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Talking Points Regarding Savory

Summary

The evidence in support of Holistic Management, both scientific and empirical, combined with the heightened emergency of global warming, makes inquiry into this methodology essential.  To ignore the merit and potential of this innovation now, or to succumb to vitriol, would be a dereliction of our duty as stewards of this planet.

1. Statements that Savory's work isn't supported in the academic peer-reviewed literature, or that it has been discredited in the academic literature are categorically wrong. The entire so called discrediting of Savory rests on two papers, Holecheck (2000) and Briske (2008), which themselves have been refuted in the academic and professional literature (Teague, Provenza, et al 2008; Teague, Dowhower, et al 2011, Gill 2009b, Gill 2009c).  Studies in peer-reviewed academic literature show that Savory's method works in achieving a full suite of ecological, economic, and quality of life enhancing goals (Stinner, D. 1997, Teague R. 2011), including improved grass density, soil moisture, soil bulk density, standing crop biomass, and soil organic matter (SOM) (Teaque R. 2011) and percent volumetric-water content (%VWC) (Weber K.T., Gokhale B.S., 2011), where both SOM and %VWC are indicators of soil carbon. A recent study from Chiapas, Mexico has shown that Holistic Management on dairy farms allowed for an increasing in production with a simultaneous increase in sustainability (Alfaro-Arguello R., A.W. Diemont S., 2010). And Savory's thesis that a paucity of animals on grasslands is a major cause of desertification is also supported (Weber, K. T.,  Horst, S., 2011).

2. There is abundant empirical evidence of its efficacy (Dagget, D 2000, 2005; Judy, G 2008; Howell, J 2008, Savory Institute 2013, Planet-TECH 2013).

3. The climate crisis is much worse than is commonly realized and efforts of atmospheric carbon capture must become a worldwide priority. Recent research suggests summer polar cover could be entirely gone by as early as 2016 (Romm 2013), and that the resultant positive feedbacks from arctic methane release could cause runaway catastrophic warming, with "Permian Extinction" level consequences within this century (Arctic News 2013).

Addressing Misconceptions about Savory's Work

Misconception 1: Savoy has been discredited by peer review literature.

False. The entire so called discrediting of Savory rests on two papers, Holecheck (2000) and Briske (2008), which themselves have been refuted in the academic literature (Teague, Provenza, et al 2008; Teague, Dowhower, et al 2011, Gill 2009b, Gill 2009c). The Holechek and Briske papers were synthesis reports of grazing management studies. The papers correctly stated, based on their review, that "rotational grazing" or "short duration grazing" systems don't have superior performance to continuous grazing. That was their whole finding, for which Savory or any practitioner of Holistic Management would concur. Their error, however, and the cause of this confusion, was in associating the studies cited with the Holistic Management approach advocated by Savory. This is a specific adaptive planning process geared for maximum ecological performance that incorporates goals and monitoring. Savory and others refer to this as planned grazing, or Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG). The distinction between that and what was studied by the papers in Briske and Holechek could not be more different, and the findings of one have no bearing on the other.

Here is what Teague has to say about it:

“The benefits of multi-paddock rotational grazing on commercial livestock enterprises have been evident for many years in many countries....  Many ranchers who have practiced multi-paddock grazing management for decades are very satisfied with the economic results and improvement to the ecosystem, as well as the change in management lifestyle and social environment of their ranch businesses.  Such ranchers regularly win conservation awards from the ranching industry and natural resource professional organizations.  In contrast, many grazing researchers have concluded that multi-paddock grazing offers no significant benefit over continuous grazing (Holechek et al. 1999, 2000; Briske et al. 2008), but their studies have been largely small-scale trials focused on the technical questions of ecological impacts and livestock production conducted in a relatively limited scope of fairly resilient landscapes.  In addition, research plots are designed to reduce or eliminate variability, while ranch managers must manage in the environment with all the inherent variability othe landscape.” (Teague et al., 2008)
...
“Grazing ungulates have an entirely different impact on the landscape than that implied by Briske et al. (2008), as is well documented by work at the landscape scale we have outlined earlier in this chapter.  This points to an entirely different and more meaningful way of designing and interpreting grazing trials” (Teague et al., 2008).
...
"Our study contradicts a recent review of rangeland grazing studies (Briske et al., 2008) which suggested MP grazing does not improve vegetation or animal production relative to continuous grazing. The discrepancy is because we measured the impacts on vegetation and soils achieved by ranchers managing at the ranch scale and adapting management in response to changing circumstances in order to achieve desirable outcomes" (Teague, et al 2011).
...
"At the ranch scale, when multi-paddock grazing is managed to give the best vegetation and animal performance it is superior to continuous grazing regarding conservation and restoration of resources, provision of ecosystem goods and services, and ranch profitability" (Teague, et al 2011).

