote:
Bob Anders wrote:
At this point if all you will say is I will tell more on Monday then this thread should be locked until the new info is posted. I understand trying to get people ready for something to come out, but at this point this is to the point of stupidity.


Bit over the top Bob - why should he give time to us repeating info that he knows is going to come out in two days time? Chris has already been answering questions in this thread. Also, your post doesn't actually contain a question - just a list of grazing days with no context. What exactly would you be hoping for an answer to? Chris would surely need to know about the state of your pasture, your climate and rainfall, your grazing objectives etc...


Thank you Michael, I agree.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Lm McWilliams wrote:
Chris Stelzer wrote: You'll want to listen to the podcast I have coming out on Monday next week.
Dick Richardson explains the how, what and why of high density grazing and how it can possibly
lead to simplification of species.


Hmmm. Seems like this may be another case of not just WHAT tool is used, but HOW it is used.
My initial reaction is that the reduction on species diversity might be more a matter of the rest
periods than the high density stocking...?

Looking forward to the new podcast!


LM, you are correct. It's a tool, we need to think about how often we use and whether or not it's beneficial in the long run.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Bob Anders wrote:
Michael Cox wrote:Bit over the top Bob - why should he give time to us repeating info that he knows is going to come out in two days time? Chris has already been answering questions in this thread. Also, your post doesn't actually contain a question - just a list of grazing days with no context. What exactly would you be hoping for an answer to? Chris would surely need to know about the state of your pasture, your climate and rainfall, your grazing objectives etc...

I have asked questions if you want to go back and read more than one of my posts. The post you read was a response from something said.

I might of posted a bit over the top. I still see a lot of half way answered questions and a lot of repeating the same stuff over and over with out going into any detail. From the first post...
Chris Stelzer wrote:Yes, High Density Grazing (HDG) is great. However, a lot of people are ALWAYS grazing their livestock at high densities. This leads to a simplification of forage species and compaction of the soil.
has not been elaborated on into any detail. If the details do not come out till sometime Monday than all we are going to read about is the same info over and over.


Even if you grazer every set number of days there are a ton of variables that change between grazings that would make it random. Different temps, amounts of rain, amounts of shade (from trees and sun angle), grazed to a different height, grew to a different height, amount of trampling (how long it takes to recover), and so on. The random items make different grasses or weeds grow at different rates with in the pasture.

I do know one person that grazes before the grass hit's X " because he has issues with pink eye. Because the pastures are always about the same height at grazing time he can eye ball the tonnage and set out padlocks right at the sweet spot every time.

But I do think in the long term I need to stop responding to threads that are leading traffic back to web other websites or that will only exchange details on a time line. When I first posted in this I thought it was going to become a great thread to exchange information between a group of people that had HDG or that were interested in HDG and I was wrong.



Bob, you are welcome to listen to my podcasts and take them for what they are worth to you. No one is forcing you to do anything, but getting a different perspective, even if it's "Wrong" is always beneficial. If you are happy doing what you do and successful, then keep doing it because it obviously is working. I like to present people with new ideas so they can improve their own situation. Here is the podcast I've been reffering to, which I just published today. http://agriculturalinsights.com/episode-076-dick-richardson-on-why-you-need-to-reconsider-high-density-grazing/
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Well, I did ask some very precise questions to know what to measure, and got no answer.
"Too much" is about measuring, and you need to give some criteria so that people can use an advice.

People who do the same thing are not doing holistic management but transform it into a recipe.

If all you need is 10 years experience, then what is the use of books and courses and podcast?
 
Chris Stelzer
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Well, I did ask some very precise questions to know what to measure, and got no answer.
"Too much" is about measuring, and you need to give some criteria so that people can use an advice.

People who do the same thing are not doing holistic management but transform it into a recipe.

If all you need is 10 years experience, then what is the use of books and courses and podcast?


I don't personally use anything for measuring, therefore I felt it would be inaccurate if I gave you steps for measuring. I think grazing is more of an art than a science. Read the two Holistic Management books, there is plenty of techniques in there for measuring things, I just don't have the patience!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I wish that unconscious knowledge becomes conscious so that it can be taught.

Science is misnamed as art when one does not know the natural laws (which is what can be transmitted).
Most knowledges were lost because they were just by "feeling" ... People in that case know what they are doing, but usually cannot explain why.
-> then you must stay years with the person, and learn slowly what could be taught quickly!

This was good for sons working for years with adults.
Now we must develop understanding and teaching.
Try to teach your own language!
And you will see it is easier to teach a language that is not your mother tongue.
In your language, you just do not know why you say certain things, except if you do the job of understanding.

I have seen people teach in days what was supposed to take years of learning!
But the teachers just took over 10 years to study the WAY OF TRANSMITTING it, and the right way to understand and explain.
 
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