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paddock shift systems save the world

Find myself wishing for a "Like" button. Definitely going into my bookmarks.
I'm so intrigued by this! 
Yes, I love this idea.  Watch him speak here http://vimeo.com/8239427
I'm not sure what I'm missing but this just looks like managed intensive rotational grazing which is widely used for exactly these reasons and the same things are said about it. This is how we manage our farm. It works great. It's been around for a long time.

By the way, I saw something recently that said livestock are not the cause of desertification but rather historically it has been caused by shifting wind patterns that changed the delivery of moisture. And get this: the shifting wind patterns were caused by changing mountains. They were talking about even small up thrusts causing dramatic changes as they hit trade winds at critical points. Apparently this is something that has happened back and forth (desertification / reforestation) over and over.
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pubwvj wrote:
I'm not sure what I'm missing but this just looks like managed intensive rotational grazing which is widely used for exactly these reasons and the same things are said about it. This is how we manage our farm. It works great. It's been around for a long time.

By the way, I saw something recently that said livestock are not the cause of desertification but rather historically it has been caused by shifting wind patterns that changed the delivery of moisture. And get this: the shifting wind patterns were caused by changing mountains. They were talking about even small up thrusts causing dramatic changes as they hit trade winds at critical points. Apparently this is something that has happened back and forth (desertification / reforestation) over and over.

Yes, it's managed intensive rotational grazing.  Yes, this is not new.

Regarding shifting wind patterns:  Moisture content of the wind can be changed by removing trees.  Trees are often removed by over-grazing.  To say deserts aren't caused by over-grazing is, I think, over-simplifying the situation.  There's plenty of evidence over-grazing can cause deserts, though deserts may also have other causes.


deserts may also have other causes

Yes.... the plow.

Agriculture is the leading cause of desertification. Animal grazing can contribute, but it pales in comparison to widespread cultivation, even in ancient times. As agriculture advanced, deserts followed.  Northern Africa, Western Asia, Eastern Europe, Western/Midwest USA, the Middle East... all contain great examples of desertification cause by agriculture on a large scale.
Yep, and the biggest reason for removing trees has been to clear land for plow agriculture. 
As long as they don't go back and set it on fire to keep it  from becoming forest...

Here's a long article on Africa's grasslands

Burning the biosphere, boverty blues (Part II)
As outlined in the Part I, many grasslands on the planet are not the product of natural forces, but were cleared by people and kept as grasslands for livestock grazing by annual or occasional conflagrations. This is global burning on a massive scale as shown in the NASA firemaps presented in Part I. The continent with the most deliberate human burning is Africa. Over 200 million hectares and 2 billion tonnes of dry matter are burned annually in deliberately lit fires. Almost all of these fires are set by livestock herders to stop grasslands becoming forests. By comparison, burning by shifting cultivators for crops covered an area about 10 percent of this size. A recent study in Nature gives an idea of what could happen if the burning stopped. The reforestation potential is massive.

I wonder if deforestation is necessarily a bad thing in this case.  Grasslands have benefits (and so do forests), but I wonder how long humans have been doing this (thousands of years)?  It seems like they are trying to halt/slow succession of grasslands to forest. The reforestation potential might be massive, but what of the social, economic, and health consequences?

Fire is a management tool that is often abused, and I think they could accomplish the same thing with intensive grazing, and mixed species (goats are great at keeping forests at bay).
Deep forests lack biodiversity. As the forest matures it becomes a monocrop with little species diversity of plants and animals, little food and little light down at the floor. There is much greater biodiversity in patchy forests and along the margins. These patches can be quite large compared with areas that modern urbanites think about. We're not talking an acre but hundreds or thousands of acres, ideally with irregular borders.

is the natural progression in these areas towards rain forest?
Well, a lot of land can be burned, but a lot of it is so worn out that it probably wouldn't burn down a tree. I think it possible that all those fires might not be so bad after all. Not to say that the forest shouldn't come back.

Savannah is the kind of world we want... I think.

EmileSpecies wrote:
Savannah is the kind of world we want... I think.

we?  do you have a mouse in your pocket?

tel jetson wrote:do you have a mouse in your pocket?