As a result of the discussions on TED, Teague (2013) has reissued his refutation of the association of the Holechek and Briske findings with Savory.

"The debate on MP grazing is not over. Reviews of grazing management research by Holechek et al. (2000) and Briske et al. (2008) concluded “multi-­‐paddock grazing improves neither vegetation nor animal production relative to single-­‐paddock continuous stocking.“ This hypothesis and viewpoint is deficient because it does not consider 1) critical differences between reductionist science and management, 2) the integration of ecological, economic, and social goals required for successful management, and 3) the value of case studies for studying such phenomena"

"To test this hypothesis, we compared ranches managed traditionally or with multi-­‐paddock grazing for at least 10 years. Our findings were consistent with the hypothesis that “at a ranch management scale, planned multi-­‐paddock grazing, when managed to give best vegetation and animal performance, has the potential to produce superior conservation and restoration outcomes for rangeland resources, to provide superior ecosystem services for society, and to yield greater ranch profitability and greater socio-­‐ecological resilience compared to season-­‐long continuous stocking.” This research is published in Teague et al. (2011)."

"During the last two decades, the vast majority of awards for conservation have gone to ranchers using multi-­‐paddock grazing of some form to accomplish ecological, economic, and social goals. Each one of these ranchers, and all others using multi-­‐ paddock grazing, refutes the hypothesis of Briske et al (2008). As an illustration of the validity of this approach, the NRCS in Texas now receive Holistic Management training developed by Allan Savory and use it for their planning and management advice to ranchers throughout the state."  (Teague 2013)

Here is what Savory had to say about the distinction between planned grazing (his approach) and rotational or short duration grazing systems as early as 1983.

(Planned grazing) is not a grazing system. Anyone describing it as a grazing system is merely indicating that he has not yet understood the holistic approach to the management of all resources simultaneously, with constant monitoring and adjustment to achieve a goal.

Some say it (planned grazing) is a 'cell system' or the 'wagon wheel system'.  Again this is totally erroneous and can only lead ranchers to costly error if they believe it and apply it as such. (Savory 1983)

Briske and Holechek would have known that Savory himself was outspoken about disavowing the types of grazing management systems that they were studying, and could have made that point clear.

Here is Savory's response to Holechek's paper.

"The work Holechek et al. describe is unlike any range man­agement practice I have ever advocated. They claim an ex­haustive research of the literature and refer to the first edition of my book. In my writings there is nothing advocating the short duration grazing they researched. In fact I have consis­tently stated that all grazing systems and rotations, including short duration grazing, will fail" (Savory 2000).

The best refutation for the lay person, is from Chris Gill (2008, 2009a-c), a West Texas rancher. See citations below, particularly (2008). That is a point-by-point breakdown of Holechek. It is fascinating reading. Here is an example from Gill, in a letter to authors of the book Habitat Guidelines for Mule Deer which had claimed that Savory's thesis had been "disproved" citing, of course, Holechek and Briske.

"Your conclusion has two parts: (1) planned grazing does not increase range productivity, and, (2) the increased hoof action of a large number of cattle associated with planned grazing consistently compacts soil and thereby decreases water infiltration (Heffelfinger et al. 2006). Both conclusions may be correct with respect to short duration grazing systems (SDG's). Neither is valid with respect to planned grazing. No study cited, or relied upon, tested the outcomes of planned grazing (Holechek et al. 2000)."
 ...
“Excessive Herbivory, page 11 (of the Mule Deer book), states in part: ‘(Allan) Savory… claimed that by grazing pastures intensively and moving stock frequently the range could actually be improved while simultaneously increasing the stocking rate.  On some ranches it was even claimed that stocking rate could be doubled or tripled with improvements to range and livestock productivity.  Researchers during the last few decades have shown these claims to be invalid (Heffelfinger et al. 2006;  Holechek et al. 2000).’”

