Holistic Planned Grazing for Sustainable Agriculture

Study finds diverse benefits using sheep

Mar 31, 2015 -- Preliminary results from a long-term research, education and extension project show environmental and economic benefits from integrated cropping and livestock.Using domestic sheep rather than traditional farming equipment to manage fallow and terminate cover crops may enable farmers who grow organic crops to save money, reduce tillage, manage weeds and pests, and reduce the risk of soil erosion, according to MSU and North Dakota State University faculty members. Photo courtesy of Jasmine Westbrook.

click HERE for full article


Stockpile Grazing - Progress Report 1

By Troy Bishopp, November 10, 2014, OnPasture.com

Editors Note:  Troy Bishopp custom grazes organic dairy heifers.  He is letting us all follow along this fall and winter as they graze stockpiled feed.  It’s a chance to see how his plan compares to what actually happens on the ground, and to learn from his challenges, mistakes and successes.  He hopes that we can all learn from his example so that we can reduce winter feeding and let animals feed themselves instead.

This fall and winter we are custom grazing 53 organic dairy heifers, 4 bulls and 2 cow calf pairs on forage that I stockpiled last August while the herd was off-farm grazing leased pasture.  (full article here)

(See all reports on Troy's website, TheGrassWhisperer.com )


Grazing Cover Crops Video

October 14, 2014 by Sandy Langelier, HMI - Holistic Management practitioner, Gabe Brown is featured in this video posted by SARE outreach. He does a fantastic job talking about the grazing cover crops and benefits for livestock production….


"Ian Mitchell-Innes Managed Grazing Tips"

as shared by Troy Bishopp after a 6/12/13 workshop in Newark Valley, NY...

1.Interface between the rhizomes and microbes, take the soil sample through the center of the grass plants tuft.
2.Whenever making decisions, put them off for a while and think about them under the shade of tree. You may find out that you did not need to do them after all.
3.Take your time going to the 22 day bull exposure process. Each successive year shorten up the exposure time a bit that you give the bull to the herd.
4.Takes 5 days for microbes to change from generation to the next.
5.The bull that works at 15 months is a desirable trait. How do we know which bull is the best? Let nature sort out the best bull.
6.When facing difficult situations, back off a bit and think about what would happen before man arrived with the firearm.
7.Anything in nature gets culled if it is out of sync with nature. Big fat ones get caught, skinny ones caught as well.
8.Buy 2 heifers for the price of one bred cow. Graze these heifers through your management system and keep the ones that perform well, sell the ones that don’t.
9.Use sports whistle to move the cattle. This allows anybody to move your cattle, get more excitement in the herd which aids in animal impact on your pastures.
10.Every unit of carbon holds 12 units of water.
11.The longer you can harvest solar energy, the more $ brought in.
12.(personal note Judy Farm)Rotate every day from Gama grass field bottom up to ridge field the following day, this will carry seed and nutrients up to the poorer ridge field for free.
13.When you mow off grass with a mechanical mower the plant is not stressed the same as a cow (pull action whip) off a bite full, microbes explode under the ground. Therefore there is no microbial explosion with mechanical mowing. Pastures properly grazed always grow back faster than mowed fields.
14.If you do not allot enough forage, some cattle just stop eating after being bullied enough by other dominate cows, animal performance plummets.
15.When you walk into a herd of animals to move them, (target animals that look stressed)observe from the left side standing behind them, there will be a sunken triangle between the hip bone, rib and backbone. This is the sign of a hungry animal.
16.2 months prior to calving concentrate solely on animal performance at all costs, up until 2 weeks before bull being taken out of cow herd.
17.80% of the calves growth takes place in the last 2 months of pregnancy.
18.22 days it the ultimate target for a bull in the herd, anything outside this window will eventually end up leaving the herd.
19.Do a marginal reaction on buying heifers and breeding them at the right time.
20. Big heifers are freaks of nature, do not use them as breeding stock.
21.In the Autumn take of your bottom 10% that do not fit your management system, develop a hamburger market for these animals.
22.The more carbon that you have in the soils, the longer the quality stays in the grasses.
23.Attitude leads to gratitude, be the person that you would like to meet that day. Keep a stone in your pocket to remind you of this.
24.Quantify the asset that we are working with. How are you going to position yourself for this opportunity?
25.Go through the Holistic Goal Setting and Decision Making process.
26.Do a marginal reaction, (time and money spent). When comparing two enterprises you need to look at the limiting factors of each.
27.Do a gross margin analysis.
28.Risk and exposure is least with custom grazing.
29.Sheep and cattle, what are the limiting factors of each?
30.Carbon on the soil, serves as the skin of the soil. Must get energy through the soil surface.
31.Volume, carbon load your soils which feeds the microbes.
32.Stocked Density = Eaten: Banked Ratio.
33.Burning reduces production, kills roots two foot down.
34.Fungi: Bacteria in the soil.
35.Oxidizing grass (stock density solves this)
36.Provide the environment and it will come.
37.Synergy, Trust, Companionship, Help, (We all desperately need all of these to flourish)
38.Right attitude, what do you want to achieve? Why? Why? Why?
39.When are you going to do it? Where are you going to do it? How are you going to do it?
40.Plan, Plan, Plan, it is about understanding what you want to do.
42.Increase the stocking density.
43.You can not get fully stocked if you ignore animal performance.(Stocking Rate).
44.Understand the growing season.
45.Ian is presently at 520 kg (1144 lbs), his target is 400 kg (880 lbs).
46.If Ph of the cow is lower than 7, the cow will not conceive.
47.Animals were made to walk to water, don’t spend tons of money on expensive water points.
48.The top 1/3 of each plant is where the energy is stored, the middle 1/3 of the plant is where the fiber is located, the bottom 1/3 of the plant is where the protein is located.
49.Remain flexible, monitor animal performance, monitor animal behavior, monitor animal fill, remain flexible, ENJOY YOURSELF.









