Technical ReportPDF Available

Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method

Technical Report

Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method

Abstract and Figures

Allan Savory is the man behind holistic grazing and the founder of the Savory Institute. Savory claims that holistic grazing can stop desertification and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to pre-industrial levels in a few decades. In this report, we review the literature on holistic grazing in order to evaluate the scientific support behind these statements.
Content may be subject to copyright.
EPOK – Centre for Organic Food & Farming
Holistic management
– a critical review of
Allan Savory’s grazing method
Maria Nordborg
(Translated and updated by Maria Nordborg and Elin Röös, June 2016)
2
Holistic Management
– a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method
Year of publication: 2016, Uppsala
Publisher: SLU/EPOK – Centre for Organic Food & Farming & Chalmers
Font: Akzidenz Grotesk & Bembo
ISBN 978-91-576-9424-9
© SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences & Chalmers
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
3
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
3
Summary
Allan Savory, a biologist from Zimbabwe, is
the man behind the concepts of ‘holistic
grazing’ and ‘holistic management’ and the
founder of the Savory Institute. In February 2013,
Savory gave a TED talk on the topic “How to
ght desertication and reverse climate change”.
This lecture, both praised and criticized, has been
view-ed more than 3.5 million times. In this talk,
Savory makes some controversial claims including
that two-thirds of the world’s land is turning into
desert and that holistic grazing can stop desertica-
tion and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
to pre-industrial levels in a few decades. This claim
seems to be based on an assumption that 2.5 tonnes
of C can be sequestrated per ha and year, on 5 bil-
lion ha (corresponding to one third of the world’s
land), continuously for almost 40 years. Following
his TED talk, Savory and his grazing method have
received considerable attention in many countries.
Holistic grazing builds on the concept of rotational
grazing. The underlying assumption is that herbi-
vorous animals can rehabilitate degraded land th-
rough grazing and that the world’s grasslands and
wild herbivores evolved in parallel and thus are
interdependent. Further, it is assumed that grazing
livestock (e.g., cattle, goats, sheep and camels) can
serve as substitutes for wild herbivorous animals,
provided that they are managed in a way that mi-
mics ‘natural grazing’ of wild herbivores. Natural
grazing is characterized by large animal ocks mo-
ving across large areas as they try to escape preda-
tors. To simulate this function in holistic grazing,
livestock are packed in large herds and frequently
moved between dierent areas.
Holistic grazing is claimed to increase plant pro-
duction and the soil’s ability to inltrate and retain
water, stop land degradation and improve living
and protability for the herders. Increased pasture
plant growth in turn leads to more carbon from
the atmosphere being sequestered into the soil.
Central to holistic grazing is holistic management;
a framework for decision-making and a planning
tool applied primarily to grazing systems. It is based
on comprehensive goal-setting focused on the kind
of life pastoralists wish to have. Holistic manage-
ment aims to use locally available resources to reach
set goals by continuously monitoring and adjusting
operations. Holistic grazing practised within holis-
tic management is thus claimed to be an adaptive
and exible grazing management approach.
A large part of the criticism directed towards
Savory is that his claims are not suciently backed
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
4
4
up by scientic evidence. The aim of this study is to
review some of the scientic support for the clai-
med eects of holistic grazing and management.
There are relatively few (11) peer-reviewed studies
on the eects of holistic grazing that are ‘approved’
by the Savory Institute, i.e., included in Savory In-
stitute Research Portfolio. These case studies show
positive eects of holistic grazing in terms of grass-
land and livestock productivity and soil conditions
over conventional or continuous grazing, but are
rather limited in time, number of study sites and
analyzed data. Only six of the studies use measure-
ments while ve are based on interviews or surveys.
Further, the results are partially inconclusive, and
the reported eects are in most cases rather small.
Review studies that have compared dierent gra-
zing systems are few and dicult to perform due
to large variability in systems and local conditions.
To date, no review study has concluded that holis-
tic grazing is superior to conventional or continu-
ous grazing. One possible reason is that the eects
of the holistic framework for decision-making
have not been appropriately accounted for in these
studies. The claimed benets of holistic grazing
thus appear to be exaggerated and/or lack broad
scientic support. Some claims concerning holistic
grazing are directly at odds with scientic know-
ledge, e.g., the causes of land degradation and the
relationship between cattle and atmospheric me-
thane concentrations.
It is well-established that continuous excessive
grazing with high stocking rates, or uncontrol-
led grazing, increases the risks of desertication.
How-ever, although grazing in most cases result in
reduced vegetation growth, under certain condi-
tions (a long evolutionary history of grazing, mo-
derate grazing pressure during short time periods,
and low net primary production) grazing can re-
sult in increased vegetation growth. It is also well-
established that improved grazing management can
improve conditions on many degraded lands. Ba-
sed on this review, holistic grazing could be an ex-
ample of good grazing management, but nothing
suggests that it is better than other well-managed
grazing methods.
Improved grazing management on grasslands can
store on average approximately 0.35 tonnes of C
per ha and year – a rate seven times lower than
the rate used by the Savory Institute to support
the claim that holistic grazing can reverse climate
change. The total carbon storage potential in pas-
tures does not exceed 0.8 tonnes of C per ha and
year, or 27 billion tonnes of C globally, according
to an estimate in this report based on very optimis-
tic assumptions. 27 billion tonnes of C corresponds
to less than 5% of the emissions of carbon since
the beginning of the industrial revolution. Holistic
grazing can thus not reverse climate change.
Acknowledgements
The main author wishes to thank the fol-
lowing people for their valuable contribu-
tion to this work, as well as insightful com-
ments on this report: Christel Cederberg, Fredrik
Hedenus and Stefan Wirsenius at Chalmers Uni-
versity, and Birgit Landquist at SP Food and Bios-
cience (formerly SIK - the Swedish Institute for
Food and Biotechnology).
The authors also wish to thank Tara Garnett, Ox-
ford University, Pete Smith, University of Aber-
deen and Adrian Müller, The Research Institute of
Organic Agriculture FiBL for valuable comments
on the updated English version.
Questions or comments on this report can be sent
to maria.nordborg@chalmers.se,
or maria.nordborg@gmail.com.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
5
Contents
Summary .............................................................................................................................. 3
Acknowledgements ...............................................................................................................4
1. Introduction ....................................................................................................................6
2. Background to holistic grazing and management ................................................................ 8
3. Scientic studies of holistic grazing ................................................................................. 11
3.1 Review of the research portfolios of the Savory Institute ............................................................... 11
3.2 Studies not included in the research portfolios of the Savory Institute ............................................ 16
3.3 Why do scientic studies fail to conrm the positive eects that many practitioners testify? .............. 19
4. Can holistic grazing reverse climate change? ...................................................................... 22
4.1 Land degradation – a global problem .......................................................................................22
4.2 Soil carbon sequestration ......................................................................................................... 23
4.3 How much carbon can be stored in pastures? ........................................................................... 29
4.4 The Savory Institute’s view on emissions of methane from cattle ...............................................30
5. Conclusions .................................................................................................................... 32
References ......................................................................................................................... 33
Appendices ......................................................................................................................... 36
Appendix 1. Anthropogenic carbon emissions .....................................................................................37
Appendix 2. Land areas, and carbon stocks in soil and vegetation .........................................................38
Appendix 3. Desertication and land degradation ............................................................................... 39
Appendix 4. Biomass production potential on grazing lands ................................................................40
Appendix 5. Time scales associated with soil carbon sequestration ........................................................ 41
Appendix 6. Extended version of Table 4.2 .........................................................................................42
Appendix 7. Anthropogenic emissions of methane ..............................................................................43
Appendix 8. Ruminant populations over time .....................................................................................44
Appendix 9. Links to further reading ..................................................................................................45
5
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
6
6
1. Introduction
Holistic1 grazing was introduced by Allan
Savory, a biologist from Zimbabwe, over
40 years ago. In br ief, holistic grazing is a
grazing management method based on planned ro-
tational grazing that ’mimics nature’ with the aim of
sequestering carbon (C) and water in soils and thus
increase pasture productivity. Holistic management
is a framework for decision-making and a planning
tool applied primarily to grazing systems. It is based
on comprehensive goal-setting focused on the kind
of life pastoralists wish to have. Holistic manage-
ment aims to use locally available resources to reach
set goals by continuous monitoring and adjusting
operations (Savory, 2008). Holistic grazing practised
within holistic management is thus an adaptive and
exible grazing management approach. Hence it
can take many forms, depending on what each in-
dividual herder wants to achieve, climate conditions
and the availability of local resources.
Allan Savory was born in Zimbabwe in 1935. As
a newly trained biologist, he studied the causes
of desertication and soil degradation in Africa.
Initially, he joined the prevailing theory that over-
grazing caused these problems, and as an advisor
to the Zimbabwean government he contributed to
the shooting of 40,000 elephants (Savory, 2013b).
As this drastic measure did not result in the expec-
ted outcome, Savory launched the idea that a lack
of grazing animals instead caused desertication
(Savory, 2008; 2013b). Savory later moved to the
US where his grazing concept gained much at-
tention during the 1980s as it was suggested that
stocking rates could be doubled or even tripled
while improving both range and livestock produc-
tivity (Holechek et al., 2000).
In 2009, the Savory Institute was founded with the
aim of spreading holistic grazing and management
across the world. In February 2013, Savory gave a
TED talk on the topic “How to ght desertica-
tion and reverse climate change” (Savory, 2013b).
This lecture, both praised and criticized, has been
viewed more than 3.5 million times (www.ted.
com, May 3, 2016). In this talk, Savory makes some
controversial claims including that two-thirds of
the world's land is turning into desert and that
holistic grazing can stop this desertication and
reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to pre-
industrial levels in a few decades. Following his
TED, Savory and his grazing method have received
considerable attention in many countries, including
countries that do not suer from desertication.
Savory is still very active in promoting his ideas. In
February 2016 he started a blog which at the time
of writing this report contains seven blog posts
(May, 2016). According to Savory, the blog aims
to clarify, simplify and explain his view on holistic
management. He especially invites critics to par-
ticipate in the discussion, who he claims to date
has not made any eort to study anything he has
written or said.
A large part of the criticism directed towards Sa-
vory is that his claims are not suciently backed
up by scientic evidence. Anecdotal reports and
testimonies about the excellence of the method
dominate over systematically implemented and in-
dependent scientic studies (Briske et al., 2011).
The aim of this study is to review some of the
scien tic support for the claimed eects of holistic
grazing and management. However, this report is
not a formal review study due to time and budget
limitations. Chapter 2 gives a brief background and
description of holistic grazing and management.
Chapter 3 reviews in detail the scientic studies
brought forward by the Savory Institute and sum-
marizes some studies that have critically examined
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
7
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
7
holistic grazing. Also, the scientic support behind
the claims made by Savory is discussed. Chapter 4
reviews the plausibility of the claim that holistic
management can reverse climate change. Chapter
5 summarizes the main conclusions of this report.
1 Holistic means ”great”, ”undivided” from the Greek holos: in a ge-
neral sense a philosophical approach where the whole is greater
than the sum, and no part can be separated from its context.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
8
8
2. Background to holistic grazing and management
Grazing management in general
The aim of grazing management is to 1) increase
productivity and improve species composition
by giving key species some rest, 2) reduce animal
selectivity, and 3) ensure more uniform animal
distribution (Briske et al., 2008). Several dierent
grazing management techniques exist. Basically, a
distinction can be made between continuous gra-
zing and rotational grazing. Continuous grazing
means that the animals over a longer period graze
in the same (larger) area. Rotational grazing means
that the animals are moved around between die-
rent smaller areas. Within these two types variation
is large. For more information on dierent grazing
systems, see McCosker (2000).
Holistic grazing
Savory’s holistic grazing builds on the concept of
rotational grazing. The underlying assumption is
that the grazing of herbivorous animals can reha-
bilitate degraded land and that the world’s grass-
lands and wild herbivores evolved in parallel and
thus are interdependent (Savory, 2008). It is assu-
med that grazing livestock (e.g. cattle, goats, sheep
and camels) can serve as substitutes for wild rumi-
nants, provided that their management mimics ‘na-
tural grazing’ of wild herbivores (Savory Institute,
2014b).
‘Natural grazing’ is characterized by large animal
ocks moving across large areas as they try to es-
cape predators. To simulate this function in holis-
tic grazing, livestock are packed in large herds and
frequently moved between dierent areas (Savory,
2008). In general, animals do not graze more than a
few days in the same area, followed by some months
of rest (Savory, 2013a). In other words, in holis-
tic grazing, the land is exposed to intense grazing
pressure and large additions of manure and intense
trampling during short periods. This is conside-
red to contribute to more extensive cover of dead
plant material on the ground which helps to reduce
evapo transpiration and increases accumulation of
organic matter in the soil; the breaking of the hard
soil crust; germination of seeds and faster turnover
of dead plant material. This is in turn considered
to result in increased soil humus content (and the-
refore soil carbon); increased ability of the soil to
inltrate and retain water, and eventually that the
plant production increases, and thus increased pro-
tability and quality of life of pastoralists (Savory,
2008; 2013a; 2013b; Savory Institute, 2014b).
Holistic management
Many of the ideas currently associated with Savory
were neither new nor original when they were
launched by Savory, such as using livestock to mi-
mic the behaviour wild grazers, and using grazing
livestock to restore degraded rangelands (Briske et
al., 2011). Such as ideas had been proposed already
in the 1920s. However, Savory packaged these
ideas in a new way and launched the concept of
‘holistic management’, also called ‘holistic resource
management’, which includes the holistic frame-
work for decision-making (Briske et al., 2011).
On the main web page of the Savory Institute
holistic management is explained as”a process of
decision-making and planning that gives people
the insights and management tools needed to
under stand nature: resulting in better, more in-
formed decisions that balance key social, environ-
mental, and nancial considerations. (http://sa-
vory.global/, 19th of May, 2016)
The concept is further detailed in scientic papers
(e.g. Savory et al., 1991), books (e.g. Buttereld et
al., 2006 and Savory, 1999) and shorter summa-
ries (e.g. Savory, 2011). The description here is a
summary based on information published on the
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
9
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
9
newly launched blog by Savory (http://savory.glo-
bal/allanUncensored/Welcome-to-my-new-blog,
17th of May, 2016).
Savory’s starting point is that all problems (he men-
tions drugs, poverty, violence, terrorism, increasing
droughts and oods and many other issues) are cau-
sed by the application of “reductionist management
in a holistically functioning world”. The main cause
of all problems is, according to Savory, “our inability
to address complexity”. He goes on to explain what
complexity is, making a distinction between com-
plicated systems that are things that we make like
radio communications, space vehicles and compu-
ters, and complex systems that are things that we
manage including organisations and institutions
and nature itself. When problems arise within com-
plicated systems these are relatively easy to x while
problems within complex systems, so called ‘wicked
problems’, are dicult to solve as these systems have
unintended and changing properties that are di-
cult to foresee or even recognise.
According to Savory, the genetically-embedded
framework for decision making in humans cannot
manage complexity, especially not when it comes
to the problems of desertication and climate
change. In addition, we lack the tools to deal with
these challenges as the human toolbox includes
only four tools; technology, re, planting of plants
and resting the environment (i.e. modern nature
conservation). In this context, Savory highlights
the importance of large grazing animals for rever-
sing desertication of grasslands in regions with
seasonal rainfall (constituting roughly two thirds
of the world’s land area). Without animals, above-
ground leaves and stems will chemically oxidise
instead of biologically decaying, Savory claims2. In
such conditions, resting land would only increase
oxidation and hence the death of perennial gras-
ses i.e., desertication. Hence, the missing tool in
the human toolbox is properly managed livestock.
These animals should be managed using ‘holistic
grazing’ (described in the next section).
Savory goes on to describe the need for a ‘holis-
tic context’, or reasons for our actions, which ca-
ter for both social and economic complexity. Sa-
vory admits in his blog that the concept of holistic
context has been murky and confusing in the two
rst version of his book but that the coming edi-
2 Savory admits in blogpost 4 that this is not valid for humid
regions like much of Europe.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
10
10
tion, to be released later this year (i.e., 2016), will
provide a clearer and more applicable description.