“To the contrary, this is precisely the outcome we have experienced.  After eight years under planned grazing at our 32,000-acre high-desert mountain Circle Ranch in Hudspeth County, far-West Texas, we take almost triple the animal days of grazing (AD's) possible from conventional stocking rates recommended by NRCS and Texas Parks & Wildlife.  Conventional practice dictates a herd of 250 head for 365 days: 250 X 365 = 91,800 AD's.  This year we are running 1000 head for 240 days: 1000 X 240 = 240,000 AD's; plus, 50 head for 180 days: 50 X 180 = 9,000.  This totals 249,000 AD's, 270% of conventional results, virtually the very result you say has been proven invalid.” (Gill 2008)

Misconception 2: Academic Papers Don't Support Savory's Thesis on the Beneficial Effects of Holistic Planned Grazing or Causes of Desertification

False. You can find summaries of key papers at links below:

http://www.savoryinstitute.com/2013/03/resources/evidence-supporting-hol...

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XlQeLBDHnhXt_5_-jY1NIerQfQhls6CzS3Qx...

Here are some additional summaries of supportive scholarly research.

Teague, R. 2011. Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. Volume 141, Issues 3–4, May 2011, Pages 310–322

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167880911000934

  • Concludes that multi-paddock grazing (MP) using "adaptive management" is superior to conventional continuous season-long grazing across a range of a ecological parameters, including grass density, soil moisture, soil bulk density, standing crop biomass, and soil organic matter (SOM) - which is a measure of soil carbon.
  • Refutes the claims of Briske et al (2008) which is widely cited as discrediting Savory. “Our study contradicts a recent review of rangeland grazing studies (Briske et al., 2008) which suggested MP grazing does not improve vegetation or animal production relative to continuous grazing.”
  • Concluding statement: "At the ranch scale, when multi-paddock grazing is managed to give the best vegetation and animal performance it is superior to continuous grazing regarding conservation and restoration of resources, provision of ecosystem goods and services, and ranch profitability."

Weber, K. T.,  Horst, S., 2011. Desertification and livestock grazing: The roles of sedentarization, mobility and rest. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2011, 1:19 doi:10.1186/2041-7136-1-19
http://www.pastoralismjournal.com/content/1/1/19

  • The singular commonality found in nearly all studies of degradation is the prevalence of partial or total rest. (sedentarization of animals)
  • Lack of biological decay (digestion) of grasses, leads to oxidation of grasses and desertification.
  • Concluding statement: "In conclusion, the studies examined in this paper suggest “management systems” be reconsidered and supplanted by more inclusive planning processes focused on better managing the spatio-temporal aspects of grazing (animal impact and the duration of grazing periods) as one step toward improving rangeland ecosystems through the use of livestock as a solution to the problem of land degradation (Launchbaugh and Walker 2006; Wallace et al., 2008)"

Weber K.T., Gokhale B.S., 2011. Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho, Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 75, Issue 5, May 2011, Pages 464–470
http://journals2.scholarsportal.info/details.xqy?uri=/01401963/v75i0005/...

  • Concludes that "simulated Holistic Planned Grazing (SHPG)" produces superior volumetric-water content (%VWC) when compared with other grazing schemes on similar soil.
  • Concluding statement: "While a variety of factors influence soil-water content, holistic planned grazing appears to offer a management alternative with beneficial results measurable on the landscape. In light of these findings, additional studies are warranted relative to the merits of holistic planned grazing and the ability of grazing to favorably modify semiarid landscapes."

Stinner, D. 1997. Biodiversity As an Organizing Principle in Agroecosystem Management: Case Studies of Holistic Resource Management Practitioners in the USA. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, vol. 62:199-213
http://www.ecoagriculture.org/greatest_hits_details.php?id=889

Summary: Interview study of ranchers using Holistic Management. 95% report an increase in biodiversity, 80% reported an increase in profits, 91% reporting improvements in quality of life. All report that biodiversity is now an important consideration in managing their land, where only 9% felt so prior to exposure with Holistic Management. States that thinking about land management this way requires a “paradigm shift”.                                                                          

  • “While only 9% of the interviewees reported thinking about biodiversity in the context of their operations before being exposed to HRM, now all of them think biodiversity is important to the sustainability of their farms and ranches. Of the people interviewed, 95% perceived increases in biodiversity (particularly with respect to plants) and 80% perceived increase in profits from their land since HRM began influencing their decisions, In addition to perceiving increases in biodiversity, all of the interviewees reported observing indications of positive changes in some of the ecosystem processes on their farms or ranches. In addition, 91% of the interviewees reported improvements in their quality of life because of changes in their time budgets. Three of the interviewees who had quantitative data on changes in numbers of plant species and economic indicators are discussed in detail. We conclude that holistic management approaches like HRM are worthy of further study.”
  • “The paradigm that HRM is based upon, in which humans learn to work consciously with ecological processes to rebuild biodiversity and ecological integrity on their land, is fundamentally and radically different from the paradigm that dominates conventional agriculture, which places relatively little emphasis on ecological processes and biodiversity.”

