Glossary

A number of new words and phrases are associated with managing holistically.  Some are related to the use of grazing animals when restoring landscapes to health. This glossary defines many of the additional terms, along with a few others that involve fresh ways of looking at land, and in assessing its condition.  The definitions here are based on those found in the Holistic Management Handbook published by Island Press, California.

Animal-Days per Hectare (ADH) or Acre (ADA). Used to denote the volume of forage taken from an area in a specified time. It can relate to either just the volume of feed removed during one grazing of a paddock, or the sum of several grazings of that paddock during a season, giving the total ADH or ADA figure for the season. When running a breeding herd or flock, or a mixed-species mob, it is generally best to convert physical animal numbers to one of the commonly used ‘Standard Animal Unit’ methodologies.   The most common of these are "Dry Sheep Equivalent" (DSE); "Standard Animal Unit" (SAU); and the New Zealand Stock Unit (NZSU).  You can see the definition of each below.  You use this information in two ways: 1) To better assess the volume of forage required to feed the entire mob of animals, or; 2) following a grazing, to calculate the volume of forage they have taken. The ADH or ADA figure is arrived at by a simple calculation, as follows:

Animal numbers (in DSE, SAU or NZSU) x Days of Grazing = ADH or ADA

Area of land grazed (in hectares or acres)

Note: When running a single class of animals all year round, such as wethers or steers, you can usually forgo the conversion to standard animal units.

Animal Impact. The sum total of the direct physical influences animals have on the land-by trampling, digging, dunging, urinating, salivating, rubbing, and so on. Animal impact is most commonly achieved by using herding animals gathered in high concentration. The larger the herd, the greater the effect.

Biodiversity. Is the combination of three factors: 1) the diversity of plant and animal species in an environment; 2) the diversity of their genetic material, and; 3) the quantity or volume of their biomass.  In any biological community, when biodiversity is high there is a large mass or volume of a great many genetically diverse species.   

Biomass. The mass, or volume, of plants, animals, and micro-organisms found within an environment.

Brittleness Scale.  Land based environments, regardless of their total rainfall, fall within a continuum from non-brittle to very brittle. This continuum is considered as a scale between 1 and 10, where 1 is classed as non-brittle and 10 as very brittle. Regardless of the total amount of rainfall, the most non-brittle environments are known to have (1) reliable precipitation; (2) a very even spread of atmospheric humidity throughout the year; (3) a high rate of biological decay in dead plant material, especially, close to the soil surface; (4) fast development of new communities, even from a bare surface; and (5) whether disturbed or not, the development of complex and stable biological communities.  Apart from on croplands that are continuously made bare by machinery or chemicals, in non-brittle tending environments it is almost impossible to either create or sustain vast areas of bare soils.

Extreme brittle-tending environments may experience either high or low rainfalls, but precipitation is extremely seasonal.  Brittle tending environments are recognizable because of their: (1) unreliable precipitation patterns from year to year; (2) uneven distribution of atmospheric humidity throughout a year ie distinct seasonality; (3) the breakdown of dead plant material tends to be chemical (oxidizing) and physical (weathering) rather than biological decay.  Decay is generally slow and occurs from the upper extremities of plants, and moves downward.  For instance, dead trees and rank old grasses may remain standing for many years); (4) extremely slow establishment of living communities on bare soil surfaces, unless these are physically disturbed; and (5) in the absence of disturbance, the algae and lichen cover on soil surfaces may remain for hundreds of years. In the absence of disturbance, over millions of hectares the space between plants will become bare soil, or bare soil capped by algae or lichen.  These conditions will develop when: 1) land is rested from disturbance; 2) whatever plants and other organic matter that may be present is burnt frequently, or; 3) if there is widespread overgrazing of many grass plants.

Capping, Recent. Describes an exposed soil surface where raindrops from the last rainfall have broken the crumb structure sufficiently that a fine crust develops.  In some soils, as they dry out, the surface forms into a crust that fractures into pieces.  Very often these pieces are slightly concave.

Capping, Immature. A soil surface that has sealed, and there is not yet any visible sign of successional movement.  If pierced or levered with a knife or screwdriver, pieces of soil are removed that are clearly striated, with a crust or cap on top that is often many millimeters deep, with a loose layer immediately underneath the cap.

Capping, Mature. Describes an exposed soil surface on which succession has proceeded to the level of an algae, lichen, or moss dominated community, and has stalled at that level. If not adequately disturbed, such communities can remain in that state for centuries, provided the soil is level enough to inhibit erosion by water.

Cell. See Grazing Cell.