Savory does not describe in his blog what a holistic
context is but provides the following example of a
simple generic holistic context:
“We want stable families living peaceful lives in
prosperity and physical security while free to pur-
sue our own spiritual or religious beliefs. Adequate
nutritious food and clean water. Enjoying good
education and health in balanced lives with time
for family, friends, and community and leisure for
cultural and other pursuits. All to be ensured, for
many generations to come, on a foundation of re-
generating soils and biologically diverse commu-
nities on Earth’s land and in her rivers, lakes, and
oceans. (http://savory.global/allanUncensored/
managing-complexity, 17th of May 2016)
The holistic management framework then provi-
des a set of seven context-checking questions to
help guide dicult decisions. For simpler decisions
on the other hand, “we intuitively begin to know if
they are in line with our holistic context”. Savory
compares this to riding a bicycle; the more one
tries to explain how it is done, the harder it gets.
New idea: holistic grazing
can reverse climate change
In parallel to climate change attracting great atten-
tion during the last decade, Savory launched the
idea that holistic grazing, apart from restoring de-
graded land and improving the livelihoods of her-
ders, can storage such large amounts of carbon in
the soils that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
can drop to pre-industrial levels in a few deca-
des (Savory, 2008; 2013b; Savory Institute, 2013a).
This claim, further evaluated in Chapter 4, gained
considerable attention after Savory’s appearance at
TED in February 2013.
Savory’s activities
and organisations today
The main vision of Savory’s current activities is to
“to promote large-scale restoration of the world’s
grasslands through Holistic Management” (http://
savory.global/, 19th of May, 2016). Three organisa-
tions have been set up to reach this mission:
n The Savory Institute is the main organisation
which is devoted to developing tools, infor-
ming policy, increasing public awareness, coor-
dinating research and cultivating relationships
with partners, i.e. the Savory Institute works
with development and marketing of the Savory
concepts. The Savory Institute has nine em-
ployees and is governed by a board with ve
members, including Savory himself.
n The Savory Network is a global network of re-
gional ‘Hubs’ and ‘Accredited Professionals’. A
Hub is a self-sustained entity which provides
training and implementation support of holis-
tic management in the local region. Currently
there are 18 established hubs in ve continents
and 16 hub candidates. The goal is to establish
100 hubs by 2025 to inuence the management
of 1 billion hectares of land i.e. 1/5 of all grass-
lands globally. An Accredited Professional pro-
vides training and support in holistic manage-
ment to hubs, ranchers, consumers, government
agencies, NGO etc. To become an Accredited
Professional one has to complete training in ho-
listic management, provide evidence of practical
experience and pay an annual fee of $399.
n The Savory Platform provides training and sup-
port for land managers and farmers. It contains
a wide range of online courses priced at $99. It
also sells books and resources for carrying out
holistic management e.g. monitoring sheets and
dierent templates. An online software platform
is also available for holistic management plan-
ning and evaluation (annual cost $599).
Holistic Management International (HMI) is an-
other organisation which aims at “A world where
sustainable agricultural communities ourish
through the practice of Holistic Management”
(http://holisticmanagement.org/). HMI and the
Savory Institute both use the same model of ho-
listic management but dier in businesses model
(Stephanie von Ancken, HMI, pers. comm.).
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
11
11
3. Scientific studies of holistic grazing
Savory admits that scientic studies of holistic
grazing are lacking, and oers two explana-
tions: 1) practicing ranchers and pastoralists
cannot easily publish their ndings in scientic
journals, and 2) complex systems (involving inte-
ractions between animals, humans and nature in
time and space) cannot fully be understood using
scientic ‘reductionist’ methods (Savory, 2013a).
However, upon requests to present the available
scientic studies, the Savory Institute in 2013 pub-
lished a so-called research portfolio consisting of a
collection of articles and reports (Savory Institute,
2013c). The portfolio was updated in 2014 (Savory
Institute, 2014a).
Chapter 3.1 reviews the material included in the
research portfolios. Chapter 3.2 summarizes the
main ndings and conclusions from a selection of
relevant studies that were not included in the re-
search portfolios. Chapter 3.3 derives some con-
clusions based on this literature review. Chapter
3.4 discusses why scientic studies of holistic gra-
zing often fail to conrm the positive eects that
many practitioners apparently experience.
3.1 Review of the research
portfolios of the Savory Institute
The two research portfolios published by the
Savory Institute (Savory Institute, 2013c, 2104a)
contain in total 40 unique publications of both sci-
entic and non-scientic character. The selection
criteria for inclusion in the research portfolios are
unclear. Fourteen of these publications are original
research studies published in peer-reviewed jour-
nals that compare the eects of holistic grazing (or
similar grazing regimes) with other grazing sys-
tems and/or no grazing. The rest of the material
are either literature reviews, non-peer reviewed
reports, concept notes, reports containing more
of ‘testimonies’, or studies that do not specically
address holistic grazing.
The fourteen peer-reviewed studies were selected
for closer examination in this report. Three papers
were however excluded; McCosker (2000) appea-
red to contain a small selection of positive results
from dierent farms selected for unclear reasons,
while Joyce (2000) and Sparke (2000) report of
personal experiences associated with the transition
from conventional to holistic grazing on only two
farms.
The remaining eleven studies are from four
countries (Mexico, Australia, Canada and USA),
and published between 1995 and 2013. They vary
in scope from a single farm up to a survey of over
1,700 farmers (Table 3.1). The methodology for
data collection is eld measurements or inter-
views/survey; approximately half of the studies use
the former and half of studies the latter. It should
be noted that in terms of the eects of soil and
vegetation, eld measurements are more reliable
than interviews. It should also be noted that longer
measurement series from larger areas or more test
sites generally increase the quality of the data, since
spatio-temporal variations are evened out. Based
on this, it is clear from Table 3.1 that the scientic
evidence included in the Savory research portfolio
is rather limited; only six of the eleven studies have
collected data through eld measurements. The
largest number of farms included is fourteen and
the longest time period is three years.
Table 3.2 shows the research focus of the eleven
studies reviewed here, divided into general themes.
Most studies have dealt with land and soil-related
parameters, vegetation and pasture production as
well as aspects related to the adaptability and va-
lues. Least explored is the impact on biodiversity.
The main ndings from the eleven peer-reviewed
studies of holistic grazing reviewed in this report
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
12
12
are summarised briey in the following sections.
For more information, please refer to the original
sources.
Alfaro-Arguello et al. (2010)
Alfaro-Arguello et al. (2010) reported that seven
practitioners of holistic grazing in Chiapas, Mex-
ico, had twice as high emergy sustainability index
as their conventional colleagues in the same area
(18 farmers). A re-evaluation of the same material
concluded that the index was only marginally hig-
her (Ferguson et al., 2013). This index is calculated
based on the total resources needed to produce a
product, and is considered to measure sustainability.
Earl and Jones (1996)
Earl and Jones (1996) studied the vegetation on
three farms in Australia and reported that the ba-
sal diameters, relative frequency and contribution
to dry weight of the most desirable and palatable
species at each site remained constant or increased
under holistic grazing (called cell grazing in this
paper), while declining signicantly under conti-
nuous grazing. The inverse was true for the least
palatable components of the pasture, which decli-
ned signicantly under holistic grazing but did not
change much under continuous grazing. Percenta-
ge ground cover was signicantly higher after two
years of holistic grazing than under conti nuous
grazing.
Ferguson et al. (2013)
Ferguson et al. (2013) studied holistic and conven-
tional cattle ranching in the seasonally dry tropics
of Chiapas, Mexico. When comparing seven holis-
tically managed farms with 18 conventional farms,
they found higher soil respiration, deeper topsoil,
increased earthworm presence, more tightly closed
herbaceous canopies (all p<0.05), and marginally
higher forage availability (p=0.053) in holisti-
cally managed farms. However, they did not nd
any signicant dierences in soil compaction, soil
chemistry and pasture tree cover between farms.
Methodology for data collection
Alfaro-Arguello et al. (2010) Interviews with 25 farmers
Earl & Jones (1996) Field measurements on three farms during three years
Ferguson et al. (2013) Interviews with 25 farmers, field measurements on 14 farms
during one year
Manley et al. (1995) Field measurements on one farm during one year
McLachlan & Yestrau (2009) Questionnaire answered by >1700 farmers
Richards & Lawrence (2009) Interviews with farmers from 25 farms
Sanjari et al. (2008) Field measurements on one farm during six years
Sherren et al. (2012) Interviews with 25 farmers centered around photos
Stinner et al. (1997) Interviews with 25 farmers (deep interviews with three)
Teague et al. (2011) Field measurements on nine farms during one year
Weber & Gokhale (2011) Field measurements on three farms during three years
Table 3.1 Methodology for data collection in the eleven peer-reviewed studies of holistic grazing reviewed in this report.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
13
13
Soil
Water
Vegetation and pasture
productvity
Biodiversity
Livestock production including
economy
Adaptation,
values and quality of life
Integrated indicators
Alfaro-Arguello et al. (2010) X X
Earl & Jones (1996) X
Ferguson et al. (2013) X X X X
Manley et al. (1995) X
McLachlan & Yestrau (2009) X
Richards & Lawrence (2009) X
Sanjari et al. (2008) X
Sherren et al. (2012) X
Stinner et al. (1997) X X X
Teague et al. (2011) X X X
Weber & Gokhale (2011) X X
Table 3.2 Research focus of the eleven peer-reviewed studies of holistic grazing reviewed in this report. Author names in
bold indicate that studies have applied eld-measurements as a method of data collection.
They also found that holistic ranchers had 2.5
times higher milk productivity (measured as litre
per ha pasture per year), as well as lower cow mor-
tality (1 vs. 5%) and calf mortality (2 vs. 7%) com-
pared to their conventional colleagues. On average,
holistically managed farms had considerably higher
protability (measured both as prot per ha, and
net ranch prot) than conventional farms, but the
dierences were not statistically signicant, due to
large variations between individual farms.
Further, they found that holistically managed farms
had statistically signicantly denser vegetation on
the pastures (measured both as ground-level gaps
and herbaceous canopy gaps) compared to farms
with conventional grazing. Forage availability was
on average 46% higher on holistic pastures than on
conventional pastures, but due to large variations
over time, this dierence was not statistically sig-
nicant. With regard to the composition of plant
species on pastures no statistically signicant dif-
ference between holistic and conventional farms
was found.
In addition to these parameters an ‘Organic Con-
version Index’ was calculated based on the stan-
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
14
14
dards for organic production, combining eco-
nomic, social, technological and environmental
indicators. Data were collected through semi-
structured interviews and eld observations. This
index was considerably higher for holistic farms
than for conventional farms.
Manley et al. (1995)
Manley et al. (1995) studied rangeland soil car-
bon and nitrogen content between ve dierent
grazing systems, including holistic grazing and no
grazing, on one farm in Wyoming, USA. The die-
rent grazing systems had been implemented eleven
years before measurements began. The study found
that grazing had positive eects compared with no
grazing, but no signicant dierences between the
grazing systems were found. Grazed land had sta-
tistically signicantly higher levels of carbon and
nitrogen in the upper 30 cm compared to land not
grazed, but the dierence was relatively small and
concentrated to the top 8 cm of the soil.
McLachlan & Yestrau (2009)
McLachlan & Yestrau (2009) conducted a survey of
315 practitioners of holistic grazing and 1470 con-
ventional herders in Canada regarding how they
had been aected by bovine spongiform encep-
halopathy (BSE, mad cow disease) and their view
of the future. They concluded that practitioners of
holistic grazing had a more optimistic view on, and
condence in their ability to cope and adapt to the
eects of BSE, than their conventional colleagues.
Richards & Lawrence (2009)
Richards & Lawrence (2009) studied adaptation
and change in rangelands of Queensland, Austra-
lia. Based on interviews with 49 farmers from 25
farms, they concluded that holistic grazing (called
cell grazing in this paper) require farmers to adapt
ideologically and culturally, and that women seem
to have a more prominent role in the business,
compared to what is customary on conventional
farms. Although the causalities are not fully under-
stood, interviewed farmers reported that they had
started practicing holistic grazing for reasons rela-
ted to lifestyle and ecological factors, as well as ef-
ciency in beef production.
Sanjari et al. (2008)
Sanjari et al. (2008) compared continuous and
time-controlled grazing systems (which the aut-
hors state is synonymous to holistic grazing; quote:
“a system of exible, high-intensity, short period
grazing followed by a long period of rest”) on one
farm in Australia, and found that time-controlled
grazing led to a statistically signicant increase in
ground-litter accumulation compared to conti-
nuous grazing. The content of soil organic carbon
and nitrogen increased in holistic grazing during
the period 2001 – 2006 but this increase was not
statistically signicant. During the same period, the
change of soil organic carbon and nitrogen did not
increase at all under continuous grazing.
Sherren et al. (2012)
Sherren et al. (2012) found, in an interview with
25 Australian pastoralists, that practitioners of holis-
tic grazing had a dierent mentality and approach
than their conventional colleagues and to a greater
extent valued heterogeneity, biodiversity and resi-
lience. This was interpreted as an indication that
the practitioners of holistic grazing increasingly
applied systems thinking, and were better positio-
ned to adapt to changing circumstances, compa-
red to their conventional counterparts. This study
has been criticized for drawing too far-reaching
conclusions based on their results, see Briske et al.
(2014).
Stinner et al. (1997)
Stinner et al. (1997) interviewed 25 holistic gra-
zing practitioners in the US that had converted
from conventional grazing. Of these, 80% percei-
ved increased protability since they started to use
holistic management. On one farm where quanti-
tative data was collected, not prot per hectare had
increased by more than a factor 5 between 1990
and 1995. On another farm where quantitative
data was collected, costs per kilo of produced beef
had decreased by 50% between 1983 and 1991. It is
not known, and not discussed in the paper, to what
extent these results are representative of holistic
ranchers at large.
The same study reported that all interviewed ran-
chers considered biodiversity to be important for
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
15
15
the farm sustainability, while only 9% had thought
about biodiversity in the context of their opera-
tions before conversion to holistic grazing. Also,
95% perceived increases in biodiversity on their
farms (mainly with respect to plants) since they
started using holistic management. Furthermore,
the study found that 91% of farmers experienced
an improvement in quality of life after they con-
verted to holistic grazing. In addition, all farmers
said they saw signs of positive changes in eco system
processes e.g. hydrological and nutrient cycling.
These results were however not validated with
measured data.
Teague et al. (2011)
Teague et al. (2011) compared the eects of four
dierent grazing systems on vegetation, soil biota
and soil chemical, physical and hydrological pro-
perties in tall grass prairie in Texas, USA. The land
where the samples were taken had been managed
with the same grazing systems for at least nine
years before measurements began.
With regard to soil organic matter, they found
that land grazed holistically (called multi-paddock
grazing in this paper) had statistically signicantly
higher content of soil organic matter compared
to land grazed continuously, when then average
content in the top 90 cm of the soil was calcula-
ted (Table 3.3). However, there was no statistical
dierence in soil organic matter content between
multi-paddock grazing, light continuous grazing
and graze exclosure in the separate layers of soil,
see Table 3.3.
Soil depth, cm Heavy
continuous
Light
continuous
Multi-paddock
(= holistic grazing)
Graze exclosure
(=no grazing)
0 – 15 3.76b5.24a5.72a5.62a
15 – 30 2.45b3.55a4.00a4.01a
30 – 60 1.49a2.09a2.48a2.63a
60 – 90 1.78a1.67a2.00a2.34a
Average 0 – 90 2.49c3.24b3.61a3.59a
Table 3.3 Soil organic matter content (%) for dierent grazing systems, results from Teague et al. (2011). Dierent let-
ters indicate that the results are statistically dierent (p <0.05). The stocking density in multi-paddock grazing is the
same as in ”Light continuous”.
With regard to soil chemical properties, they found
higher content of magnesium, calcium and sodium,
and higher cation exchange capacity in soils grazed
holistically compared to continuous grazing (heavy
and light), and that grazed lands had lower levels of
nitrogen than lands not grazed (all results are statis-
tically signicant).
Furthermore, they found that grazed lands had
lower penetration resistance, higher soil moisture
(% water) and lower sediment loss (g per m2) com-
pared to land with heavy continuous grazing (all
results are statistically signicant). However, they
did not nd any dierences between holistic and
light continuous grazing for these parameters.
With regard to soil biota, Teague et al. (2011) found
that land grazed holistically had higher ratio of soil
fungi and bacteria than the other systems, which
was considered to contribute to better water hol-
ding capacity and nutrient availability.
With regard to inltration capacity, they found no
statistically signicant dierences in the soil’s abi-
lity to inltrate water between holistic grazing,
light continuous grazing and graze exclosure. They
also found no dierences in soil bulk density, water
runo (cm per ha) or soil potassium, manganese,
copper, phosphorus, zinc and iron between holistic
and heavy continuous grazing (all results were sta-
tistically signicant).