That would be tough to use, and Emile seems to have clicked the "submit" button OK.  Maybe this model would work that way...
I am kind of the type of jerk who doesn't care much for other's selfish or ignorant desires.
I foresee a future for my people, where land is respected for what it is, the soil organisms and diversity is brought to a balance where life in most regions would not be considered inhospitable. I sometimes say "we" or "my people" in a kind of way as to speak for everyone including myself, as I wish to represent the poor working people of the world.

I don't know whether I started doing this before or after I read about Tecumseh, who instantly became an historical idol to me. It's at least a bit deliberate that I attempt to  mimic him.

Surely not everywhere should be completely thick forest? Forgive me, as it is true that I am no real expert at anything, it has been my casual observation that the forests generally grow where the soil is poor and the grasslands grow where the soil is rich. And when the soil is really poor both of them die. I know that this does not hold true for all places and all times and of course there are are plenty of forests with very rich soil and forest soil is almost always more rich than the used and abused open plots of land raped by agriculture or other human uses.

Sorry I am smacking myself because in a lot of instances, especially where man has caused so much damage, there is more humus to be had in the forest than in a grassy or weedy lawn or garden and such...

But, correct me if I am mistaken, THE most fertile land in the world is grass land correct? And very very often forests have an extremely small amount of topsoil or next to none.

A question I have is, what is the reason for 12 feet of topsoil? What advantages does it have over 4 feet of topsoil? I would tend to think that if you have 12 feet of extremely fertile black topsoil, you may never need worry of drought with native varieties of prairie plants and herbivorous animals?

I believe somewhere in Egypt there is this massive layer of topsoil like 50 feet thick... everyone the land is in ruins, there is constant irrigation, they somehow prevent now, the ancient floods that brought all of that topsoil down there and they are now salting the land. This is being used for grain production mostly I think (though again really not sure). Imagine this huge lush grassland on top of 50 feet of topsoil that hardly ever gets rained on, but every once in a while the river becomes gigantic and washes over all the grass which stays put. (All of the sudden there are fish in the pasture!). The long rooted native grass is watered for the year and the pasture is thus again refreshed for all kinds of wild African game. The floods and the animals are the answer to stop the expanding deserts...

Charles Walters said that the American prairies are the counterpart or most similar to the Savannah of Africa.

People talk about how Africa is the most human damaged continent. Yes perhaps the game are becoming scarce. But I still see videos of massive stampedes of wild animals shot in Africa.

When does this happen in the United States? Where are the giant herds of the Americas? They have been replaced by feedlot cattle, pigs, chickens, fences and high input, high maintenance bumper crops of baby boomers and the ilk.

As they no longer have their mark they once did in the forest or the prairie, it is evident in this country that the land in most places is slowly dieing off. The cultivation of herbivorous animals, by nature is imperative for natural systems.

The cow lives off of the grass lands, but the forest as well. It marks the land for seeds to fall and be watered while depositing the seeds of trees and grasses... it spreads the forest into the field and the field into the forest (especially with the help of elephants... or beavers!... who also increase the edge of water...)

Humans clearly have an innate love for grass...or trees! Just look around the town you live in. Isn't it perverted? Hybrid, sterile, thorn less locust trees... and inedible bradford pears
But my ultimate question is this, is prairie more useful for the planet or man than forest? Or vise versa? Or which kind of forest or prairie...

Aw isn't it beautiful?

C'mon my people, can't y'all see the error of thee ways? I implore you, look to nature! Nature as many have said, is clearly the greater farmer than any of us! Look not to the silly emotional philosophy of mankind! I agree with what Christians often say, trust in God, not in man!

Why should man toil for currency? Isn't there more to life then the almighty dollar bill? Why waste our lives when all we need to live grows on trees and runs around on the hoof?

Did nature create us to conceptualize itself in such a way, as to have the ability to increase the biodiversity that exists in nature? A funny thought, as our effect is to decrease diversity... but still if other creatures can increase diversity... so can we.

And this is why I must say, that me and my people are in no way better or holier than a simple cow or beaver?