Alfaro-Arguello R., A.W. Diemont S., 2010. Steps toward sustainable ranching: An emergy evaluation of conventional and holistic management in Chiapas, Mexico. Agricultural Systems 103 (2010) 639–646
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X10000983

  • Summary: Study from Mexico showed that using Holistic Management productivity can be maintained while sustainability is increased - including reduction of burning and pesticides.
  • “The results from this study show that productivity can be maintained as the sustainability of rural dairy ranches is increased. These results also show that local knowledge and understanding of the surrounding ecosystem can drive positive environmental change in production systems.”

References

Alfaro-Arguello R., A.W. Diemont S., 2010. Steps toward sustainable ranching: An emergy evaluation of conventional and holistic management in Chiapas, Mexico. Agricultural Systems 103 (2010) 639–646

Briske, D., Derner, J., Brown, J., Fuhlendorf, S., Teague, R., Gillen, B., Ash, A., Havstad, K., Willms, W., 2008. Benefits of Rotational Grazing on Rangelands: An Evaluation of the Experimental Evidence. Rangeland Ecology and Management 61, 3-17.
Dagget, D. 2005. Gardeners of Eden: Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature, Thatcher Charitable Trust, Flagstaff, Arizona, (August 2005).

Dagget, D. 2000. Beyond the Rangeland Conflict: Toward a West That Works. Good Stewards Project; 2nd edition (January 2000)

Gill, C. 2008. Letter to James Heffelfinger Regarding Habitat Guideline for Mule Deer. http://posterous.circleranchtx.com/Heffelfingeretal121508ltr.pdf

Gill, C. 2009a. Chris Gill to David Briske. http://posterous.circleranchtx.com/Briske043009ltr.pdf

Gill, C. 2009b. Doing What Works. Range Magazine. Fall. 2009. pp 48-50.

Gill, C. 2009c. Of Mule Deers & Paradigms. In Practice. March / April 2009. pp 4 - 6. Holistic Management International, Albuquerque, NM.

Holechek, J.L., Gomes, H., Molinar, F., Galt, D., Valdez, R., 2000.  Short duration grazing, the facts in 1999. Rangelands 22:18-22.

Howell, J 2008. For the Love of Land: Global Case Studies of Grazing in Nature's Image, BookSurge Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina.

Judy, G 2008. Comeback Farms: Rejuvenating Soils, Pastures and Profits with Livestock Grazing Managemen, Green Park Press, Ridgeland, Miss.

Planet-TECH 2013. http://www.planet-tech.com/blog/land-restoration-holistic-management. Accessed 3/21/13

Savory, A. 2000. Letters to the Editor. Rangelands. June. 2000. 22(3). pp 32-33.

Savory, A. 1983. The Savory Grazing Method or Holistic Resource Management. Rangelands 5:155-159.

Savory Institute 2013, Research Case Studies and Project, http://www.savoryinstitute.com/research-and-case-studies. Accessed 3/21/13.

Stinner, D. 1997. Biodiversity As an Organizing Principle in Agroecosystem Management: Case Studies of Holistic Resource Management Practitioners in the USA. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, vol. 62:199-213

Teague, W. R., 2013. In Defense of Multi-­‐paddock Grazing and a Rebuttal to Comments that Savory's Work is Discredited. https://www.box.com/s/6x36gfbii49zhwnsbv4r

Teague, W.R., Provenza, F.D., Norton, B.E., Steffens, T., Barnes, M.K., Kothmann, M.M., Roath, R.L., 2008. Benefits of Multi-Paddock Grazing Management on Rangelands: Limitations of Experimental Grazing Research and Knowledge Gaps. In: Schroder, H.G. (Ed.), Grasslands: Ecology, Management and Restoration. Nova Science, New York, pp. 41-80.

Teague, W.R., Dowhower, S.L., Baker, S.A., Haile, N., DeLaune, P.B., Conover, D.M., 2011. Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 141, 310-322.

Weber, K. T.,  Horst, S., 2011. Desertification and livestock grazing: The roles of sedentarization, mobility and rest. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2011, 1:19 doi:10.1186/2041-7136-1-19

Weber K.T., Gokhale B.S., 2011. Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho, Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 75, Issue 5, May 2011, Pages 464–470

Written and compiled by Seth J. Itzkan, Planet-TECH Associates, www.planet-tech.com. March 2013.