With regard to vegetation, Teague et al. (2011)
found that the share of bare ground was statistically
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
16
16
signicantly lower on pastures with holistic gra-
zing compared to pastures with heavy continuous
grazing (1 vs. 30%; however, no dierence between
holistic grazing and light continuous grazing pas-
tures). Further, they found 18 and 74% higher stan-
ding crop biomass for holistic grazing compared to
light and heavy continuous grazing, respectively
(measured as kg biomass per ha above ground at
peak standing crop; statistically signicant dieren-
ces). Notably, however, they found no dierence
in standing crop biomass between holistic pastures
and land that was not grazed at all.
Weber & Gokhale (2011)
Weber & Gokhale (2011) studied the eect of gra-
zing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands
of southeast Idaho. Based on continuous measure-
ments between 2006 and 2008, they found that soil
moisture (measured as volumetric-water content)
was higher in holistic grazing (called simulated ho-
listic planned grazing in this paper) compared with
rest-rotation grazing and no grazing (Table 3.4). In
holistic grazing, cattle grazed at high density (66
animal units (AU) per 11 ha, corresponding to 36
animal units days (AUD) per ha) for a short period
of time (6 days) during the rst week of June each
year (2006–2008). In rest-rotation, cattle grazed at
low density (300 AU per 1467 ha, corresponding
to 6 AUD per ha) for a longer period of time (30
days) during the month of May each year.
They also found that the percentage litter cover
was higher under simulated holistic planned gra-
zing (36 AUD per ha) compared with rest-rotation
grazing (6 AUG per ha) two years out of three.
However, no dierence in vegetation (percentage
shrub cover) was found between the two grazing
systems.
2006 2007 2008
Simulated holistic planned grazing 23.3a44.1a45.8a
Rest-rotation grazing 19.7b34.8b34.7b
No grazing (total rest) 19.2b31.9b29.8c
Table 3.4 Mean volumetric-water content (%) 2006 - 2008 from pastures managed in three dierent ways, results from
Weber & Gokhale (2011). Dierent letters indicate statistically dierent results (p<0.001) when comparing the results
within years3.
3.2 Studies not included in the
research portfolios of the Savory
Institute
The studies reviewed above are selected by the Sa-
vory Institute and one may suspect that more cri-
tical studies might have been excluded as well as
studies that show less favourable results of holistic
grazing and management.
Here, two review studies that were omitted from
Savory’s research portfolio are summarised as well
as a critical evaluation of Savory’s claims and a
more recent study on holistic grazing and carbon
sequestration in South Africa. It should be noted
that systematic review studies are complicated by
terminology (McCosker, 2000; Teague et al., 2013;
Briske et al., 2011). A wide range of terms are used;
rapid rotation, time-controlled, holistic grazing,
planned grazing, prescribed grazing, management-
intensive grazing, rest–rotation, deferred rotation,
high frequency–short duration, season-long, inten-
sive short-duration, multi-paddock, Savory grazing
and cell grazing. There is no clear denition what
the dierent terms actually mean, sometimes dif-
ferent terms are used for the same system or the
same term is used for dierent systems (Briske et
al., 2011). An overview of dierent grazing systems
and how they relate to holistic grazing is given in
McCosker (2000).
Review by Briske et al. (2008)
Briske et al. (2008) reviewed more than 40 studies,
mostly from the US and Africa, which compared
continuous grazing and dierent types of rotatio-
3 Taken from the text in Weber & Gokhale (2011) as we suspect a
mistake in the table in that paper (all letters were an a).
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
17
17
nal grazing systems with regard to plant produc-
tion/standing crop, livestock production per head
and livestock production per land area.
With regard to plant production/standing crop, 19
out of 23 studies found no dierence between ro-
tational and continuous grazing (when all studies
of dierent stocking rates were combined). Three
studies reported higher plant production for rota-
tional grazing and one study reported higher plant
production for continuous grazing (Fig. 3.1).
With regard to livestock production per head, 19
of 38 studies found no dierences between rota-
tional and continuous grazing (when all studies
of dierent stocking rates were combined). Three
studies reported higher livestock production per
head for rotational grazing and 16 studies reported
higher livestock production per head for continu-
ous grazing (Fig. 3.1).
With regard to livestock production per land area,
16 out of 32 studies found no dierences between
rotational and continuous grazing (when all stu-
dies of dierent stocking rates were combined).
100%
80%
60%
40%
20%
0%
Plant production Livestock production Livestock production
/standing crop per head per land area
Rotational grazing <
continuous grazing
Rotational grazing >
continuos grazing
No difference
Fig. 3.1 Comparison of continuous grazing and dierent types of rotational grazing systems with regard to plant and
livestock productivity per head and land area, for all stocking-rates. Results from the review by Briske et al. (2008), in
which results are further dierentiated with regard to stocking-rates.
Five studies reported higher livestock production
per land area for rotational grazing and 11 studies
reported higher livestock production per land area
for continuous grazing (Fig. 3.1).
Based on these results, Briske et al. (2008) con-
cluded that rotational grazing is not superior to
continuous grazing with respect to the studied pa-
rameters. They also noted that stocking rates and
climate, rather than grazing system, are the factors
with largest eect on vegetation and livestock pro-
ductivity.
Review by Holechek et al. (2000)
Holechek et al. (2000) reviewed 13 North Ame-
rican studies published between 1982 and 1999
(unclear how these were selected) that compared
continuous grazing with so-called short-duration
grazing, considered equivalent to holistic grazing
in this paper.
The role of hoof action in increasing the soil’s abi-
lity to inltrate water was the most studied aspect
in the reviewed studies. Holechek et al. (2000)
found that a large number of animals on a small
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
18
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
18
area reduced inltration and increased erosion,
contradictory to Savory’s claim. They did not nd
any study that showed any benets of hoof action
on range soils.
With regard to forage production, there was ‘little
dierence’ between short-duration grazing and
continuous grazing at the same stocking rate, based
on results from six studies. It is not clear what is
meant by ‘little dierence”.
With regard to vegetation (plant succession and
range conditions), there was no signicant die-
rences between dierent grazing systems. The most
complete study of vegetation under dierent gra-
zing systems (Manley et al. 1997, conducted during
13 years) showed no signicant dierences with
regard to bare ground and vegetation composi-
tion; these were primarily aected by stocking rate
rather than grazing system.
With regard to livestock productivity, Holechek et
al. (2000) found small or no dierences between
short-duration grazing and continuous grazing in
9 of 10 studies when stocking-rates were the same,
and signicant dierence in only one study, which
reported 11-20% lower live weight gains of year-
ling cattle under short-duration grazing compared
to continuous grazing.
With regard to nancial returns, short-duration
grazing was not found to have any nancial advan-
tage over continuous grazing.
Based on these results, Holechek et al. (2000) re-
jected the hypothesis that short-duration grazing
is superior to continuous grazing. Holechek et al.
(2000) also summarized the main ndings from
two reviews of more than 50 studies on short-
duration grazing from the African continent
(Skovlin, 1987; O’Reagain & Turner, 1992). Ac-
cording to Holechek et al. (2000), these review
studies came to very similar conclusions, namely
that (selected conclusions): 1) there are no large
dierences between continuous and short-rotation
grazing with regard to range conditions and live-
stock production, 2) grazing intensity is the most
important factor determining long-term eects on
vegetation, livestock and nancial returns, 3) a lar-
ge number of animals packed together lower water
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
19
19
inltration and increase erosion and 4) continuous
grazing at moderate intensity does not result in
rangeland degradation.
Review by Carter et al. (2014)
A literature review by Carter et al. (2014) exami-
ned ve claims made by Savory, focusing on wes-
tern grasslands of North America.
Firstly, Carter et al. (2014) describes that western
North America’s grasslands have not adapted to the
grazing of wild ruminants as there was no major
presence of grazing animals in these ecosystems
historically. This contradicts Savory’s claim that all
grasslands evolved in parallel with large herds of
grazing animals.
Secondly, Savory’s claim that grass withers and die
if not grazed was examined. Carter et al. (2014)
conclude that grasses, especially bunchgrasses, are
more likely to die if they are overgrazed, rather
than not grazed. Further, these grasses protects soils
and harvests water, and that their removal may re-
sult in simplication of plant communities, esta-
blishment of woody vegetation or invasive species.
Thirdly, Carter et al. (2014) concludes that the
natural vegetation of the plains in western North
America develop normally in the absence of gra-
zing, contrary to the assumption that grasses die if
not grazed.
Fourthly, Savory’s claim concerning the need for
‘hoof action’ to break up soil crusts (which Savory
calls ‘the cancer’ of grasslands) is examined. Accor-
ding to Savory, broken soil crusts would increase
inltration, plant seeds, and incorporate plant ma-
terial, manure, and urine into the soil. Carter et al.
(2014) write that soils in arid and semiarid grass-
lands indeed have biological crusts that consist of
bacteria, algae, mosses, and lichens and that these are
essential elements of these ecosystems that help to
stabilize soils, increase soil organic matter and nu-
trient content, absorb dew during dry periods, and
x nitrogen. Carter et al. (2014) found no bene ts
of hoof action. On the contrary, they found a num-
ber of adverse eects as a result of broken crusts in-
cluding increased erosion and soil compaction and
reduced fertility and water inltration.
Finally, Carter et al. (2014) concludes that cattle
cause signicant emissions of greenhouse gases,
and that holistic grazing, as it involves animals, can-
not reverse climate change. However, no mass ba-
lance calculation or other quantitative support for
this argumentation is given.
Study by Chaplot et al. (2016)
A recently published study (Chaplot et al., 2016)
assessed the ability of grassland managed with high
density and short-duration grazing to sequester
atmospheric C into soils of rangelands in South
Africa with dierent levels of degradation. This
management system was compared to 1) livestock
exclosure, 2) livestock exclosure with topsoil til-
lage, 3) livestock exclosure with NPK fertilization
and 4) annual burning in combination with tradi-
tional grazing, as control. 540 soil samples were
collected from the top 5 cm of the soil. After two
years, topsoil carbon stocks were signicantly lar-
ger for livestock exclosure with NPK fertilization
and for the short-duration grazing system (avera-
ge of 33.4 ± 0.5 and 12.4 ± 2.1 g C m2 year-1,
respec tively). Burning reduced SOC stocks by 3.6
± 3.0 g C m2 year-1, while no signicant results
were found for livestock exclosure and livestock
exclosure with topsoil tillage.
Chaplot et al. (2016) acknowledge that the increase
in soil carbon stocks in either fertilized grassland
or as a result of grazing is likely the application of
nutrients to the soils which increase biomass pro-
duction and hence cause larger input of carbon
to soils. Chaplot et al. (2016) also highlights hoof
action as an important mechanism; the trampling
of the animals breaks impermeable crusts often
found on bare soil; fattens the grass and puts dead
plant material in contact with decomposer bacteria
and invertebrates in the soil, which is in line with
Savory’s claim.
3.3 Why do scientific studies fail
to confirm the positive effects that
many practitioners testify?
Based on the material reviewed here, there is only
indicative evidence for the general superior ity of
holistic grazing over other grazing systems or no
grazing. There is denitely not enough evidence
to support broad generalizations concerning the
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
20
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
20
performance of holistic grazing in dierent con-
ditions. In addition, it is not clear what causes the
positive outcomes in holistic grazing; nutrient in-
put to depleted soils, high stocking densities over
short periods of time, the adaptive management,
the commitment and expectations of ranchers, or
other factors.
The review of the research portfolio of the Savory
Institute shows that there are a number of scientic
studies that show that dierent types of rotational
grazing systems performs better than conventional
continuous grazing or no grazing, in a number of
aspects. It appears that under certain circum stances
practitioners of holistic grazing achieve better re-
sults than their conventional counterparts. Results
from the few existing review studies do not, ho-
wever, conclusively conrm these positive ndings.
Further, it should be noted that the studies inclu-
ded in the research portfolio are relatively limi-
ted in time, space and amount of analysed data. To
some extent results point in dierent directions
and the changes are in most cases relatively small.
Whether rotational or continuous grazing is supe-
rior has been debated since the early 1950s, i.e., be-
fore Savory launched his ideas (Briske et al., 2011).
In recent decades, proponents of holistic grazing
have showcased a number of studies with good re-
sults and a range of ‘testimonies’, while critics have
argued that the available evidence is not enough to
draw any reliable or general conclusions.
Even with the best intentions, relevant compari-
sons between dierent grazing systems are dif-
cult to design due to the large variability in a
wide range of ecological and managerial factors,
e.g. rainfall, vegetation structure, composition and
productivity, prior land use, livestock characteris-
tics, and the commitment, abilities and ambitions
of ranchers (Briske et al., 2008). Managerial varia-
bility is seldom recognised and documented which
makes comparisons between grazing systems dif-
cult as dierences in e.g., productivity is heavily
inuenced by management.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
21
21
The role of the practitioners themselves for the re-
sults achieved has not yet been studied. But it has
been shown that practitioners of holistic grazing
more often apply a systems approach than their
conventional colleagues, and that they have a die-
rent mentality and to a greater extent value hetero-
geneity, biodiversity, resilience and adaptation
(Sherren et al., 2012). It has also been reported that
holistic grazing and management requires ideo-
logical and cultural adaptation, and that women
seem to have a more prominent role in the mana-
gement (Richards & Lawrence, 2009). Thus, a spe-
cial type of people seem to use holistic grazing and
management, or the method itself helps to develop
special characteristics. Many practitioners undergo
training in the holistic framework for decision-
making that aims to improve eciency and help
them reach targets. It is likely that these farmers
have a special drive and ambition to change and
improve their businesses, and that they in fact im-
prove as a result of the training. Such factors could
possibly partly explain the positive experiences and
results that many farmers testify.
The conclusion that holistic grazing is not superior
to continuous grazing is often attributed to the re-
views by Holechek et al. (2000) and Briske et al.
(2008), but Savory and others reject these publi-
cations and claims that none of them actually re-
fers to ‘real’ holistic grazing (Itzkan, 2011; Itzkan,
2014; Teague et al., 2008; Teague et al., 2013; Savory,
2013a; Gill, 2009). Savory emphasizes in several
publications that holistic management is not the
same as short-duration grazing and that the adap-
tive part of holistic management (i.e. the holistic
framework for decision-making) is crucial.
Teague et al. (2008) also stresses that the holistic
framework for decision-making is such a central
part of the method that it cannot be ignored, and
that systems that do not include this dimension
cannot be considered to represent “real” holistic
grazing. In a later study, Teague et al. (2013) note
that only three studies in the review by Briske et
al. (2008) actually applied adaptive management,
while the other 38 studies were xed constellations
without the exibility or customization.
Briske et al. (2011) admit that most of the studies re-
viewed in 2008 had deliberately been standardized
(i.e., management exibility had been removed) in
order to study the eects of selected parameters.
Hence, one of the most important corner stones of
holistic grazing was excluded, namely the holistic
framework for decision-making with its conti-
nuous adjustment to achieve targets. Briske et al.
(2011) suggested that the omission of this compo-
nent probably partially explained the ‘gap’ between
the eects reported by practitioners and the results
from scientic studies.
Carter et al. (2014) also acknowledges this expla-
nation and argues that the claimed positive eects
of holistic grazing probably can be attributed to
the actual execution of the method, including its
adaptive management, rather than to its basic cha-
racteristics in terms of stocking densities or fre-
quency of movement. In line with this, Sherren et
al. (2012) suggest that the holistic framework for
decision-making, the systems perspective and plan-
ning methods practitioners are trained in and apply,
are key components to the success many practitio-
ners experience, rather than the grazing system in
itself. That could explain why studies that exclude
this dimension are unable to demonstrate any sig-
nicant dierences compared with conventional
methods. Briske et al. (2008) also points to a pos-
sible psychological eect, as the expectations on
holistic grazing have been very high, at least in the
US, where more or less fantastic stories about the
eects of the method ourished during a period.
Briske et al. (2011) and Teague et al. (2013) both
highlight the need for studies that take into account
that holistic grazing is an adaptive and exible sys-
tem that integrates biophysical and social com-
ponents. Such studies could provide more fair eva-
luations of the method and possibly better capture
the potential positive eects. Teague et al. (2013)
suggested in line with this, a possible alternative hy-
pothesis, namely (briey): ‘holistic grazing can be
superior to continuous grazing, when it is carried
out to achieve as good results as possible at the farm
level.’ Such a hypothesis is however problematic
since it is dicult to refute and hard to test.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
22
22
4. Can holistic grazing reverse climate change?
It has been claimed that soils managed with ho-
listic grazing can storage such large amounts
of carbon (C) that atmospheric carbon di-
oxide levels can drop to pre-industrial levels in a
few decades (Savory, 2008; Savory Institute, 2013a;
Savory, 2013a). This claim has encountered strong
criticism from scientists; see e.g. Briske et al. (2013;
2014) and Carter et al. (2014).