Closed Plan. A closed plan is a feed budget that takes the estimated volume of feed on hand at a given date and allocates it out over the months ahead to a theoretical end point.  The Closed grazing plan is developed in two parts: 1) for the months when it is expected there will be no growth, or at best very slow growth (these months are referred to as the non-growth period), and in addition; 2) A further period of time called the ‘drought reserve’, which is planned for in case the seasonal break is late occurring. 

Community Dynamics.  The development of communities of living organisms. This process is ongoing due to the constant interplay of species, changing composition, and changing microenvironment. However, the greater the biodiversity within a community, the more complex, and thus the more stable, it tends to be.

Compaction.  A dense layer of soil, often several centimeters deep, and usually about 100mm to 150mm below the soil surface (4 to 6 inches).  The compaction damage may be created mechanically, or by the prolonged hoof action of animals without an adequate recovery period.  When present, compaction damages the effectiveness of the water cycle, as it adversely effects the ingress of water into the soil, and may also block downward movement of plant roots.

Crumb Structure. A soil that has good crumb structure is made up largely of aggregates or crumbs of soil particles that are held together, when wet or dry, with glue provided by decomposing organic matter. The space around each crumb provides room for water and air, and that, in turn, promotes and facilitates plant growth.

Desertification. The outcome of loss of biodiversity.  When desertification is occurring, without limitation the symptoms include: increased incidence of flood and drought, declining levels of soil organic matter, increased soil surface exposure, and erosion.

Drought (or Time) Reserve. The number of days or months of grazing you plan to reserve in case a non-growing season does not end with a seasonal break at or near the normally expected time.  The drought reserve period extends from the expected end of the non-growing season to a date safely beyond the worst-case scenario ever previously encountered. To determine this date, access the greatest number of years of local weather records that you can find, and base your decision as to its length on this data.  The rationale of the drought reserve is that eating all available fodder by the normal beginning of a new growing season places the livestock and the business at risk if the seasonal break is late.  This step minimizes the risk.

Economic Whole. Each economic whole is deliberately managed by one or more humans.  Each is a unique entity that is described in three parts: 1) the decision-makers for the entity; 2) the resource base available to or under management by the decision-makers, and; 3) the sources of money that are available to them when executing their decisions.

Effective Recovery Period. The period required by a severely grazed plant to fully restore itself by developing new leaves, stems, and root energy reserves. This restoration can only occur when there are active growing conditions.

Forbs. Tap rooted herbaceous plants often referred to as weeds.  However many forbs, such as Lucerne (alfalfa) are not commonly thought of as weeds.  Some forbs are annual plants, whilst others are perennial.

Goal.  A goal is a desired objective.  Conventional thinking normally associates a goal with a numerically quantifiable or otherwise specific objective eg. a performance objective (such as yield, quantity, volume, speed, etc), or a minimization objective (such as, “Cattle free by ’03”).

Graze to, Recovery Ratio. The number of days animals are on a piece of land, divided into the number of days they will be off it before returning. Generally, the shorter the grazing periods and the longer the recovery periods - ie the higher the graze to recovery ratio, the better the performance of both land and animals will be.  Example: a paddock grazed for 10 days, then given 100 days of effective recovery before regrazing has a graze to recovery ratio of 10:100 or more precisely 1:10 (each 1 day of grazing is followed or supported by 10 days of recovery).  A paddock that is grazed for 1 day, and then allowed 100 days of effective recovery has a graze to recovery ratio of 1:100.

Grazing Cell. A group of paddocks (or, depending on where you live, ‘blocks’ or ‘pastures’) through which animals are moved during a defined period of time, in accordance with either an Open-ended or Closed grazing plan.   A key factor is that the combination of paddocks that define a grazing cell is dynamic.  A paddock that was incorporated within one grazing cell in a given season may be planned as part of a different grazing cell in a subsequent season. The operation of a grazing cell is always planned on a single “Grazing Plan and Control Chart”.  One or more mobs of animals may simultaneously be managed within a single grazing cell.

Grazing, Frequent. Grazing that takes place with short intervals between the actual grazings on the plant. With most plants, frequent grazing is not harmful as long as the defoliation is light.

Grazing Selections. The number of times it is planned for animals to move through a paddock during the non-growing season and drought reserve.  This is the period when it is anticipated there will be no significant re-growth between grazings.

Grazing, Severe. A grazing that removes a high proportion of the plant's leaf, in either the growing or non-growing season. In the growing season this causes a temporary setback in the plant's growth. In the more brittle environments, severe grazing at some time during the year is generally beneficial to most bunched perennial grass plants, and especially those with growth points, or buds, at their bases. Most herding animals - including cattle, sheep, and goats are severe grazers.

Grazing, Tool.  The tool of grazing is used in one of two ways – as “grazing”, or as “over-grazing”. 

