Preparing a holistic grazing plan

When you are managing holistically, you are using grazing as a ‘planned event’ that is moving you towards the holisticgoal of your economic whole. When interlinked with the tools of technology, rest and animal impact, it is a powerful tool for changing landscapes.  When properly executed, grazing will encourage the development of living organisms and enhance biodiversity, leading to true profits for your business.

This and following pages are designed to you walk, step by step, through the Aide Memoiré for holistic grazing planning.  You can seek a pdf copy here, or follow the steps on the screen.  


Our material faithfully adheres to the grazing planning developed by Allan Savory, and explained in full in the Holistic Management Handbook.  This process unavoidably requires the use of a “Holistic Grazing Plan and Control Chart”.  To order supplies of these, click here.

The basics

Holistic grazing planning is divided into two parts:
  1. The ‘growing’ or green season (an OPEN plan)
  2. The non-growing season and drought reserve (a CLOSED plan)
Open Plans
During the Open plan the forage grown must meet two requirements: First, it must appropriately meet the feed demands of the animals on hand, and; second, it must allow the farmer to build a stockpile of forage for consumption during the following Closed plan.

This is depicted in the image to the left.  When the growing season or Open plan ceases at Point A, there will be a volume of feed on hand for distribution during the Closed plan.

In many locations, growth is completely and undeniably seasonal.  There is a very definite green or growing season, followed by a clearly defined non-growth period.  For example, much of southern Australia, and large parts of California, and parts of South Africa are clearly winter green, summer brown.  On the other hand, northern Australia and many other parts of the world are winter brown, summer green.

At the transition from the growing season to the non-growing season the Open plan is abandoned and replaced by a new Closed plan.  In its turn, the Closed plan will be abandoned many months later and replaced by a new Open plan, once a new growing season is firmly established.  Be careful not to jump too quickly when experiencing ‘false’ or ‘early’ seasonal breaks.
The image below shows that some of the standing forage in the paddock is utilised during the Non-growing season (between Point A to Point B), whilst some is deliberately retained (heavy dotted line).  If the season does not break by Point B, some, or all, of the retained forage will be consumed during the Drought Reserve, which is expected to finish at some time between Point B and Point C.  Depending on your location the time allowed between Points B and C may vary between a few weeks and many months, and will be determined by experience and common sense.

Although brittle-tending, there are other locations where there may be active growth for most of the year, even if, at times that growth is very slow.  Although slow, over time under these conditions the plants will fully recover from a previous graze.  It is important to remember that no matter how quickly or slowly it is growing, a green plant that is capable of photosynthesis is always at physical risk of overgrazing if bitten again too soon.

An Open Plan allows a grazier to constantly match the movement of their animals to the physical rate of plant recovery on their land.  If moves are made too fast, plants will be overgrazed (although in the short term, animal performance may be very high, due to high quality feed).  If movement is too slow, some plants may become over-rested, although not immediately.  Animal performance will most likely suffer a little.

There is a fundamental rule that must be adopted in an Open Plan:
"In periods of rapid growth, you should move quickly, and in periods of slow growth, you MUST move slowly"

At any time in any environment, if growth either slows dramatically or stops, it always pays to move to a Closed plan.  The sooner you do, the more prepared you will be for any eventuality that a season might deliver.

Closed Plans
When growth stops due either to normal end of season shutdown or, early because of impending drought, animals will remove feed from the forage pool, whilst little or no new forage is in production.  Eventually, what forage is on hand may run out.  Running out without a plan is a recipe for disaster, so the Closed plan is designed to ensure animals can be maintained throughout an extended period of slow or non-growth.

Closed plans allow you to match both stock numbers and time to the forage available.  The available forage is the one factor that cannot be varied, except downwards—you have what you have when growth stops!  The variables in the equation are how long you must manage the forage on hand so that it will last until a seasonal break can be expected, and therefore from that knowledge, how many animals can be run for that time.

The Closed plan allow you to accurately assess, paddock by paddock, how much forage physically exists.   You then use a proven process to calculate how long the forage reserves must last, so that you and whatever stock you hold will make it safely to a new growing season.  At the end of this process you will have calculated how many animals can safely be run for various lengths of time.  When calculating time you will take into account the period you would expect before a ‘normal’ return to active growth, plus a safety valve which is referred to as the 'drought reserve’.
  1. Go to Creating an Open Plan
  2. Go to Creating a Closed plan
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