The controversial claim appears to be based on a
calculation in a report issued by the Savory Insti-
tute, ”Restoring the climate through capture and
storage of soil carbon through holistic planned gra-
zing” (Savory Institute, 2013a), in which it is assu-
med that 2.5 tonnes of C can be sequestrated per
ha and year, on 5 billion ha (corresponding to one
third of the world’s land), continuously for almost
40 years. A calculation shows that: 2.5 tonnes of C
/ ha / year × 5 billion ha × 40 years = 500 billion
tonnes of C. This amount corresponds fairly well
to the total emissions of carbon since the begin-
ning of the industrial revolution, which amount to
555 billion tonnes of C (see Appendix 1). How-
ever, the assumptions on which this calculation is
based are presented without support or references
and appear to be speculation4.
A report by Seth Itzkan5 (2014), published on the
website of the Savory Institute, has afterwards tried
to compensate for the apparent lack of scientic
rigor. Itzkan estimates the carbon sequestration
rate to 1-2.4 tonnes of C per ha and year, over 3.5
billion ha, during 25 years, which yields a total of
88-210 billion tonnes of sequestrated C. The up-
per sequestration rate is based on visual inspections
of before-and-after photographs by Itzkan himself.
It is unclear what the lower sequestration rate is
based on.
It should be emphasized that Itzkan’s report has
not undergone scientic peer-review and that vi-
sual inspections or ‘before-and-after’ photographs
are not a scientically acceptable methods to ac-
curately evaluate changes in soil carbon (see Chap-
ter 4.2). For these reasons, this report is not further
discussed here.
4.1 Land degradation
– a global problem
A large part of the world’s (potential) pastures are
located in dry climate areas. The main limiting fac-
tor to plant growth in drylands is water availabi-
lity (del Grosso et al., 2008). The drylands of the
world amount to 3.5 to 6.3 billion ha (26-47% of
the world’s land area), depending on land classi-
cation system (for more information see Lal, 2001
and Appendix 2).
In his TED-talk (at 2.30), Savory claimed that
about two-thirds of the world’s land area is deser-
tifying (Savory, 2013b), equivalent to about 9 bil-
lion ha. This estimate appears to be based on visual
inspections of satellite photos of the Earth, where
areas appear as either brown or green. It can be no-
ted that recent research analyzing satellite images
has shown that semi-arid land areas actually be-
came greener in the period 1981-2007 (Fensholt
et al. 2012). The savory.global homepage presents a
more modest estimate of global degradation (Table
4.1), which is in the upper range of other estimates.
According to the United Nations Convention to
4 It is stated in the report issued by the Savory Institute (Savory
Institute, 2013a) that this estimate is uncertain, but these uncer-
tainties seem to have been largely overlooked in ensuing com-
munications concerning the ability of holistic grazing to mitigate
climate change.
5 Seth Itzkan presented his own TED talk in 2012 on the topic ho-
listic grazing and carbon sequestration in soil, entitled ”Reversing
global warming with livestock?”. This speech can be seen as the
precursor of Savory’s TED talk, in 2013. Itzkan’s speech has not
gained the same amount of attention as Savory’s TED talk.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
23
23
Combat Desertication (UNCCD) desertication
is dened as land degradation in arid, semi-arid
and dry sub-humid areas (UNCCD, 2012). Lite-
rature estimates of land degradation vary from 0.6
to 3.6 billion ha, depending on estimation method
and the type of land and the degree of degradation
considered (see Table 4.1 and Appendix 3).
In other words, Savory’s claim at the TED-talk
concerning the amount of land aected by degra-
dation seems to be greatly exaggerated. It is clear,
however, that land degradation is a major problem
in many parts of the world, and that climate change
and increasing pressure on many types on land to
deliver products and services, adds to this problem.
Within holistic grazing, lack of grazing animals is
considered to cause land degradation (Weber &
Horst, 2011). According to the UNCCD, the cau-
ses of land degradation are complex and site-speci-
c, and generally a combination of anthropogenic
Estimate and brief explanation Reference
Two-thirds of the world’s land area is desertifying (corresponding
to about 9billion ha, assuming Savory refers to the world’s ice-
free land area).
Savory (2013b, at 2:30).
70% of the world’s grasslands have been degraded (grasslands
make up 1/3 of the world’s land area). This estimate corresponds
to roughly 3.1 billion ha degraded globally (calculated here ba-
sed on the world’s ice-free land area).
http://savory.global/ (acces-
sed June 1, 2016)
10-20% of the world’s drylands are degraded, corresponding
to 0.6 to 1.2 billion ha globally (6.1 billion ha are classified as
drylands).
Millennium Ecosystem As-
sessment (MA, 2005).
20-35% of the world’s permanent pastures are degraded, cor-
responding to 0.7 to 1.2 billion ha globally (3.5 billion ha are
classified as permanent pastures).
Food and Agriculture Orga-
nization of the United Na-
tions, FAO (Conant, 2010).
Land degradation caused by human activity affect 2 billion ha
worldwide. Land degradation on permanent pastures affect 0.68
billion ha (21% of the total pasture areas).
Oldeman (1992).
24% of the global land area has been degraded between 1981
and 2003, corresponding to 3.6 billion ha. An additional 12 mil-
lion ha becomes degraded annually.
UNCCD (2012).
Table 4.1 Dierent estimates of land degradation.
forces and climate, and rather a result of too much
than too little, grazing (UNCCD, 2012).
To prevent degradation it is important to prevent
soil erosion, preserve vegetation and its protective
functions, and adapt the grazing pressure to the
capacity of the land. The adaptive part of holistic
grazing could be positive in this regard if used to
prevent degradation. According to the UNCCD
(2012), it is more cost eective and practical to
prevent further degradation, than trying to restore
already degraded land.
4.2 Soil carbon sequestration
Soil carbon sequestration refers to the uptake of
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through
photosynthesis, storage in the soil in the form of
organic carbon and dead organic matter, and the
conversion of organic carbon to more stable forms
of humus that are less susceptible to degradation
(Lal, 2004a).
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
24
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
24
Terrestrial ecosystems have
historically lost large amounts of carbon
Soils hold large amounts of carbon. Temperate
grasslands and tropical savannas occupy 3.5 billion
ha and store more than 600 billion tonnes of C, of
which nearly 87% in the soil, see Appendix 2.
Land degradation in dry-
lands result in losses of
carbon from soils and ve-
getation (Lal, 2001; 2003).
Smith (2004a) estimated
that soils globally (not just
grasslands) historically
have lost between 40 and
90 billion tonnes of C, as
a result of cultivation and
other disturbances. Since
the beginning of the in-
dustrial revolution, ter-
restrial ecosystems (also
including vegetation)
have lost around 30 bil-
lion tonnes of C, accor-
ding to the latest report
by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change,
IPCC (see Appendix 1).
Lal (2001) estimated that
land degradation alone
may have caused losses of
19-29 billion tonnes of C
historically from drylands.
The fact that large quantities of carbon have histo-
rically been lost from terrestrial ecosystems imp-
lies that these ecosystems have a large potential to
re-sequester carbon. This potential is however not
large enough to reverse climate change. Even if all
carbon historically lost from soils globally (using
the highest estimate from above: 90 billion tonnes
of C) could be re-sequestered, it would not cover
more than 16% of total emissions of carbon since
the beginning of the industrial revolution (see Ap-
pendix 1), and not change the fact that a variety of
measures are needed to tackle climate change.
Grazing can have positive effects
on vegetation growth
It is well-established that continuous excessive
grazing with high stocking rates, or uncontrolled
grazing, increases the risks of desertication, since
grazing reduces the vegetation cover that protects
the soil from erosion (Conant & Paustian, 2002;
Conant, 2010; MA, 2005;
Lal, 2001; UNCCD, 2012:
Oldeman, 1992; Milchu-
nas & Lauenroth, 1993).
Oldeman (1992) repor-
ted that overgrazing is the
main cause of land degra-
dation globally, with 680
million ha aected (cor-
responding to 4.5% of the
world’s land area).
However, grazing per se
does not necessarily have
negative eects on natural
ecosystems. A review of
97 studies with compara-
tive data from 236 loca-
tions worldwide exami-
ned the eects of grazing
on vegetation growth (net
primary production abo-
ve ground) (Milchunas
& Lauenroth, 1993), and
found that although gra-
zing in most cases resul-
ted in reduced vegetation growth, there were cases
in which grazing resulted in increased vegetation
growth: those cases were characterized by a long
evolutionary history of grazing, moderate grazing
intensity during short time periods, and low net
primary production. It could be in such systems
that holistic grazing and other similar grazing regi-
mes could play an important role.
How much carbon can the soil store, and
what measures can increase the soil carbon
sequestration?
Scientically published studies report that soil car-
bon sequestration in grasslands rates vary between
0.03 and 1 tonne of C per ha and year, depending
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
25
25
Reference Data values Comments
Carbon sequestration rates (tonnes of C per ha and year)
Smith et al.
2008 0.03 / 0.22 As a result of improved grazing, fertilization and improved fire mana-
gement on grasslands; average values for dry / humid climate zone.
Smith et al.
2008 0.42 – 0.76 As a result of manure application on grasslands.
Ogle et al.
2004 0.1 – 0.9
As a result of improved management practices including fertiliza-
tion, irrigation and introduction of legumes on managed grasslands
in the US.
Conant &
Paustian,
2002
0.05 – 0.69 As a result of changing from intensive to moderate grazing in over-
grazed grasslands.
Conant et
al. 2001 0.54 As a result of improved management practices on grasslands, see Table
4.3.
Conant et al.
2001 0.35 As a result of improved grazing on grasslands, see Table 4.3.
Soussana et
al. 2007 1European grasslands with different management. Has been criticized for
being unreasonably high, see Chapter 4.2.
Global carbon sequestration rates (billion tonnes of C per year) – summed over area
Petri et al.
2010 0.5 Global grasslands, the top 30 cm of the soil.
Lal, 2004a 0.9 ± 0.3
All land (including cropland) as a results of improved management of
permanent cropland and measures aimed at preventing degradation of
pastures and grasslands.
Lal, 2001 0.9 – 1.9 Global drylands, as a result of measures aimed at preventing land degra-
dation and for restoring degraded land.
Global carbon sequestration potentials (billions tonnes of C) – summed over area and time
This report 26.5 See Chapter 4.3.
Lal, 2001 12 – 18 Global drylands, as a result of measures aimed at preventing land degra-
dation and for restoring degraded land, during a period of 25-50 years.
Lal, 2004a 30 – 60
All types of land (including cropland) as a results of improved manage-
ment of permanent cropland and measures aimed at preventing degrada-
tion of pastures and grasslands, during a period of 25-50 years.
Table 4.2 Selection of studies on carbon sequestration potentials in land, globally and/or regionally. For an extended
version of Table 4.2 with more information, see Appendix 6.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
26
26
on type of land, land use and treatment (Table 4.2).
Under certain conditions and for special treat-
ments, even higher rates have been measured, see
e.g. Aguilera et al. (2013).
It has been estimated that globally, 0.5-1.9 billion
tonnes of C could be sequestered in the soil, per
year (Table 4.2). The upper limit corresponds to
approximately 20% of current annual emissions
of carbon (see Appendix 1). Therefore, even if this
upper limit was achieved, the atmospheric carbon
dioxide levels would not decrease, but only in-
crease a bit more slowly. Smith (2004a) estimated
that soils could sequester at most about one-third
of the current yearly increase in atmospheric CO2-
carbon, for a limited period of time (20-50 years).
Globally, it has been estimated 12-60 billion tonnes
of C could be sequestered during a period of 25-
50 years (Table 4.2). This can be compared to the
555 ± 85 billion tonnes of C emitted since the be-
ginning of the industrial revolution (Appendix 1),
and the nearly 500 billion tonnes of C the Savory
Institute claims to be able to sequester and store.
This shows that the global soil carbon sequestra-
tion potential is not large enough to reverse cli-
mate change, and that the sequestration claims of
the Savory Institute are gravely exaggerated.
Most studies of the long-term soil carbon se-
questration potentials are based on computer mo-
dels (Jones, 2010), but there are also experimental
eld studies. Soussana et al. (2007) measured uxes
of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous ox-
ide and methane) in nine European grassland si-
tes with dierent management (rotational grazing,
continuous grazing and mowing) during a period
of two years. Based on these measurements, they
estimated the average soil carbon sequestration
rate to around 1 tonne of C per ha and year. It can
be noted that this sequestration rate equals the lo-
wer limit reported by Itzkan (2014) (see above). It
should further be noted that Soussana et al. (2007)
has been criticized for overestimating the soil car-
bon sequestration rate, since it is based on indirect,
ux measurements and not direct measurements of
soil C change (Smith, 2014)6. Among other things,
Smith (2014) mentioned that experimental data
from long-term studies of soil carbon stocks in
grasslands are not available to support such high
sequestration rates. For example, Schrumpf et al.
(2011) reviewed nine studies that had measured
soil organic carbon content in European grasslands
over 10-50 years, and found no clear trend: in-
creases, decreases as well as stable conditions were
reported. In another study, Bellamy et al. (2005)
reviewed experimental soil carbon data from grass-
lands in England and Wales with dierent types
of management, collected 1978-2003, and found
virtually no change in grassland SOC stocks, apart
from small decreases in upland grass and moorland
SOC content over time.
Further, Smith (2014) concluded that if 1 tonne
of C per ha and year were indeed sequestered, it
may not be a result of current management practi-
ces, but could reect land use changes many deca-
des earlier. It can take up to 100 years from a land
use change, until a new soil carbon equilibrium is
reached (see Appendix 5 for more information).
It is possible that many European grasslands are
situated on former croplands, and still act as car-
bon sinks because equilibriums have not yet been
reached. It should also be noted that Soussana et
al. (2007) studied well-managed and high-yielding
European grasslands, which means that these re-
sults cannot easily be transferred to drylands.
Improved management, e.g. grazing, can
increase soil carbon storage potential
It is well-established that improved management
practices can be benecial for the soil’s capacity to
store carbon, especially in land that has previously
been, or is, mismanaged and thus depleted of soil
carbon (IPCC, 2007; Jones, 2010).
Some management measures identied in scien tic
studies as having the potential to increase carbon
storages in grasslands and pastures are: improved
grazing management, improved re management
that reduce the frequency or extent of res, fer-
tilization including manure application, irri gation
6 It may be added that when the nitrous oxide from soils and me-
thane from grazing livestock were included in the analysis, uptake
and emissions were of the same order of magnitude, and the
production systems roughly carbon neutral.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
27
27
and introduction of legumes, earthworms and im-
proved grass species with better protective proper-
ties (for more information, see Appendix 6). The
IPCC (2007, p. 508) also acknowledges that im-
proved grazing management can increase carbon
sequestration (as well as reduce losses) in pastures.
It should be noted that “improved grazing mana-
gement” implicitly relate to a reference scenario
in which traditional, often abusive, management
practices dominate.
Grazing per se, however, does not necessarily result
in higher soil carbon content, compared to grazing
exclosure. A review by Milchunas & Lauenroth
(1993) of 97 studies with comparative data from
236 locations worldwide examined the eects of
grazing on soil organic matter content but found
no correlation (there were approximately equal
number of positive and negative results).
An extensive review concerning eects on soil car-
bon as a result of grassland management and con-
version into grassland was conducted by Conant et
al. (2001)7. This study reviewed data from 115 stu-
dies world-wide, compr ising over 300 data points
and found that carbon sequestration rates varied
between 0.11-3.04 tonnes of C per ha and year,
with an average value of 0.54 tonnes of C per ha
and year (Table 4.3). Increases in soil carbon con-
tent were mainly concentrated to the top 10 cm of
the soil, and generally decreased with depth (stu-
dies measured soil C changes to dierent depths).
Sequestration rates were highest during the rst 40
years after implementing a management change. It
is important to note that carbon cannot be seques-
tered in the soil with the same rate year after year,
as is sometimes assumed (for more information
concerning time scales associated with soil carbon
sequestration, see Appendix 5).