Grazing, As Grazing.  Grazing is the deliberate use of grass eating animals who remain on a piece of land (and are therefore in proximity to a group of plants) for a very short period of time – typically hours to a couple of days, and who do not return to that land or group of plants again before the plants are fully recovered from their previous grazing.

Grazing, As Over-grazing. Over-grazing is the most common way the tool of grazing is used, yet almost always without deliberate intention.  Physically, over-grazing happens to a plant if it is bitten a further time, after being previously grazed but not yet fully recovered ie the effective recovery period is insufficient.  An over-grazed bunch grass whose normal form is to grow erect will be noticeable because it will tend instead to grow prostrate. Over-grazing usually occurs when there are a large number of mobs on a property, each mob is comparatively small in size, and each mob remains in a paddock for extended periods of time – typically for weeks to many months.

Grazing planning, Holistic.  The process of preparing a documented grazing plan using the ‘Aide Memoire for Holistic Grazing Planning’.

Herd Effect. An intensified level of Animal Impact, usually on a small area of land. It is most commonly produced by a (usually) large herd of animals held in high concentration or in an excited state for a short period of time.  In a managed situation it is usually stimulated by deliberate actions, such as the provision of an attractant.  Depending on the intensity of application, ultra-high density grazing may deliver more or less continuous herd effect.

Holism. The understanding that nature functions in wholes, and cannot be managed in ‘parts’.  Looking inwards, a whole is made of many lesser wholes, and looking outwards each lesser whole interacts with many other greater wholes. Individually we are each a ‘manageable whole’.  We interact with other ‘manageable wholes’ – a life or business partner etc. – and this relationship forms a still greater manageable whole.

Holistic financial planning
A structured annual plan or budgeting procedure that facilitates movement towards the holisticgoal.  In keeping with the core concept of managing holistically, that all decisions must be simultaneously socially and ecologically sound, as well as financially sound, in order to be completely sound, the process links the plan to the biological outcomes on the land and considers the social impact of the plan on the people in the business or economic whole.

Holistic Goal, or Holisticgoal  A goal specifically designed to facilitate the management of an economic whole.  Unlike a conventional goal, it is entirely a description of what must be achieved, and contains no numeric references as to how it is to be achieved.  The holisticgoal is structured in three parts: A quality of life statement, describing how people wish their life to be; a statement describing what must be created or developed in order to experience the desired quality of life, and; a statement describing how the resource base underpinning the economic whole must become, in order for the economic whole to prosper in the short and long term.  Movement towards a holisticgoal occurs decision by decision.

Holistic Management Handbook. The book written by Allan Savory, Jody Butterfield and Sam Bingham.  It is published by Island Press, and provides specific details about the practical aspects of managing holistically.

Holistic Result.  A step towards the holisticgoal of an economic whole.

Low-Density Grazing. World-wide this is the most common form of grazing.  Animals are run at low density, allowing them to selectively graze some plants and to ignore other plants, often immediately next door to their last mouthful.  If the ignored plants remain ungrazed or untrampled for a period of time they will become old and lignify.  The time required for lignification of a plant to develop is dependent on the brittleness of the environment where the plant is found. 

Mineral Cycle. The cycle of mineral nutrients from soil to aboveground plants and animals and back to the soil again. A healthy and productive environment will promote the movement of minerals from deep soil layers to aboveground plants with a minimum of mineral loss from soil erosion or mineral leaching.

Mob. A group of animals.  The mob may be a single species herd (such as a herd of cattle) or single species flock (such as a flock of sheep or goats).  A mob may also be a mix of two, or even many more, species.

New Zealand Stock Unit. A standard unit of measurement, it is used in New Zealand to rate the feed demand of various classes of animals.  The feed demand of a meat-lamb producing ewe is considered one Stock Unit over the course of a year.

Open-Ended Plan. The type of grazing plan used during the growing season months. During an open-ended or growing season plan, two things must simultaneously occur: animals need to be fully fed every day, and an accumulation of healthy standing fodder for consumption during the next non-growing or Closed Plan must be occurring.  It is termed an open plan for two reasons: 1) On the date growth recommences the last date of the plan is not known – it is truly open ended in time, and secondly; 2) Until the end of the Open plan the quantity of fodder that will be available for consumption and trampling during the following Closed plan is unknown.

Overgrazing. Occurs when a plant is bitten severely in the growing season and is then bitten severely again before it has fully recovered from the previous bite.  The material taken at the second bite is substantially energy taken from the crown, stem bases, or roots of the plant whilst it was reestablishing new leaf.  Continued overgrazing leads to severely weakened plants, reduced productivity, and over time the death of many plants.  Two primary conditions set up overgrazing: 1) animals remaining in a paddock too long during periods of rapid growth, and; 2) animals returning to a paddock too soon during periods of slow growth ie insufficient effective recovery period. 