Man I wish they taught this stuff in church. Sure would be nice to have my own cult. Are you with me, my people?
  I'm finding that Permaculture is running into difficulty with it's ideas about what land ought to be.
  A feature of Holistic Management differentiates climates by a brittleness scale, and the more brittle (i.e. periodic low rainfall areas) work best with the inclusion of herding livestock.
    This isn't Management intensive Grazing.  It is holistic management which focuses on improving the biological processes of the land in what ways are available and best suited to that land.
  Sure livestock can desertify areas, and some places are better suited to mature forest, but the point is that some areas are more suited for livestock that behave in a certain way, Via herding behavior that promotes animal impact, and the needs of the plants, etc.
    For Permaculture to dismiss this point and favor instead rainwater catchment through swales or whatever is to miss an enormous biologically restorative potential.
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I can't imagine a world with nothing but deep forests -- I love trees and I love forests, but I also want some open grassy spaces!  And vice versa, a world with no trees and all grass would be equally, well, dreary is probably the best word I can think of right now.  Variety is the spice of life, so the saying goes -- I think there is, and ought to be, a place for many different types of ecosystems!

well the africians use to harvesst wild grains/grass seed but now everyone is gathered around the hand out station and the farmers are told we are smarter than you so grow these GMO corn seeds that you need to buy every year from us with these chemicial fertilizers. to get better yeilds or you will starve and wont make money.
there are a few .. VERY few people, as the federal governments wont pay for this, that do go over and teach them of compost and sustainability plant co operation and the like.
also the ever dropping global industrial farm cashmere prices and means yet more goats need to be raised on lesser and lesser marginal lands on the edge of the gobi which just is snow balling the issues. they need to find trees that will tolerate these conditions and make sure they are not cut down maybe Moringa , jatropha , neem, kapok .. and annother native to south america that has been around and used(for light oil) for thousands of years. producing edible sweet fruit and oil rich seed. this way it can be a wind break fruit be eaten and oil be used for lighting and maybe fuel. the leaves will add mulch/compost improving the soils. dont sell them as it will get you riches but it will help atleast slow the desert spread. also distribute free/cheap solar ovens to out laying villages so they dont need as much wood to cook.
I think savannas are nice.  like Kathleen, I don't think an entire planet of savanna would be very nice.  even an entire continent would be too much.  if folks are going to raise grazing livestock, intensive rotational management seems like a pretty good idea for a lot of situations.

sticky_burr:  the outfit Trees for the Future is doing some great work along the lines you mention.  I'm not a big fan of some of their promotional strategies, but I'm impressed with what I know about their practices in the field.

velacreations wrote:Agriculture is the leading cause of desertification.

Interesting article pointing out that changes in the Earth's orbit are the cause of the Sahara's desertification:


I've seen other articles that talked about plate tectonics and mountain upthrust changing the wind patterns that caused others plains and deserts. It's complex. Man isn't responsible for any of these things. Don't take more credit than you're worth of.
those theories are interesting, for sure, but they fail to explain a lot of the details of desertification. 

Interesting how many of these deserts formed within a few centuries of mass grain agriculture in that area...  That's definitely not plate tectonics or mountain upthrusts...


The Sahara has been much bigger in the past. It is an Earth climate issue and not the fault of mankind.
The Sahara was also wetter in the south than it is today.  The southern boundary moved south 81 miles (130km) between 1980-1990. 

But that is one desert, what about the deserts in the middle east?  They were forests less than 15K years ago.  Or how about the deserts of western China?  Those hills were covered with trees less than 200 years ago. Or what about the Dust Bowl in the USA? Or the growth of deserts in Australia? or in Africa?

Desertification involves increasing the range of a desert.  The humans may not have created the desert in the first place (China), but quickly, they extend its range with mismanagement, usually due to the overuse of the plow and overgrazing of grasslands.

Deserts are increasing at an astonishing rate every year, almost a million acres per year in China alone.

Worldwide, we are looking at desert growth at a rate of 20,000 SQUARE MILES EVERY YEAR. That's almost 13 MILLION acres every year. This is above and beyond the background rate that could be attributed to climate.

It has been estimated that over 75% of the topsoil in North America has been eroded since the European invasion.

The increase in desertification since the beginning of the industrial revolution is astounding. The rate just keeps increasing.

So, as you see, climate, mountain upthrusts, or plate tectonics cannot be responsible for all of this.  It is increasing too fast and at a specific time in human history (industrialized farming).

Agriculture is the leading cause of desertification, and at a rate of almost 13 million acres a year..

"So, as you see, climate, mountain upthrusts, or plate tectonics cannot be responsible for all of this.  It is increasing too fast and at a specific time in human history (industrialized farming)."