For ’improved grazing‘, Conant et al. (2010) found
an average carbon sequestration rate of 0.35 ton-
nes of C per ha and year, based on 45 data points
(Table 4.3). This is seven times lower than the 2.5
tonnes of C per ha and year reported by the Sa-
vory Institute (Savory Institute, 2013a). A majority
(65%) of these studies were from areas with a long
evolutionary history of grazing and relatively low
productivity (Conant et al. 2010) – factors that in
combination with moderate grazing have been
shown to favor plant production (Milchunas &
Lauenroth, 1993). It is therefore likely that the ob-
served increases in carbon sequestration in many of
Management Number of data
points
Carbon sequestration rate
(tonnes of C per ha and year)
Irrigation 2 0.11
Fertilization 42 0.30
Improved grazing 45 0.35
Conversion: native to pasture 42 0.35
Conversion: cultivation to pasture 23 1.01
Introduction of legumes 6 0.75
Earthworm introduction 2 2.35
Improved grass species 5 3.04
All types 167 0.54
Table 4.3 Carbon sequestration rates and number of data points by type of management change (source: Conant et al.
2001).
7 More information about the reviewed studies can be found in Ap-
pendix A of Conant et al. (2001): http://www.esapubs.org/archive/
appl/A011/005/appendix-A.htm (accessed June 1, 2016)
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
28
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
28
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
29
29
these cases were due to increased plant production
(Conant et al. 2001). In fact, study sites without a
long evolutionary history of grazing lost carbon a
result of grazing, by almost 2% per year (Conant et
al. 2001).
Some measures identied in the review by Conant
et al. (2001) resulted in carbon sequestration rates
in the same order of magnitude as reported by the
Savory Institute, e.g. 3 tonnes of C per ha and year
as a results of improved grass species (Table 4.3).
Such high sequestration rates should be conside-
red maximum values that can be achieved in fertile
soils with favorable climate conditions, and not av-
erage values that are representative for a variety of
soil and climate conditions.
Smith (2014) stressed that the amount of soil car-
bon that can potentially be lost by far exceed the
amount of carbon that can potentially be sequeste-
red (and that it is easier to deplete, than to sequester,
carbon). Therefore, although management measures
with the potential to increase carbon sequestration
rates exists, Smith (2014) argued that eorts should
primarily aim to prevent further land degradation
and preserve existing soil carbon stocks, rather than
try to sequester additional carbon.
Numerous measurements during long time are
needed in order to study soil carbon changes
Correlating changes in soil carbon content with
management practices, such as grazing, is chal-
lenging due to varying conditions in terms of
soil, climate and vegetation, as well as dierences
in the implementation of management practices,
concerning e.g., grazing intensities and herd sizes
(Jones, 2010; Follett et al., 2001). Also, changes in
soil carbon content are typically small compared to
background levels, which poses a challenge when
it comes to measuring (Smith, 2004b; Dungait et
al., 2012).
In order to produce reliable results, a large number
of soil samples taken during a long period of time
are usually required (Smith, 2004b). Schrumpf et
al. (2011) reported that it could take up to 15 years
to detect statistically signicant changes in soil car-
bon if 100 soil samples from the top 10 cm of soil
were regularly collected and analyzed. This means
it takes even longer to detect statistically signicant
changes if fewer soil samples are collected. Studies
based on a small number of soil samples and/or
measurements during short periods of time should
therefore be considered highly uncertain (inclu-
ding all forms of “visual inspections”). It should
also be noted that the knowledge underpinning
soil carbon models has changed a lot over the past
decade, and is still evolving (see, e.g., Dungait et al.
2012), which further indicate the involved uncer-
tainties.
4.3 How much carbon
can be stored in pastures?
A simple calculation, based on very optimistic as-
sumptions, is presented. This calculation estimates
the carbon storage potential in pastures and is used
to evaluate the claim that holistic grazing can rever-
se climate change. Assume that (the reasonableness
of these assumptions are discussed further below):
1. holistic grazing is introduced on 1 billion ha
worldwide, in line with the goal of the Savory
Institute;
2. plant growth measured as net primary produc-
tion (NPP) above and below ground is 3.8 ton-
nes of C per ha and year before holistic grazing
is introduced (see Appendix 4);
3. plant growth in the form of NPP is doubled as
a result of holistic grazing;
4. 10% of the NPP is sequestered in the soil year
1, and
5. the soil carbon sequestration rate declines line-
arly from 10% of the NPP year 1, to 2% dur ing
the rst 50 years, and from 2% of the NPP to
0% during the next 50 years.
Based on these (combined) very optimistic assump-
tions (see below), 0.76 tonnes of C is sequestered
per ha year 1 (= 3.8 tonnes of C / ha / year × 2 ×
10%). Assuming that holistic grazing is introduced
on 1 billion ha, this rates correspond to 0.76 billion
tonnes of sequestrated C. Note that these values
t relatively well with values reported in scientic
studies (Table 4.2). Despite optimistic assumptions,
0.76 billion tonnes of C correspond to less than
10% of current annual emissions, which exceed 10
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
30
30
billion tonnes of C, see Appendix 1. After year 1, the
carbon sequestration rate declines (while anthropo-
genic C emissions are increasing).
During 100 years, the total carbon storage potential
amounts to 26.5 billion tonnes of C (which also
ts relatively well with values reported in scientic
studies, see Table 4.2). This amount corresponds to
less than 5% of the total emissions of carbon since
the beginning of the industrial revolution (555 bil-
lion tonnes of C, see Appendix 1). Although eorts
to reverse climate change are not primar ily focused
on osetting historic emissions, but rather reducing
current emissions, this comparison clearly shows
that holistic grazing cannot reverse climate change,
since it cannot even oset 5% of historic emissions.
How reasonable are the assumptions in the above
calculation?
1. 1 billion ha managed holistically is the goal of
the Savory Institute. This corresponds to 1/15
of the world’s total land surface (see Appendix
1). Currently, 15 million ha are managed holis-
tically (Savory Institute, 2014b). To increase this
area by a factor 67 is of course a huge challenge.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (Conant, 2010) has estimated
that 5-10% of the global grazing lands could
be placed under carbon sequestration manage-
ment by 2020, if proper policies, incentives and
training programs are implemented. This cor-
responds to 175-350 million ha. Therefore, 1
billion ha managed with holistic grazing is an
extremely optimistic assumption.
2. An initial NPP of 3.8 tonnes of C per ha and
year corresponds to the higher estimate of del
Grosso et al. (2008), and refer to savannas, see
Appendix 4. Grasslands have signicantly lower
NPP (1.7 tonnes of C per ha and year). If holis-
tic grazing were to be introduced large scale, it
is likely that the average NPP would be lower
than assumed here. Therefore, this assumption
is considered optimistic.
3. A doubling of plant productivity: the world’s
grasslands and savannas are situated in areas
where the vegetation growth is limited by pre-
cipitation and temperature (del Grosso et al.
2008); factors a specic grazing method can-
not change. None of the studies included in the
research portfolio of the Savory Institute (see
Chapter 3.1) support a doubling of plant pro-
ductivity. Therefore, this assumption is conside-
red very optimistic.
4. 10% of the NPP sequestrated in the soil year 1
is considered a relatively optimistic estimate.
5. Soil carbon sequestration is a slow process, in
which the sequestration rate is highest imme-
diately after a management change, after which
it declines as the soil carbon stocks become sa-
turated and a new equilibrium is reached, see
Appendix 5. Jones (2010) and Smith (2014)
report that it can take up to 100 years from
a land use change until a new equilibrium is
reached. Lal (2001) suggested that, for practical
calculations, it is enough to account for the soil
carbon sequestration that takes place during
the rst 25-50 years after a land use change, af-
ter which sequestration rates generally are too
low to be important. Based on this, it is reaso-
nable, and relatively optimistic, to assume that
carbon is being added to the soil continuously
for 100 years. It is reasonable to assume that
the sequestration rate declines, as the carbon
stocks become saturated, see e.g., Smith (2014).
Although carbon sequestration in reality is a
non-linear process, a linear approximation was
considered a reasonable simplication for the
purpose of this calculation.
4.4 The Savory Institute’s view on
emissions of methane from cattle
The Savory Institute has published a report, “An
exploration of methane and properly managed
livestock through holistic management”, which
deals with emissions of methane from cattle (Savo-
ry Institute, 2013b). This report suggests that there
is probably no correlation between emissions of
methane from cattle, and the (rising) atmospheric
concentration of methane, based on similar claims
made in a report by the International Atomic En-
ergy Agency (IAEA, 2008), and an idea of ‘very
large’ ruminant populations on Earth in historic
times without the atmospheric methane concen-
tration being aected. These claims and ideas are
addressed here.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
31
PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
31
Lack of correlation between emissions of methane
from cattle, and the (rising) atmospheric concen-
tration of methane is completely at odds with the
available scientic knowledge. Of the total green-
house gas emissions from the global livestock sec-
tor, methane from enteric fermentation of rumi-
nants account for 39% - of which cattle account
for three-quarters (Gerber et al., 2013). Lassey
(2007) showed that the increasing concentration of
methane in the atmosphere can largely be attribu-
ted to the world’s increasing livestock population.
For more information, see Appendix 7.
The idea that ruminant populations have histori-
cally been ‘very large’ appears to be pure specula-
tion. Available estimate indicate that the global po-
pulation of wild ruminants has decreased during
the past 500 years, but if both domestic and wild
ruminants are considered (cattle, bualoes, horses
and wild ruminants), the population has increased
by more than a factor 6 during the past 500 years.
During the same period, the number of cattle alo-
ne increased by more than a factor of 20. For more
information, see Appendix 8.
Last but not least, it is important that emissions of
methane from cattle are accounted for when as-
sessing the total climate impacts of livestock pro-
duction systems. It is likely that the emissions of
methane outweigh any positive eects associated
with increased soil carbon storage as a result of im-
proved grazing management.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
32
32
5. Conclusions
n There are relatively few (11) peer-reviewed stu-
dies on the eects of holistic grazing that are
‘approved’ by the Savory Institute, i.e., included
in Savory Institute Research Portfolio. These
case studies show positive eects of holistic
grazing in terms of grassland and livestock pro-
ductivity and soil conditions over conventional
or continuous grazing, but are rather limited in
time, number of study sites and analyzed data.
Only six of the studies use measurements while
ve are based on interviews or surveys. Further,
the results are partially inconclusive, and the re-
ported eects are in most cases rather small.
n Review studies that have compared dierent
grazing systems are few and dicult to perform
due to large variability in systems and local con-
ditions. To date, no review study has been able
to demonstrate that holistic grazing is superior
to conventional or continuous grazing. One
possible reason is that the eects of the holistic
framework for decision-making have not been
appropriately accounted for in these studies.
The claimed benets of the method thus appear
to be exaggerated and/or lack broad scientic
support.
n Some claims concerning holistic grazing are di-
rectly at odds with scientic knowledge, e.g. the
causes of land degradation and the relationship
between cattle and atmospheric methane con-
centrations.
n It is well-established that continuous excessive
grazing with high stocking rates, or uncontrol-
led grazing, increases the risks of desertication.
However, although grazing in most cases result
in reduced vegetation growth, under certain
conditions (a long evolutionary history of gra-
zing, moderate grazing pressure during short
time periods, and low net primary produc-
tion) grazing can result in increased vegetation
growth.
n Improved grazing management can improve
conditions on many degraded lands. Based on
this review, holistic grazing could be an example
of good grazing management, but nothing sug-
gests that it is better than other well-managed
grazing methods.
n Improved grazing management on grasslands
can store on average approximately 0.35 ton-
nes of C per ha and year – a rate seven times
lower than the rate used by the Savory Institute
to support the claim that holistic grazing can re-
verse climate change.
n The total carbon storage potential in pastures
does not exceed 0.8 tonnes of C per ha and
year, or 27 billion tonnes of C globally, accor-
ding to an estimate in this report based on very
optimistic assumptions. 27 billion tonnes of C
corresponds to less than 5% of the emissions of
carbon since the beginning of the industrial re-
volution. Holistic grazing can thus not reverse
climate change.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
33
33
References
Alfaro-Arguello, R.; Diemont, S. A.; Ferguson, B. G.;
Martin, J. F.; Nahed-Toral, J.; David Álvarez-Solís J.;
Ruíz, R. P. (2010) Steps toward sustainable ranching:
An emergy evaluation of conventional and holistic
management in Chiapas, Mexico. Agricultural systems
103 (9), 639-646.
Bellamy, P. H.; Loveland, P. J.; Bradley, R. I.; Lark R. M.;
Kirk, G. J. (2005) Carbon losses from all soils across
England and Wales 1978–2003. Nature 437 (7056),
245-248.
Briske, D. D.; Ash, A. J.; Derner, J. D.; Huntsinger, L.
(2014) Commentary: A critical assessment of the po-
licy endorsement for holistic management. Agricultural
Systems, 125, 50-53.
Briske, D. D.; Bestelmeyer, B. T.; Brown, J. R.; Fuhlendorf,
S. D.; Wayne Polley, H. (2013) The Savory method
can not green deserts of reverse climate change.
Rangelands 35 (5), 72-74; http://dx.doi.org/10.2111/
RANGELANDS-D-13-00044.1
Briske, D.; Derner, J.; Brown, J.; Fuhlendorf, S.; Teague,
R.; Gillen, B.; Ash, A.; Havstad, K.; Willms, W. (2008)
Rotational Grazing on Rangelands: An Evaluation of
the Experimental Evidence. Rangeland Ecology and
Management 61, 3-17.
Briske, D. D.; Sayre, N. F.; Huntsinger, L.; Fernandez-
Gimenez, M.; Budd, B.; Derner, J. D. (2011) Origin,
Persistence, and Resolution of the Rotational Grazing
Debate: Integrating Human Dimensions Into Rang-
eland Research. Rangeland Ecology & Management
64 (4): 325-334.
Butterfield, J.; Bingham, S.; Savory, A. (2006) Holistic
Management Handbook: Healthy Land, Healthy Profits
2nd Edition. Island Press, Washington DC, US.
Carter, J.; Jones, A.; O’Brien, M.; Ratner, J.; Wuerthner, G.
(2014) Holistic Management: Misinformation on the
Science of Grazed Ecosystems. International Journal
of Biodiversity, 1-10.
Chaplot, V.; Dlamini, P.; Chivenge, P. (2016) Potential of
grassland rehabilitation through high density-short
duration grazing to sequester atmospheric carbon.
Geoderma 271: 10-17.
Conant, R. T. (2010) Challenges and Opportunities for
Carbon Sequestration in Grassland Systems: A
Technical Report on Grassland Management and
Climate Change Mitigation. Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO): Rome.
Conant, R. T.; Paustian, K. (2002) Potential soil carbon
sequestration in overgrazed grassland ecosystems.
Global Biogeochemical Cycles 16 (4): 90-1 – 90-9.
Conant, R. T.; Paustian, K.; Elliott, E. T. (2001) Grassland
management and conversion into grassland: Effects on
soil carbon. Ecological Applications 11 (2): 343-355.
Crutzen, P. J.; Aselmann, I.; Seiler, W. (1986) Methane
production by domestic animals, wild ruminants, other
herbivorous fauna, and humans. Tellus, 38B (3-4),
271-284.
del Grosso, S.; Parton, W.; Stohlgren, T.; Zheng, D.;
Bachelet, D.; Prince, S.; Hibbard, K.; Olson, R. (2008)
Global potential net primary production predicted
from vegetation class, precipitation, and temperature.
Ecology 89 (8), 2117-2126.
Dungait J. A.; Hopkins, D. W.; Gregory, A. S.; Whitmore, A.
P. (2012) Soil organic matter turnover is governed by
accessibility not recalcitrance. Global Change Biology
18 (6), 1781-1796.
Earl, J.; Jones, C. (1996) The need for a new approach to
grazing management-is cell grazing the answer? The
Rangeland Journal 18 (2): 327-350.
FAOSTAT. The statistical database of FAO. Statistics Di-
vision of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations: Rome. http://faostat.fao.org.
Fensholt, R.; Langanke, T.; Rasmussen, K.; Reenberg, A.;
Prince, S. D.; Tucker, C.; et al. (2012) Greenness in
semi-arid areas across the globe 1981–2007—An
Earth Observing Satellite based analysis of trends
and drivers. Remote Sensing of Environment, 121,
144-158.
Ferguson, B. G.; Diemont, S. A.; Alfaro-Arguello, R.; Mar-
tin, J. F.; Nahed-Toral, J.; Álvarez-Solís D.; Pinto-Ruíz,
R. (2013) Sustainability of holistic and conventional
cattle ranching in the seasonally dry tropics of Chia-
pas, Mexico. Agricultural Systems 120: 38-48.
