Holistic Planned Grazing System

Each farmer, rancher, and agronomist brings different ideas and levels of learning into an operation. Holistic Management is the term applied to the practice of viewing the entire operation as a whole. According to Cody Holmes, owner of Rockin’ H Ranch in Norwood, Mo., the practice of taking all things into consideration is holistic management. "Holistic management says, ‘How can I produce more grass or hay in that field without destroying something?’” Holmes practices what he calls “Holistic Planned Grazing” on the thousand acres he owns. He directs his holistic management at the point of grazing because he feels nothing is more important than growing grass. Each farmer, rancher, and agronomist brings different ideas and levels of learning into an operation. Holistic Management is the term applied to the practice of viewing the entire operation as a whole. According to Cody Holmes, owner of Rockin’ H Ranch in Norwood, Mo., the practice of taking all things into consideration is holistic management. "Holistic management says, ‘How can I produce more grass or hay in that field without destroying something?’” Holmes practices what he calls “Holistic Planned Grazing” on the thousand acres he owns. He directs his holistic management at the point of grazing because he feels nothing is more important than growing grass.
The utilization of Holistic Planned Grazing requires changes in thinking, which Holmes refers to as “retraining the brain.” He tries to make every move make more grass because of his belief that grass is the most important thing and the best way to help a cow is with grass. He uses no chemical fertilizers, no pesticides, no artificial growth hormones, no antibiotics, no parasite control, or supplements. “What we’re talking about is using nature’s way,” Holmes explained. “If we use nature’s way, we’re going to save ourselves lots and lots of money. It’s not only on input. We’re increasing our volume. A lot of people have the wrong idea that to go to a natural practice, you have to produce less product. What actually happens is you generally at least double your production in forage.”  

3 Considerations of Holistic Planned Grazing
1.    Grazing
2.    Animal impact
3.    Resting the soil  
Holmes runs his entire herd of 400 cows in one group, or an equivalent of 470 animal units including yearlings and a sheep herd. Also he runs pastured hogs, broilers, laying hens and a small herd of Jersey milk cows. The bulls are with the cows for 90 days during breeding season.
Wesley Tucker, Polk County University of Missouri Extension Specialist, concurs with this practice. In speaking to cattlemen, Tucker said, “If I could get you guys to do one thing, it would be to take whatever herds you have on your farm and put them together and build your mob. The more you can put them together and build your mob, the better grazing impact you can have.” This system is sometimes confused with rotational grazing and stockpiled fescue, but it deals much more with soil biology.
Holmes has about 800 acres of grass.  He has about 1.7 acres grass per cow.  According to his present estimates, he has 153 days of forage left. “We make a big circle with the cows. We have basically about 100 pastures,” he says. “I would like to take over a year to make a circle. One of the real issues a person has to develop an understanding of is how fast to move cows. If you get poor at estimating forage, your cows will get poor.” He said that when he puts his cows on new grass around March 26, they might be moved every two hours. The length of time the cows are allowed to graze before being moved is determined by the growth rate of the grass. His goal is to graze each pasture one time each year.
In the holistic grazing system, rest for the grass is considered to be the same as time. Rest time is emphasized, rather than the time the cattle are grazing. Holmes is a firm believer that pastures need rest from having hay baled off of them. “The worst thing I do to this pasture all year long is take hay off of it. It pulls an enormous amount of nutrients off of it. To help compensate for that, we never ever cut the same hay field twice in a row. Really, we’re about on a five or six year rotation," he explained. Both the production and feeding of hay is pretty insignificant since planned hay feeding is less than 20 days for the year.
Cody Holmes thinks the economic implications of Holistic Planned Grazing are important to the future of cattle production. “I think one of the things that gets me so excited about holistic management is that now I can tell a young guy there’s a way to make a living with livestock and grass and you don’t have to have a million dollars to do it.”

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