Healthy Pastures = Healthy Herds and Happy Farmers

by Troy Bishopp, Bob Wagner & Juan Alvez

September 2012, Earlville, N.Y.---What’s more inspiring than green grass, sunshine and homemade ice-cream sundaes?  Getting to share it with an exemplary organic dairy couple, David Stratton and Sarah Dalzell, a herd of beautiful cows and 60 passionategraziers on a picturesque evening in the hills of Madison County overlooking the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The 200 acre, Stone Mill Pond Farm is home to a spring seasonal herd of 50 organic crossbred cows plus replacements that produce quality milk(8 years of consecutive super milk awards) for Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative on a 14 paddock system of rotationally grazed pastures, hay and baleage and a small amount of liquid molasses supplement.  According to Dave and Sarah, “We are tight with our cows”.

Cows grazing and group looks on overlooking the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay

Since 2003, Dave has strived to improve his bottom line by concentrating on soil health through a myriad of practices, amendment strategies, experiments and grazing management trials without the use of major tillage.  “If your soil foundation is right, good things happen, said Dave.  Over the years I have invested heavily inre-mineralizing my land by using gypsum, lime, chicken litter, foliar feeding organic premixes, spraying raw milk and spreading composted manure.  I’m now aerating my swards and feel the “loosening effect” will benefit water retention and inject oxygen into the soil structure”.

Cows grazing and group looks on overlooking the headwaters of the Chesapeake BayTo complement the soil building process, Dave employs a basic grazing strategy for his cows, in grazing half and leaving half while moving his animals to a fresh break multiple times during the day.  “Moving encourages them to eat more and it’s an opportunity to observe for heats and study their grazing behavior.  Managing for what the cow really wants tends to reduce stress and make for a healthier cow.  I’m also learning to appreciate a few weeds (forage) in the sward which adds diversity to the diet along with their deep taproots bringing up valuable nutrients from the subsoil”, said Dave.

The plan must be working as soil organic matter levels have increased from 3% in 2006 to over 5% in 2012 with some fields approaching 9% as well as an increase in overall fertility.  “We’ve also noticed just how this improved soil health has lowered our mineral bill while drawing in a vibrant host of dung beetles, earthworms, birds and beneficial soil life”, said Sarah.

As the large contingent of graziers stretched over several feet of laneway like a herd in of itself, Dave and Sarah were excited to show guests their sweat equity and tell of their experiences out in the field.  The group gave the aerated pastures the cushion test and compared soil without it. They got to peruse the fine looking cows and see their grazing behavior after the poly-fence was moved.  Queries arose on what constitutes a good grass to legume ratio, weathering the drought, pasture rest periods, seasonal production strategies, clipping, fertility spreading timing, cow health and infrastructure layout.  A pasture walk wouldn’t be complete without farmers questioning costs of everything from applying soil amendments to feed prices whereby stirring up discussions and thoughts to think about on the drive home.

A familiar sound bellowed (Come Graziers) from the valley to the hillside pasture instigated by Madison County’s own Grass Whisperer, calling farmers down to enjoy 7 gallons of homemade ice-cream from Troyer’s Country Store in Canastota, N.Y. with all the sundae toppings and 13 dozen cookies from the KountryKupboard in Madison, N.Y. in what is officially known as the “relationship building” part of any inspiring pasture walk.  Conversations and sugar lasted well into the evening.

Praise from new-found friends included: “It was worth the long drive.”, “I was so impressed by the quality of the cows without having any grain.”, “Listening to Dave and Sarah share their experiences validates my own grazing management decisions.”, “I could get used to this every week.”  Robert Yoder and Jim Weaver both summed up their appreciation of the evening by repeating, “Grazing is good for the soul.”

Many thanks go out to the Stone Mill Pond Farm Family, NESARE and the PDP Holistic Planned Grazing Training Group from Vermont, Pennsylvania and New York, The Madison Co. SWCD, The Upper Susquehanna Coalition, The NYS AEM Program and The Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance for their support.

Sundance Life Farm hosts Planned Grazing Training

September 25, 2011 --- The Northeast SARE  Holistic Planned Grazing Project has just completed the third training session for grazing professionals on Holistic Planned Grazing.  Twelve agency and other field personnel attended a Biological Monitoring Session outside Wysox on September 21st on the Sundance Life Farm.

We spent the day throwing darts in the pastures to monitor the grass growth, plant and insect activity, and the soil conditions to provide feedback to management on the health and productivity of the grazing practices.

The intent of this monitoring is to put the animals in the right place at the right time for the right reasons. This information is vital to developing a grazing plan for the farm to increase forage utilization, pasture health and animal performance. When all of these factors are in alignment, the productivity and profitability of the farm is enhanced.



Requests for technical assistance with planned grazing and conservation programming are increasing, yet there is a concurrent shortage of staff trained in these issues.

The purpose of this project is to develop and deliver training in whole-farm concepts as well as practical and technical aspects of grazing, economics, ecological health, animal behavior, infrastructure design, and other elements that contribute to sustainable farm practices.

As a result of this effort, 30 farm advisors are learning to deliver holistic and practical support to 120 farms representing 24,000 acres; 72 farms on 14,400 acres will implement planned grazing systems. Specific economic indicators will be tracked, as will increases in ground cover, biological activity, soil health, and reported changes in quality of life.