Follett, R. F.; Kimble, J. M.; Lal, R. (Eds) (2001) The Poten-
tial of U.S. Grazing Lands to Sequester Carbon and
Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect; CRC Press LLC.
Gerber, P. J., Steinfeld, H.; Henderson, B.; Mottet, A.;
Opio, C.; Dijkman, J.; Falcucci, A.; Tempio, G. (2013)
Tackling climate change through livestock – A global
assessment of emissions and mitigation opportuni-
ties. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), Rome.
Gill, C. (2009) Doing What Works. Range Magazine:
48-50.
Hackmann, T., Spain, J. (2010) Invited review: ruminant
ecology and evolution: perspectives useful to ruminant
livestock research and production. Journal of dairy
science, 93(4), 1320-1334.
Holechek, J. L.; Gomes, H.; Molinar, F.; Galt, D.; Valdez,
R. (2000) Short duration grazing, the facts in 1999.
Rangelands 22:18-22.
HYDE database (2014) Livestock numbers. http://thema-
sites.pbl.nl/tridion/en/themasites/hyde/landusedata/
livestock/index-2.html
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
34
34
Hristov, A. N. (2012) Historic, pre-European settlement,
and present-day contribution of wild ruminants to en-
teric methane emissions in the United States. Journal
of Animal Science, 90:1371-1375.
IAEA (2008) Belching Ruminants, a minor player in at-
mospheric methane. International Atomic Energy Agen-
cy. http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/aph/stories/2008-
atmospheric-methane.html (May 2, 2014)
IPCC (2000) Land use, land use change and forestry.
Watson, R. T.; Noble, I. R.; Bolin, B.; Ravindranath,
R. H.; Verardo, D. J.; Dokken, D. J. (Eds.) Cambridge
University Press, UK. http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/
sres/land_use/index.php?idp=19
IPCC (2001) Climate Change 2001: The Scientific
Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change Houghton, J. T.; Ding, Y.; Griggs, D.
J.; Noguer, M., van der Linden, P. J.; Dai, X.; Maskell,
K.; Johnson, C. A. (Eds.) Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate
Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the
Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change; Metz, B.; Davidson, O. R.;
Bosch, P. R.; Dave, R.; Meyer, L. A. (Eds) Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and
New York, NY, USA.
IPCC (2013) Cli¬mate Change 2013: The Physical
Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to
the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change; Stocker, T. F.; Qin, D.;
Plattner, G.-K.; Tignor, M.; Allen, S. K.; Boschung, J.;
Nauels, A.; Xia, Y.; Bex, V.; Midgley, P. M. (Eds.) Cam-
bridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom
and New York, NY, USA.
Itzkan, S. (2011) Regarding Holechek and Briske, and
Rebuttals by Teague, Gill & Savory. http://www.planet-
tech.com/blog/regarding-holechek-savory
Itzkan, S. (2014) Upside (Drawdown) The Potential of
Restorative Grazing to Mitigate Global Warming by
Increasing Carbon Capture on Grasslands. http://
www.savoryinstitute.com/current-news/current-news/
upside-(drawdown)-the-potential-of-restorative-
grazing-to-mitigate-global-warming-by-increasing-
carbon-capture-on-grasslands-planettech/ (Sept 17,
2014)
Johnson, K. A.; Johnson, D. E. (1995) Methane emissions
from cattle. Journal of animal science, 73, 2483-2492.
Jones, M. B. (2010) Potential for carbon sequestration
in temperate grassland soils. In Grassland carbon
sequestration: management, policy and economics.
Proceedings of the Workshop on the role of grass-
land carbon sequestration in the mitigation of climate
change. Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO), Rome.
Joyce, S. (2000) Change the management and what
happens-a producer’s perspective. Tropical Grass-
lands 34 (3/4): 223-229.
Lal, R. (2001) Potential of desertification control to
sequester carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.
Climatic Change 51 (1): 35-72.
Lal, R. (2003) Soil erosion and the global carbon budget.
Environment International 29 (4): 437-450.
Lal, R. (2004a) Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate
climate change. Geoderma 123 (1–2): 1-22.
Lal, R. (2004b) Soil carbon sequestration impacts on
global climate change and food security. Science 304
(5677): 1623-1627.
Lassey, K. R. (2007) Livestock methane emission: From
the individual grazing animal through national inven-
tories to the global methane cycle. Agricultural and
Forest Meteorology 142, 120–132
Manley, J. T.; Schuman, G. E.; Reeder, J. D.; Hart, R. H.
(1995) Rangeland Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Respon-
ses to Grazing. Journal of Soil and Water Conserva-
tion 50 (3), 294-298.
Manley, W. A.; Hart, R. H.; Samuel, M. J.; Smith, M. A.;
Waggoner, Jr., J. W.; Manley, J. T. (1997) Vegetation,
cattle and economic responses to grazing strategies
and pressures. Journal of Range Management 50,
638-646.
McCosker, T. (2000) Cell Grazing—the rst 10 years in
Australia. Tropical Grasslands 34, 207-218.
McLachlan, S. M.; Yestrau, M. (2009) From the ground up:
holistic management and grassroots rural adaptation
to bovine spongiform encephalopathy across western
Canada. Mitigation and adaptation strategies for
global change 14 (4), 299-316.
Milchunas, D. G.; Lauenroth, W. K. (1993) Quantitative
effects of grazing on vegetation and soils over a global
range of environments. Ecological monographs 63 (4):
327-366.
MA (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Desertifi-
cation Synthesis. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,
World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.
Moss, A. R.; Jouany, J-P.; Newbold, J. (2000) Methane
production by ruminants: its contribution to global war-
ming. Annales de Zootechnie 49, 231–253
Ogle, S. M.; Conant, R. T; Paustian, K. (2004) Deriving
grassland management factors for a carbon accoun-
ting method developed by the intergovernmental panel
on climate change. Environmental Management 33
(4), 474–484.
Oldeman, L. R. (1992) Global extent of soil degradation.
ISRIC Bi-Annual Report 1991-1992. ISRIC: Wage-
ningen, The Netherland, 19-36.
O’Reagain, P. J.; Turner, J. R. (1992) An evaluation of the
empirical basis for grazing management recommen-
dations for rangeland in southern Africa. Journal of the
Grassland Society of Southern Africa 9 (1), 1-52.
Petri, M.; Batello, C.; Villani, R.; Nachtergaele, F. (2010)
Carbon status and carbon sequestration potential in
the world’s grasslands. In Grassland carbon se-
questration: management, policy and economics. Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(FAO): Rome, 19-31.
Powlson, D., Whitmore, A., & Goulding, K. (2011). Soil
carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change: a
critical reexamination to identify the true and the false.
European Journal of Soil Science, 62 (1), 42-55.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
35
35
Richards, C.; Lawrence, G. (2009) Adaptation and change
in Queensland’s rangelands: Cell grazing as an emer-
ging ideology of pastoral-ecology. Land Use Policy 26
(3), 630-639.
Sanjari, G.; Ghadiri, H.; Ciesiolka, C. A. A.; Yu, B. (2008)
Comparing the effects of continuous and time-control-
led grazing systems on soil characteristics in Southe-
ast Queensland. Australian Journal of Soil Research
46 (4), 348-358.
Savory Institute (2013a) Restoring the climate through
capture and storage of soil carbon through holistic
planned grazing – White paper. http://www.savoryin-
stitute.com/media/40739/
Savory_Institute_Carbon_RestoringClimateWhitePaper_
April2013.pdf (Oct 3, 2014).
Savory Institute (2013b) An Exploration of Methane and
Properly managed livestock through Holistic Mana-
gement – White paper. http://www.savoryinstitute.
com/media/40742/ Savory_Institute_Methane_Pa-
per_April2013.pdf (Oct 3, 2014)
Savory Institute (2013c) Savory Institute: Holistic Manage-
ment Research Portfolio. http://www.savoryinstitute.
com/ (May 2, 2014)
Savory Institute (2014a) Holistic Management: Portfolio of
Scientific Findings. http://www.savoryinstitute.com/
media/53466/SI-HM-Scientific-Portfolio.pdf (Oct 3,
2014)
Savory Institute (2014b) Official website: www.savoryin-
stitue.com
Savory, A. (1991) Holistic resource management: a con-
ceptual framework for ecologically sound economic
modelling. Ecological Economics 3: 181-191.
Savory, A. (1999) Holistic Management: A New Fram-
ework for Decision Making 2nd Edition. Island Press,
Washington DC, US.
Savory, A. (2008) A Global Strategy for Addressing
Climate Change. http://soilcarboncoalition.org/files/
globalstrategy.pdf (June 1, 2016)
Savory, A. (2011) An Overview of Holistic Management
and Holistic Decision Making. http://www.savoryinsti-
tute.com/media/40793/HM_and_HDM_Overview.pdf
(Jan 12, 2015)
Savory, A. (2013a) Response to request for information on
the “science” and “methodology” underpinning Holistic
Management and holistic planned grazing. http://www.
savoryinstitute.com/media/40629/science-methodo-
logy-holistic-mgt_posted_2013.pdf (Jan 12, 2015)
Savory, A. (2013b) How to fight desertification and reverse
climate change. http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_sa-
vory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_re-
verse_climate_change (Sept 17, 2014)
Schrumpf, M.; Schulze, E. D.; Kaiser, K.; Schumacher, J.
(2011) How accurately can soil organic carbon stocks
and stock changes be quantified by soil inventories?
Biogeosciences 8 (5): 1193-1212.
Sherren, K.; Fischer, J.; Fazey, I. (2012) Managing the
grazing landscape: Insights for agricultural adapta-
tion from a mid-drought photo-elicitation study in the
Australian sheep-wheat belt. Agricultural Systems 106
(1): 72-83.
Skovlin, J. (1987) Southern Africa’s experience with
intensive short duration grazing. Rangelands 9 (4),
162-167.
Smith, P. (2004a) Soils as carbon sinks: the global context.
Soil use and management 20 (2), 212-218.
Smith, P. (2004b) How long before a change in soil orga-
nic carbon can be detected? Global Change Biology
10 (11), 1878-1883.
Smith, P. (2014) Do grasslands act as a perpetual sink for
carbon? Global Change Biology 20 (9), 2708-2711.
Smith, P.; Martino, D.; Cai, Z.; Gwary, D.; Janzen, H.;
Kumar, P.; McCarl, B.; Ogle, S.; O’Mara, F.; Rice, C.
et al. (2008) Greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B:
Biological Sciences 363 (1492), 789-813.
Soussana, J.; Allard, V.; Pilegaard, K.; Ambus, P.; Amman,
C.; Campbell, C.; Ceschia, E.; Clifton-Brown, J.;
Czóbel, S.; Domingues, R. (2007) Full accounting of
the greenhouse gas (CO2, N20, CH4) budget of nine
European grassland sites. Agriculture, Ecosystems &
Environment 121 (1), 121-134.
Sparke, R. (2000). Cell Grazing-a producer’s perspective.
Tropical Grasslands 34 (3/4): 219-222.
Stinner, D. H.; Stinner, B. R.; Martsolf, E. (1997) Biodiver-
sity as an organizing principle in agroecosystem mana-
gement: case studies of holistic resource management
practitioners in the USA. Agriculture, ecosystems &
environment 62 (2), 199-213.
Subak, S. (1994) Methane from the House-of-Tudor and
the Ming-Dynasty - Anthropogenic Emissions in the
16th-Century. Chemosphere 29 (5), 843-854.
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 & Environment
141 (3-4), 310-322.
Teague, W. R.; Provenza, F.; Kreuter, U.; Steffens, T.; Bar-
nes, M. (2013) Multi-paddock grazing on rangelands:
Why the perceptual dichotomy between research
results and rancher experience? Journal of environme-
ntal management 128, 699-717.
Teague, R.; Provenza, F.; Norton, B.; Steffens, T.; Barnes,
M.; Kothmann, M.; Roath, R. (2008) Benefits of
Multi-Paddock Grazing Management on Rangelands:
Limitations of Experimental Grazing Research and
Knowledge Gaps. Chapter 1 in Grasslands: Ecology,
Management and Restoration. H. G. Schroder. New
York, Nova Science Publishers.
UNCCD (2012) Desertification Synthesis. United Nations
Convention to Combat Desertification. http://www.
unccd.int/Lists/SiteDocumentLibrary/Publications/
Desertification-EN.pdf (Oct 6, 2014)
Weber, K. T.; Gokhale, B. S. (2011) Effect of grazing on
soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast
Idaho. Journal of Arid Environments 75 (5), 464-470.
Weber, K. T.; Horst, S. (2011) Desertification and livestock
grazing: The roles of sedentarization, mobility and rest.
Pastoralism 1 (1), 1-11.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
36
36
Appendices
Appendix 1. Anthropogenic carbon emissions
Appendix 2. Land areas, and carbon stocks in soil and vegetation
Appendix 3. Desertication and land degradation
Appendix 4. Biomass production potential on grazing lands
Appendix 5. Time scales associated with soil carbon sequestration
Appendix 6. Extended version of Table 4.2
Appendix 7. Anthropogenic emissions of methane
Appendix 8. Ruminant populations over time
Appendix 9. Links to further reading
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
37
37
Appendix 1. Anthropogenic carbon emissions
Human activities since the beginning of the indu-
strial revolution (~ 1750) have emitted 555 ± 85
billion tonnes of C, of which 68% from fossil fuel
burning and cement production, and 32% from
land use change, mainly deforestation, but also,
e.g., conversion of grasslands to croplands (IPCC,
2013).
Emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement
production averaged 7.8 billion tonnes of C per
year between 2000 and 2009, with an annual in-
crease of 3.2% (IPCC, 2013). In 2011, emissions
from fossil fuel burning and cement production
reached 9.5 billion tonnes of C per year (IPCC,
2013). Net emissions from land use change have
been estimated to 1.1 billion tonnes of C per year
between 2000 and 2009 (IPCC, 2013). Combined,
emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement produc-
tion and land use change thus currently exceed 10
billion tonnes of C annually.
Of the 555 billion tonnes of C emitted since 1750,
43% (240 ± 10 billion tonnes of C) has accumula-
ted in the atmosphere (and thus contributed to the
enhanced greenhouse eect), 28% (155 ± 30 bil-
lion tonnes of C) has been absorbed by the ocean,
and 29% (160 ± 90 billion tonnes of C) has been
absorbed by terrestrial ecosystems (IPCC, 2013).
Terrestrial ecosystems function both as a source
and sink of carbon. Based on the latest report by
the IPCC, terrestrial ecosystems have probably
been a net source since the beginning of the in-
dustrial revolution when balancing losses from soil
and vegetation associated with land use change and
carbon sequestration in mainly forests. This net
source has been estimated to 30 billion tonnes of
C, but the uncertainties are large; ± 45 billion ton-
nes of C, which means terrestrial ecosystems may
instead have been a net sink (IPCC, 2013).
Lal (2004b) reports that land use changes during
pre-industrial times (7,800 years) have caused los-
ses of 320 billion tonnes of C from terrestrial eco-
systems, and an additional 136 ± 5 billion tonnes of
C since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
38
38
Appendix 2. Land areas, and carbon stocks in soil and vegetation
Biome Area (billion ha)
Global carbon stock (billion
tonnes of C) Soil carbon stocks
(tonnes of C per
ha) calculated
Vegetation Soil (depth of
1 m)
Tropical forests 1.76 212 216 123
Temperate forests 1.04 59 100 96
Boreal forests 1.37 88 471 344
Tropical savannas 2.25 66 264 117
Temperate grasslands 1.25 9 295 236
Deserts and semideserts 4.55 8 191 42
Tundra 0.95 6 121 127
Wetlands 0.35 15 225 643
Croplands 1.6 3 128 80
Total 15.12 466 2011 133
Table A1. Extensions and carbon stocks in vegetation and soil down to a depth of 1 meter, for dierent biomes (vegeta-
tion zones).
Drylands
Drylands are areas where water availability limits
plant growth (del Grosso et al., 2008), and charac-
terized by low and irregular rainfall; large variation
between day and night temperatures and soils with
low organic matter content (UNCCD, 2012). Glo-
bally, drylands support 50% of the world’s livestock
and are home to more than 2 billion people (UN-
CCD, 2012).
Drylands cover 3.5 to 6.3 billion ha (26-47% of
the world’s land area), depending on classication
system (for an overview, refer to Lal, 2001). For
example, the United Nations Environment Pro-
gramme uses a climate-based classication system,
according to which 6.1 billion ha (41% of the glo-
bal ice-free land area) are classied as dryland (MA,
2005).