I didn't say "all" deserts were created from those things. Merely that there has been quite a bit of scientific research indicating that those things are the cause of the Sahara. Industrial farming is extremely new - last 50 years. As much as you and I dislike CAFOs and their ilk they're not the cause of the deserts. Better to look for the real causes so they can be understood.
My statement was that Agriculture is the leading cause of desertification. This remains true worldwide.  Agriculture did not create the Sahara, but it may be increasing its range in many areas.
I think it's difficult to pin the issue down to one reason or another, on a macro scale of desertification. I'm sure there have been many deserts caused by natural means, but I also know that man has caused desertification (and we still are).

I am no expert on desertification, but I know a sand storm hit Beijing a day after I left in May of 2008. Their desert is expanding, and they're trying to plant a wall of trees to slow it (just like we did in the '30s, too little too late).

The moldboard was used everywhere in the 30's, and we were cultivating some really marginal areas. Because of WW1, Ag markets were crazy high. Farmers expanded, bought land, leveraged themselves......and when the markets tanked after the war, a lot of plowed land lay fallow. Combined with the drought, that was all it took.

Now we have expanded into a lot of those marginal areas once again, thanks to center pivot irrigation. However, the Ogallala aquifer is getting pumped dry.
Given what I learned from reading about Salatin and Polyface it's no surprise to me that proper rotational grazing closes the cycle of grasslands and browsers, much like North America's prairies were to the buffalo, and can improve rather than degrade the land. It's nice that the guy who won the award is finally being recognized for saying so.
"Managed intensive grazing" is to "Holistic management" as "polyculture" is to "Permaculture".

The Fast Company article does not do Allan Savory justice.  Holistic management is more a thought process, MIG is just an important tool.
Any 19 permaculture and nature loving, responsible people want to join in a dessert permaculturising project and have fun with it.?
We could create it as as a Gaja university project.
Paul's presentation on replacing irrigation with permaculture at the Inland Northwest Permaculture Convergence: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/508-podcast-087-replacing-irrigation-with-permaculture/

Paul talks about paddock shift systems.
Podcast review of geoff lawton's Urban Permaculture DVD: podcast

Paul and Lacia talk about an urban paddock shift system.
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A few comment here.

First of all, a mature rainforest is very diverse, it is not monocrop. On average, more than 200 species of trees per acre. Not sure about the North. Secondly, only under trees in the tropic does the soil remain fertile, otherwise, it washes away, quickly. Tropical soils tend to be thin, except around volcanos, and even then, 1 meter is a lot of soil.

Few things are more productive than a rainforest. You could drop me in a rainforest and I will come out the other end, fatter. There is food, good food, everywhere. And, unlike a northern forest, it is year round.

With a mature forest, you also have open places, these are called corridors of light. When a huge tree falls, it usually takes out 10 to 20 more trees, leaving a big gap. This start the regeneration all over again.

Much of the problem we have is that we want our animals we are accustomed to, just like we want our plants, instead of working with what grows naturally in the environment. For example, my sheep have to have minerals, salt, etc, but the native deer do just fine with what they eat. Our horses, which are indigenous to the Americas, need nothing and do just fine, as long as it is just pure pasture.

They say (scientist) that around 30 to 40 % of the rain that falls is from the forest. Cut down the forest, stop the rain. Since Costa Rica was cleared in the memory of those still alive, it is interesting to hear them tell of cattle drowned in streams that would now, barely get your feet wet. And we are talking rainforest climate.

Instead of feeling we need more grass land, perhaps we need less people, and the animals we feel we must have? Well, nature bats last, I am sure she has something to say about all this.
One other interesting thing, though there is a lot of grass now in Costa Rica, Costa Rica has NO native grasses. It used to be all forest.

Walter Jeffries wrote:...By the way, I saw something recently that said livestock are not the cause of desertification but rather historically it has been caused by shifting wind patterns that changed the delivery of moisture.

I disagree.

I had sheep & goats in a small paddock and they (I) turned that little patch of Vermont into a desert. The land was hard and bare. If it had been a dry year, it would have been dusty/ sandy too. I changed the fencing to give them an even smaller (sacrificial) area and the desert has started to retreat but it had only been 1 year of mismanagement! Imagine 3,000+ years of mismanaged grazing!
Paul and Kelda review chapter 2 of sepp holzer's Permaculture in this podcast.

They talk about the paddock shift system.
I am Arthur, King of the Britons. And this is a tiny ad:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show

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