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
39
39
Appendix 3. Desertification and land degradation
Land degradation in drylands result in losses of
carbon from soils and vegetation (Lal, 2001; 2003).
According to the UNCCD8 (2012), desertication
is dened as ‘land degradation in arid, semi-arid
and sub-humid areas’, and may be caused by vari-
ous factors, such as climatic variations and human
activities. Desertication is not the same as loss of
land to deserts through movement of sand dunes,
however, desert-like conditions are often created as
a results of land degradation in drylands (UNCCD,
2012). Land degradation is dened as a reduction
or loss of biological or economic productivity in
dry areas (MA, 2005).
Estimates of the amount of land aected by land
degradation vary depending on estimation method
and the type of land and the degree of degrada-
tion considered. The Millennium Ecosystem As-
sessment (MA, 2005) estimated that 10-20% of the
world’s drylands are degraded, corresponding to
0.6 to 1.2 billion ha globally.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (Conant, 2010) estimated that 20-
35% the world’s permanent pastures are degraded,
corresponding to 0.7 to 1.2 billion ha globally (ac-
cording to the FAO, 3.5 billion ha are classied as
permanent pastures).
UNCCD (2012) estimated that 24% of the glo-
bal land area has been degraded between 1981 and
2003, corresponding to 3.6 billion ha, and that an
additional 12 million ha become degraded annu-
ally.
Oldeman (1992) estimated that land degradation
caused by human activity amounts to 2 billion ha
worldwide, and that land degradation on perma-
nent pastures amounts to 0.68 billion ha (21% of
the total pasture areas).
8 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
40
40
Appendix 4. Biomass production potential on grazing lands
Net primary production (NPP) is the dierence
between CO2 xed by photosynthesis and CO2
lost to autotrophic respiration (del Grosso et al.,
2008). The NPP can be viewed as an indicator of
biomass production. The majority of the world’s
potential grazing lands are situated in areas where
precipitation is the main limiting factor to vegeta-
tion growth, followed by temperature (del Grosso
et al., 2008). Table A2 shows the NPP above and
below ground in grasslands and savannas (i.e. also
in the roots).
Biome
Net primary production above
and below ground (tonnes of C
per ha and year)
Grasslands 1.7
Savanna 3.8
Table A2. Net primary production above and below
ground in grasslands and savannas (own calculations ba-
sed on data in Table 2 in del Grosso et al. 2008).
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
41
41
Appendix 5. Time scales associated with soil carbon sequestration
The capacity of soil to store carbon is nite and
determined by a range of factors such as soil type
(e.g. the content of organic matter and clay), cli-
mate and type of land use. A change in land use
can result in a higher or lower carbon storage po-
tential (or similar). Soil carbon sequestration is a
slow non-linear process, in which the sequestration
rate is highest immediately after a change in mana-
gement, after which it declines as the soil carbon
stocks become saturated and a new equilibrium is
reached (Jones, 2010; Smith, 2014, Powlson et al.,
2011).
Jones (2010) reports that it usually takes between
20 and 100 years before a new equilibrium is
reached, after a management change is introdu-
ced. Smith (2014) also noted that it can take up
to 100 years before an equilibrium is reached. Lal
(2001) suggested that, for practical calculations, it
is enough to account for the soil carbon sequestra-
tion that takes place during the rst 25-50 years
after a land use change, after which sequestration
rates are generally too low to be important.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
42
42
Appendix 6. Extended version of Table 4.2
Reference Data
values Comments
Carbon sequestration rates (tonnes of C per ha and year)
Smith et al. 2008 0.03 /
0.22
As a result of improved grazing, fertilization and improved fire management on
grasslands; average values for dry / humid climate zone.
Smith et al. 2008 0.42 –
0.76
As a result of manure application on grasslands. The range is associated with
varying regional conditions. In general, sequestration rates are higher in humid
regions than in dry.
Ogle et al. 2004 0.1 – 0.9
As a result of introduction of one or several improved management practices on
managed grasslands in the US, including, among others, fertilization, irrigation
and introduction of legumes. Sequestration rates are estimated based on results
from 49 individual studies on the connection between management and soil
carbon and a sequestration period of 20 years.
Conant & Paustian,
2002
0.05 –
0.69
As a result of changing from intensive to moderate grazing in overgrazed grass-
land sites. The range indicate potentials in different regions.
Conant et al. 2001 0.54 As a result of improved management practices on grasslands. Average value
based on 167 data points (see Table 4.3).
Conant et al. 2001 0.35 As a result of improved grazing on grasslands. Average value based on 45 data
points (see Table 4.3).
Soussana et al. 2007 1
European grassland sites with different management (rotational grazing, conti-
nuous grazing and mowing). Based on flux measurements during two full years
of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. Has been criticized for being
unreasonably high, see Chapter 4.2.
Global carbon sequestration rates (billion tonnes of C per year) – summed over area
Petri et al. 2010 0.5
Grasslands of the world (31% of the global land area), the top 30 cm of the soil.
Calculated based on GIS data on land cover and land use, degree of land de-
gradation and soil and climate conditions. Highest potential in warm, humid and
boreal regions, and lowest potential in desert regions.
Lal, 2004a 0.9 ± 0.3
All types of land (including cropland) as a result of improved management of
permanent cropland and measures aimed at preventing degradation in pastures
and grasslands, based on a literature review. Highest potential in degraded lands,
followed by croplands, pastures and forested land / perennial crops.
Lal, 2001 0.9 – 1.9
Drylands of the world, during 25-50 years, as a result of measures aimed at pre-
venting land degradation and for restoring degraded land, such as introduction
of plant species with better protective properties, more effective water manage-
ment, irrigation, fertilization, and controlled, non-excessive grazing. Based on the
assumption that two-thirds of what has historically been lost can be retrieved.
Global carbon sequestration potentials (billions tonnes of C) – summed over area and time
Estimate in this report 26.5 See Chapter 4.3.
Lal, 2001 12 – 18
Drylands of the world, as a result of measures aimed at preventing land degra-
dation and measures for restoring degraded land, such as introduction of plant
species with better protective properties, more effective water management,
irrigation, fertilization, and controlled, non-excessive grazing. Could be achieved
during a period of 25-50 years. Based on the assumption that two-thirds of what
has historically been lost can be retrieved.
Lal, 2004a 30 – 60
All types of land (including cropland) as a results of improved management of
permanent cropland and measures aimed at preventing degradation of pastures
and grasslands, based on a literature review. Could be achieved during a period
of 25-50 years. Highest potential in degraded lands, followed by croplands,
pastures and forested land / perennial crops.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
43
43
Appendix 7. Anthropogenic emissions of methane
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution,
the concentration of methane in the atmosphere
has increased from 722 to 1803 ppb (IPCC, 2013).
In the 1980s, the growth rate slowed down, and
almost ceased by the end of the 1990s. The fact that
the atmospheric methane concentration almost
stabilized, while global livestock populations in-
creased (see Appendix 8), has been misinterpreted
as lack of correlation between these two variables:
this idea was proposed in a report by the Inter-
national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in 2008.
The explanation was that the emissions of metha-
ne, which remained relatively stable at around 550
million tonnes per year for nearly three decades,
were basically oset by decay (IPCC, 2013). Hen-
ce, the atmospheric concentration of methane was
stabilizing. Since 2007, the atmospheric concentra-
tion of methane has however continued to increase
again (IPCC, 2013).
Natural sources, mainly various types of wetlands,
accounted for 35-50% of total methane emissions
during 2000-2009. The remaining portion (50-
65%) came from anthropogenic sources, of which
enteric fermentation of ruminants accounted for
about a quarter (IPCC, 2013). Enteric fermenta-
tion is a process in which microorganisms in the
rumen of ruminant animals break down cellulose
and produce methane (Lassey, 2007).
Methane emissions from cattle vary with type and
amount of feed: grass result in higher emissions
than protein-rich feed-stu, such as grain, because
grass contains more cellulose (Crutzen et al., 1986).
The FAO has estimated that the global livestock
sector accounts for 14.5% of anthropogenic green-
house gas emission (Gerber et al., 2013). Of the
total greenhouse gas emissions from the global li-
vestock sector, methane from enteric fermentation
of ruminants account for 39% - of which cattle ac-
count for three-quarters (Gerber et al., 2013). That
methane from enteric fermentation aects the
climate has been known for a long time (Johnson
& Johnson, 1995; Moss et al., 2000). Lassey (2007)
showed that the increasing concentration of me-
thane in the atmosphere can largely be attributed
to the world’s increasing livestock population. Me-
thane emissions from enteric fermentation of cattle
are at least 15 times higher than methane emis-
sions from the global population of wild ruminants
(own estimate based on IPCC, 2013, pp. 507 and
Crutzen et al. 1986).
As a greenhouse gas, methane is 34 times more
powerful than carbon dioxide, measured over 100
years, including climate–carbon feedbacks (IPCC,
2013; Table 8.7).
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
44
44
Appendix 8. Ruminant populations over time
The global population of domestic ruminant li-
vestock currently exceeds 3.8 billion animals, of
which 1.5 billion cattle, and 2.3 billion sheep, go-
ats, horses and bualoes (FAOSTAT). Sheep, goats,
horses and bualoes causes lower per-animal, as
well as total, methane emissions than cattle (Crut-
zen et al., 1986; Gerber et al., 2013). By compa-
rison, in 1900, there were around 1.4 billion li-
vestock animals (cattle, sheep, goats, horses and
bualoes, according to the HYDE database). The
global population of cattle, bualoes and horses
in the Middle Ages (around year 1500) has been
estimated to 130 million animals, based on Subak
(1994), no data are available for sheep and goats.
Concerning wild ruminants, the global population
in present times has been estimated to 75 million
animals (Hackmann & Spain, 2010). In historic
times, the population in North America pre-Eu-
ropean settlement (Hristov, 2012), and in Africa
around the year 1500 (elephant, wildebeest and gi-
rae, based on Subak, 1994) has been estimated to
165 million animals in total.
These estimates suggest that the global popula-
tion of large ruminants (cattle, bualoes, horses and
wild ruminants combined) increased by more than
a factor 6 during the past 500 years. During the
same period, the number of cattle alone increased
by more than a factor of 20. At present, the global
population of domestic ruminants is approximately
50 times larger than the global population of wild
ruminants.
Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory´s grazing method
45
45
Appendix 9. Links to further reading
n Monbiot, G. Eat more meat and save the
world: the latest implausible farming miracle.
Aug 4, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/
environment/georgemonbiot/2014/aug/04/
eat-more-meat-and-save-the-world-the-latest-
implausible-farming-miracle
n Maughan, P. Allan Savory gives a popu-
lar and very misleading TED talk. March
18, 2013. http://www.thewildlifenews.
com/2013/03/18/alan-savory-gives-a-popu-
lar-and-very-misleading-ted-talk/
n Merberg, A. Cows Against Climate Change:
The Dodgy Science Behind the TED Talk.
March 11, 2013. http://www.inexactchange.
org/blog/2013/03/11/cows-against-climate-
change/
n Online discussion forum where A. Savory par-
ticipates, initiated by C. Kruger, Nov 20, 2012,
http://csanr.wsu.edu/savory1/
n McWilliams, J. E. All sizzle and no steak: Why
Allan Savory’s TED talk about how cattle can
reverse global warming is dead wrong. April
22, 2013. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/
food/2013/04/allan_savory_s_ted_talk_is_
wrong_and_the_benets_of_holistic_grazing_
have.single.html#
n West, J.; Briske, D. D. Cows, Carbon and the
Anthropocene: Commentary on Savory TED
Video. Nov 4, 2013. http://www.realclimate.
org/index.php/archives/2013/11/cows-car-
bon-and-the-anthropocene-commentary-on-
savory-ted-video/
n Grazing the Grasslands - and Allan Savory’s
TED Talk. Nov 24, 2013. http://tmousecmou-
se.blogspot.se/2013/11/grazing-grasslands-
and-allan-savorys.html
n Hadley (1999) The wild life of Allan Savory.
Article in the Range Magazine. http://www.
rangemagazine.com/archives/stories/fall99/al-
lan_savory.htm
Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet har verksamhet över hela Sverige. Huvudorter är Alnarp, Skara, Umeå och Uppsala.
Tel: 018-67 10 00 • Org nr: 202100-2817
Allan Savory is the man behind holistic grazing and
the founder of the Savory Institute. Savory claims that
holistic grazing can stop desertication and reduce
atmo spheric carbon dioxide levels to pre-industrial
levels in a few decades. In this report, we review the
literature on holistic grazing in order to evaluate the
scientic support behind these statements.
© SLU & CHALMERS 2016. LAY-OUT: KARIN ULLVÉN, SLU. PHOTOS: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM. COVER ILLUSTRATION: FREDRIK SAARKOPPEL, KOBOLT MEDIA AB.
... While there is no prescribed recipe, nor a single definition for high-density grazing, it is based on principles that are supposedly universally applicable and have been elaborated on by various reviews (Briske et al., 2008;Teague et al., 2013;Nordborg, 2016). A key management feature of high-density grazing systems is the application of intense grazing pressure for a short period of time, followed by a long resting period allowing the vegetation to recover and build up reserves. ...
... Numerous studies aimed to assess the ecological impacts of high-density grazing systems versus conventional systems on rangeland status. Reviews of literature (Holechek et al., 2000;Teague et al., 2013;Briske et al., 2014;Nordborg, 2016;Hawkins, 2017;Gosnell et al., 2020;Hawkins et al., 2022) indicate that the evidence of high-density grazing systems providing the claimed ecological benefits is rather mixed, at best, especially when high-density grazing is compared with other forms of rotational grazing. While high-density grazing in semi-arid grasslands may increase organic matter in the upper part of the soil profile (Chaplot et al., 2016), it may also result in soil compaction, reduced soil aggregate stability and decreased soil moisture (Chamane et al., 2017;Roberts and Johnson, 2021). ...
... High-density grazing systems can be considered good grazing management under certain conditions, though there is no evidence that they are inherently better than other well-managed grazing systems (Nordborg, 2016). For some farmers, high-density grazing represents a set of management techniques that helps them to increase livestock productivity per unit area of land, to improve the quality of their rangelands or the performance of their herd, to facilitate livestock management, and/or to gain access to a network of like-minded farmers. ...
Article
Full-text available
High-density grazing is a form of rangeland management aiming to strategically mimic the ways grasslands are utilized by grazers in natural situations. It aims to regenerate grasslands by improving soil and vegetation productivity and diversity. More recently, high-density grazing systems have been promoted as a key approach to mitigating climate change by increasing the amount of carbon sequestered in grassland soils. In this article, we describe the historical background of grazing and rangeland degradation in southern Africa, the principles of high-density grazing, and the problems it aims to address. We briefly discuss evidence of the potential benefits of high-density grazing, though we do not aim to provide an exhaustive review on this. We explore to what extent high-density grazing can be regarded as representative of grazing in natural ecosystems and whether the assumed link between nature and high-density grazing has been helpful in capitalizing on the potential merits of high-density grazing. While high-density grazing may represent a form of sustainable rangeland management, the main attractiveness to farmers likely relates to potential increases in livestock densities and associated productivity per unit area, as well as to potential management and social benefits. Learning from nature and inspiration by nature can play an important role in the development and communication of sustainable grazing management systems. However, it is questionable to what extent high-density grazing systems can be seen as more representative of natural ecosystems than other grazing management systems. The claimed ecological superiority of high-density grazing because of its association with nature has polarised and blurred the discussion on the potential merits of high-density grazing. Moreover, the supposed relationship between nature and high-density grazing may have led to an overselling of high-density grazing principles and an embracement of them by policy makers and development agencies without sufficient empirical basis.
... Mosier et al., 2021;Stanley et al., 2018;Teague and Kreuter, 2020), there remains debate on the scientific merits of adaptive grazing, in part due to limited evidence from large-scale studies and the failure of low sample sizes to capture the broad gradients in management practices and biophysical environments used for cattle grazing (e.g. Briske et al., 2013;Carter et al., 2014;Gosnell et al., 2020;Nordborg and Röös, 2016;Teague et al., 2013). Furthermore, few studies account for detailed ranch-level management practices when evaluating agro-environmental metrics (Nordborg and Röös, 2016). ...
... Briske et al., 2013;Carter et al., 2014;Gosnell et al., 2020;Nordborg and Röös, 2016;Teague et al., 2013). Furthermore, few studies account for detailed ranch-level management practices when evaluating agro-environmental metrics (Nordborg and Röös, 2016). ...
Article
The maintenance of hydrologic function on grazing lands is an important management objective to sustain forage production during low moisture supply, safeguard other ecosystem goods and services and build resilience to a warming climate. Hydrologic function can be influenced by grazing patterns, as represented by variation in the timing, intensity and frequency of livestock use. While rotational, adaptive grazing (a short-duration, multi-paddock grazing system that emphasises plant recovery between grazing events) is growing in popularity and has the potential to influence grassland hydrological processes such as water infiltration, few studies have comprehensively examined infiltration in relation to on-ranch grazing practices. We examined water infiltration in grasslands on 52 ranches (set up as matched pairs) to examine whether adaptive grazing alters water infiltration in the Great Plains of western Canada, as compared to conventional grazing management employed on neighbouring ranches. We also used producer survey information to test for the influence of ongoing nuanced grazing practices on water infiltration rates, over and above the biophysical effects of soil texture, soil bulk density and plant litter, as well as cultivation history and climate. Overall, adaptive grazing, and specifically the use of higher rest-to-grazing ratios early in the growing season (prior to August 1), led to increased water infiltration in grassland soils. Water infiltration was positively associated with increased litter mass under adaptive grazing, whereas higher bulk density (and sandier) soils were associated with decreased infiltration rates. This study highlights the potential of specialised rotational grazing systems using cattle to improve soil hydrologic function in grazed grasslands.
... The kind of grazing that results from HM is typically called Holistic Planned Grazing: high-intensity and short-duration, and requires paddock subdivision, moveable water points and other significant changes to infrastructure and farming paradigm (Gosnell, Gill, and Voyer 2019). Savory's (2013) TED talk on HM inspired new debate in academe and the public sphere about whether 'it works' (Garnett et al. 2017;Hawkins 2017;Nordborg and Röös 2016), and whether what is really needed in the face of climate change is more livestock (Monbiot 2014, August 4, 2014. In recent decades, advocates of HM and similar approaches have largely bypassed public debate and the academic literature, instead working directly with farmers through institutes and training. ...
Article
First 50 downloads free at https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/MP8AQ2REZHKZI4U8KU7J/full?target=10.1080/21683565.2022.2107597 ** Adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing practices have been debated based on production, environmental and workload impacts, but farmer wellbeing is only beginning to be explored. A panel-based online survey of 200 Canadian beef producers was undertaken in early 2020 with a descriptive aim to explore the uptake, management, mindsets, and wellbeing implications associated with AMP grazing. AMP practices were more common than expected (29%) as well as distinct in grazing regime, featuring fast rotation, and long rests. AMP ranchers reported high physical wellbeing, as well as systems thinking, nontraditional values, a priority for enjoying life and tendency to use a wide range of modes to learn about grazing. Other dimensions of wellbeing, environmental motivations, and gender dimensions suggested by smaller-n studies were not associated with AMP grazing in this work. These insights are important as the federal government begins to promote AMP grazing and its variants as strategies to combat climate change. More nuanced understanding of adaptive grazing and its trajectory would be possible via consistent, longitudinal surveys with improved operationalization of well-being concepts, more detailed exploration of educational background , inclusion of religious beliefs, and elucidation of management characteristics beyond grazing regime variables.
... Grasslands, which constitute a significant part of the global ecosystem, occupy 37 % of the Earth's land area and contribute significantly to the food security, providing the largest part of energy and proteins required by ruminant animals for the production of meat and milk. It is believed that proper pasture management and improvement of the state of degraded pastures can play a fundamental role in mitigating the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, especially concerning carbon accumulation and absorption (Conant et al., 2011;O'Mara, 2012;Nordborg and Röös, 2016). ...
Article
Managing pasture resources of Western Kazakhstan is complicated due to the deterioration of the physicochemical parameters of soils, manifesting degradation, and alkalinization as a result of intensive grazing. The research has been aimed at studying the technology of cattle grazing for preserving the physicochemical parameters of soils and increasing the efficiency of pasture use. The assessment and statistical analysis of physicochemical indicators of soils were carried out with standard methods during 2018 – 2019, which allowed identifying the most optimal grazing technology. The results of the research showed that under the influence of intensive grazing, physicochemical parameters worsened, a decrease in the humus reserves by 10.88-12.35% was detected, soil degraded to the third degree, and became alkaline as a result of the increase in exchangeable sodium to 1.65 cmol (equiv.)/kg. The technology of moderate cattle grazing favorably affects the physicochemical parameters of the soils of pasture ecosystems. The chestnut soils of the pastures, where moderate grazing technology was applied, remained resistant to degradation and salinization. With this technology, the soil humus was reliably preserved at the level of 1.15-2.50%, mobile phosphorus was within the optimal range of 0.87-1.60 mg/100 g. It has been concluded that it is important to use the technology of moderate cattle grazing to improve the management of pasture resources, which is the scientific novelty of the research.
... Grassland, which is a major part of the global ecosystem occupies 37% of Earth's terrestrial area, contributes significantly to food security, providing much of energy and proteins ruminant animals need to produce meat and dairy products. It is believed that good management of pastures and improvement of degraded pastures can play a fundamental role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, especially in carbon storage and absorption [2,3]. ...
... Integrated and intensive rotation of livestock (Holistic management) [226,227] 93 ...
Article
Full-text available
Planning the adaptation of agriculture and forestry landscapes to climate change remains challenging due to the need for integrating substantial amounts of information. This information ranges from climate scenarios, geographical site information, socio-economic data and several possible adaptation measures. Thus, there is an urgent need to have a framework that is capable of organizing adaptation strategies and measures in the agriculture and forestry sectors in Mediterranean climatic regions. Additionally, this framework should provide a cause effect relation with climate vulnerability to adequately support the development of adaptation planning at municipal and local (farm) level. In this context, we propose to test and evaluate a framework for climate adaptation of the agriculture and forestry sectors, based on the local causal-effect relation between adaptation strategies and measures and the level of vulnerability reduction achieved for Mediterranean areas. The framework was developed based on the combination of the DPSIR (Driving forces, Pressures, State, Impacts, Responses) and Vulnerability frameworks and reviewed 162 practical adaptation measures, further organized into strategies, complemented by a set of efficacy indicators. The framework was tested with 70 stakeholders in six stakeholder workshops for the planning of two farms and one municipal climate adaptation study, that are now in actual implementation and monitoring. The framework is composed by a set of eight adaptation strategies in which adaptation measures are clustered and assessed using efficacy indicators. In the evaluation of the adaptation framework, 96% of stakeholders considered its content as good or very good and 89% considered the final outcomes as good or very good. Finally, the framework was also used to assess and compare the adaptation strategies and measures presented in the climate adaptation plans of the three case studies. On average, 52.2% of the adaptation measures selected by the three case studies are dedicated to Ecosystem Resilience, 30.9% to Adaptive Capacity, 9.1% to Microclimates, 7.4% to Protection, and 0.3% to Mitigation strategies. This framework was considered effective in supporting adaptation planning at farm and municipal levels and useful to assess and compare adaptation plans in the frame of vulnerability reduction. Future studies can further contribute to support adaptation planning in these sectors by using, developing and streamlining this framework to additional and different socio-ecological contexts.
... Savory (2013) claims that if livestock management processes mimic these patterns, we can vastly increase soil organic carbon, although this claim been challenged on the basis that it does not consider the effects herd methane emissions (e.g. Carter et al. 2014;Nordborg and Röös 2016). ...
Chapter
Global TechHelp Networks is an international study that focuses on finding out the ways people help each other with digital technologies in different countries and cultural settings. This paper presents the results of the Czech study and contributes qualitative data that can ultimately lead to improved support for developing digital literacy at an informal level. We asked the research participants to describe situations when they were either receiving or providing help with some digital technology and to reflect on the evolution of how they used technologies. Czech research participants generally feel that they have enough support with digital technologies. When they need help, they seek it from their friends or family, but they usually also have some other person with IT knowledge within reach. Some participants expressed a need to keep their interaction with technologies under control.
Book
Full-text available
Vernieuwde visie van de Wetenschappelijke Raad voor Integrale Duurzame Landbouw en Voeding. De Raad pleit voor een fundmentele paradigmashift van lage voedselprijzen en korte-termijnefficientie naar een systeem dat gezondheid vooropstelt.
Article
Full-text available
Holistic Management (HM) is claimed to increase production of plants and animals while also increasing soil organic carbon under all conditions in all habitats. Peer-review literature does not support these claims, but several studies report social benefits. Proponents of HM have criticized the small-scale of some studies (less than 2 ha), stating that production and climate benefits only emerge on large working farms (2–66 ha or larger, our size definitions). Here we summarize the conclusions from 22 peer-reviewed studies, focusing on farm-scale studies, and the few social and soil carbon studies from across the globe. Conclusions were synthesized into a diagram showing how grazing pattern (or density), stocking rate and animal type influence biology, climate resilience, and agricultural economics, as well as how HM’s management component affects society. This synthesis confirms that HM’s intensive grazing approach either has no effect or reduces production, as evidenced by farm-scale studies in United States of America, Argentina and South Africa, thus negating the claim by HM proponents that there is a difference between ‘the science and the practice’. Seven peer-reviewed studies show that the potential for increased carbon sequestration with changed grazing management is substantially less (0.13–0.32) than the 2.5–9 t C ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ estimated by non-peer-review HM literature. Five studies show that HM provides a social support framework for land users. The social cohesion, learning and networking so prevalent on HM farms could be adopted by any farming community without accepting the unfounded HM rhetoric, and governments could allocate funds to train extension agents accordingly. A future focus on collaborative adaptive farm management and other innovations will be more helpful than any further debate about grazing density.
Article
Full-text available
Precise determination of changes in organic carbon (OC) stocks is prerequisite to understand the role of soils in the global cycling of carbon and to verify changes in stocks due to management. A large dataset was collected to form base to repeated soil inventories at 12 CarboEurope sites under different climate and land-use, and with different soil types. Concentration of OC, bulk density (BD), and fine earth fraction were determined to 60 cm depth at 100 sampling points per site. We investigated (1) time needed to detect changes in soil OC, assuming future re-sampling of 100 cores; (2) the contribution of different sources of uncertainties to OC stocks; (3) the effect of OC stock calculation on mass rather than volume base for change detection; and (4) the potential use of pedotransfer functions (PTF) for estimating BD in repeated inventories. The period of time needed for soil OC stocks to change strongly enough to be detectable depends on the spatial variability of soil properties, the depth increment considered, and the rate of change. Cropland sites, having small spatial variability, had lower minimum detectable differences (MDD) with 100 sampling points (105 ± 28 kg C m<sup>−2</sup> for the upper 10 cm of the soil) than the grassland (206 ± 64 kg C m<sup>−2</sup>) and forest (246 ± 64 kg C m<sup>−2</sup>) sites. Expected general trends in soil OC indicate that changes could be detectable after 2–15 years with 100 samples if changes occurred in the upper 10 cm of stone-poor soils. Error propagation analyses showed that in undisturbed soils with low stone contents, OC concentrations contributed most to OC stock variability while BD and fine earth fraction were more important in upper soil layers of croplands and in stone rich soils. Though the calculation of OC stocks based on equivalent soil masses slightly decreases the chance to detect changes with time at most sites except for the croplands, it is still recommended to account for changing bulk densities with time. Application of PTF for the estimation of bulk densities caused considerable underestimation of total variances of OC stocks if the error associated with the PTF was not accounted for, which rarely is done in soil inventories. Direct measurement of all relevant parameters approximately every 10 years is recommended for repeated soil OC inventories.
Chapter
Full-text available
The benefits of multi-paddock rotational grazing on commercial livestock enterpriseshave been evident for many years in many countries. Despite these observations and theresults of numerous studies of planned grazing deferment before the mid-1980s that showbenefit to species composition, most recent rangelands grazing studies suggest thatrotational grazing benefits neither vegetation nor animal production relative to continuousgrazing. Detailed comparisons of research methods and practical experiences ofsuccessful practitioners of multi-paddock grazing systems identify a number of areas thatexplain why such different perceptions have arisen. Consistent with producer experience,published data from small paddock trials on both temporal and spatial aspects of grazing management indicates the potential for significantly higher production under multipaddockrotational grazing relative to continuous grazing and conservative stocking.While research findings often suggest multi-paddock grazing management is notsuperior to continuous grazing, researchers have not managed trials to answer practicalquestions such as: how good is this management option, where is it successful, and whatdoes it take to make it work as well as possible? In contrast, successful ranchers managestrategically to achieve the best possible profitability and ecosystem health. They usebasic knowledge of plant physiology and ecology generated by research within anadaptive, goal-oriented management approach to successfully implement planned grazingmanagement.Published research and experience from ranchers have indicated that the followingmanagement factors are the keys to achieving desired goals: (1) Planned grazing andfinancial planning to reduce costs, improve work efficiency and enhance profitability andenvironmental goals; (2) Adjusting animal numbers or having a buffer area available sothat animal numbers match forage availability in wet and dry years; (3) Grazing grassesand forbs moderately and for short periods during the growing season to allow adequaterecovery; (4) Timing grazing to mitigate detrimental effects of defoliation at criticalpoints in the life cycle of preferred species inter- and intra-annually; (5) Wheresignificant regrowth is likely, grazing the area again before the forage has matured toomuch; (6) Using fire to smudge patch-grazing imprints and manage livestock distribution;and (7) Using multiple livestock species. In all these areas, management is the key tosuccess.Many researchers have failed to sufficiently account for these management factors,either in their treatment applications or in the evaluation of their results. To define thepotential impact, researchers must quantify the management strategies for best achievingwhole-ranch business and ecosystem results under different grazing management.Conducting research on ranches that have been successfully managed with planned multipaddockgrazing for many years, together with systems-level simulation modeling, offercomplementary approaches to traditional small-paddock field research. These methodsare particularly applicable where logistics preclude field experimentation, or whenassessing impact over decadal time frames. This chapter discusses these points, suggestsareas of research that may explain differences in perception among land managers andresearchers, and provides information to achieve the full potential of planned multipaddockgrazing management.
Article
Full-text available
During the 1980's short-duration grazing attracted much attention based on the claims it would accelerate range improvement while at the same time accommodating higher stocking rates. On many ranches it was contended that stocking rates could be doubled or even tripled while at the same time improving both range and livestock productivity. We will summarize present knowledge on short-duration grazing, focusing on a few recent studies that are fairly complete in terms of evaluating soil, vegetation, livestock, and financial responses over time and space. The managerial implications of these studies and their relevance to Savory's ideas will be given particular emphasis. Reviews of various grazing studies from Africa will be included in our discussion.
Book
Grazing lands represent the largest and most diverse land resource-taking up over half the earth's land surface. The large area grazing land occupies, its diversity of climates and soils, and the potential to improve its use and productivity all contribute to its importance for sequestering C and mitigating the greenhouse effect and other conditions brought about by climate change. The Potential of U.S. Grazing Lands to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect gives you an in-depth look at this possibility.
Article
The paper begins with a brief outline of old management practices including: land clearing, introduced pastures, fire, high external inputs, focus on animal genetics and individual animal performance, high cost of production, acceptance of 'run-down' in the natural resource base and continuous grazing. The focus on production has been detrimental to soil fertility and has led to drastic modification of landscapes. Secondly, an outline of the replacement management practices, which incorporate: timber retention, focus on native pastures, pasture diversity, nil fire, focus on kilograms produced per hectare and low cost of production, is presented. The new management package has led to an improving natural resource base, through Cell Grazing, a method that incorporates rest and whole system management. Finally, an outline is included of the results we have been able to achieve in a relatively short time at 'Duke's Plain'. Specific results include: improvement to the natural resource through more diverse pastures, improved water quality, better water-use efficiency, increased carrying capacity, easier animal management, reduced labour requirement, more trees and fewer weeds. Our performance is benchmarked annually against that of other graziers. In conclusion, I challenge all of us to question the 'conventional wisdom' of our old systems.
Article
Pastures at the High Plains Grasslands Research Station near Cheyenne, Wyoming, grazed for the past 11 yr at a heavy stocking rate (67 steer-d/ha) under three management systems, were compared to continuous light grazing (22 steer-d/ha) and to livestock exclosures. Carbon and nitrogen dynamics were greatest in the surface 30 cm where more than three-fourths of the plant root biomass exists. Grazing strategies and stocking ranges imposed for the past 11 yr on this mixed grass prairie did not detrimentally affect soil organic carbon and nitrogen levels. The data, in fact, suggest that responsible grazing enhanced the overall soil quality as assessed by these parameters. -from Authors