Over-rested Plant. A bunched perennial grass plant that has been rested so long that accumulating dead material prevents light from reaching growth points at the plant's base, hampering new growth and eventually killing the plant. Over rest occurs mainly in brittle environments where, in the absence of large herbivores, most old material breaks down gradually through oxidation and weathering rather than rapidly through biological decay.

Paddock. A division of land within a grazing cell.  A paddock may be physical fenced off, or may be demarcated for herding. Several or many paddocks together make up a grazing cell that is planned as one unit on a grazing chart. Other terminologies that mean the same thing are “pasture”, and in New Zealand, a “block”. 

Planned Grazing. The grazing of livestock in accordance with a written grazing that simultaneously considers and addresses many variables, such as: animal behavior, breeding, performance, wildlife needs, other land uses, weather, plant growth rates, poisonous plants, dormant periods, droughts, and more. The purpose of the planning is to use profitably use livestock to bring about the future landscape described in a holisticgoal. The phrase is a common abbreviation for Holistic Management grazing planning.

Rest, Partial. Occurs in two ways: to plants, and to soils. Partial rest is usually accompanied by over-grazing, where some plants are bitten too frequently and become over-grazed, whilst neighbouring plants are ignored and become old and over-rested.  For the un-grazed plants it is as though no animals were present at all, and the effect for them as total rest. 

At the same time, when grazing animals are on the land but are not sufficiently bunched to promote a change in herd behavior, the animals barely disturb the soil surface and will trample little material onto the ground.  This low density or partial rest behaviour sometimes results in damage to the algae or lichen communities on the soil surface, but the impact is so little that the successional advance to more complex and stable communities is not initiated.

Rest, Tolerant Grasses. Some perennial grasses are able to thrive under prolonged rest, even in very brittle environments. These plants generally have some growth points, or buds, along their stems, located well above ground, where unfiltered sunlight can reach them.  Some plants are short in stature, and some are sparse-leafed, enabling unfiltered light to reach their ground level growth points.

Rest, Total.  In all environments a lack of physical disturbance, and a concurrent lack of disturbance by fire, will initiate total rest.  In brittle-tending environments this will lead to simplified communities.

Rotational Grazing. Grazing that involves movement of animals through some, and often, many paddocks.  Two factors are common indicators that the grazing is rotational rather than planned grazing: 1) There is the absence of a written grazing plan that considers all of the factors likely to be encountered during the grazing process, and; 2) The presence of some continued rigidity within an otherwise dynamic environment.  Common rigidities include: the animals are moved through a constant number of paddocks every season or year; the sequence of moves is the same every season; one or more paddocks are grazed at exactly the same time every year; rigid grazing periods (inferring rigid recovery periods) are enforced, even though there are variable plant growth rates; stocking rates are the same from year to year.

Standard Animal Unit (SAU). A single class of animal against which all the other classes and/or species of animals in a mob of animals are compared, in order to better assess the forage requirements of the mob. The common standards that are used are the American "Standard Animal Unit" (SAU), the Australian "Dry Sheep Equivalent" (DSE), or the New Zealand Stock Unit (NZSU).  (Animals x their SAU/DSE/NZ) x days = animal days (the amount of forage the equivalent number of standard animal would eat in a day).

Stock Density. The number of animals present in a paddock at a given time. Note: the time the animals are on the land could be as short as a few minutes, or up to several days. Although often expressed as the number of animals (of any size or age) run on one hectare or acre it is also legitimate to express stock density in standardized units eg SAU, DSE or NZSU per hectare or acre.

Stocking Rate. The number of animals run on a unit of land, usually expressed in the number of hectares or acres (or parts thereof) required to run one full grown animal throughout the year or for part of a year.

Strip Grazing. The grazing of animals on narrow strips of land, generally behind a frequently moved electric fence. The term usually infers that not only will there be an electric fence ahead of the animals, but also a back-fence behind the animals, to prevent them moving back over previously grazed land.

Succession. An important aspect of community dynamics, succession describes the stages through which biological communities develop. As simple communities become ever more diverse and complex, succession is said to be advancing. When complex communities are reduced to greater simplicity and less diversity, succession is set back and desertification is established. If the factors that set it back are removed, succession will advance once again.

Transect. A selected piece of land on which data are gathered or photos are taken year after year, to monitor any changes arising from management practices.

Ultra-High, Density Grazing. Grazing livestock so that they are held at extremely high densities throughout the day. Generally, those densities are achieved by herding the stock, or by enclosing them in a small area with movable fencing, or both. The aim is to induce herd effect, and thus high animal impact over most of the land, one piece at a time.

Water Cycle. The movement of water from the atmosphere to the soil (or the oceans) and eventually back to the atmosphere. An effective water cycle is one in which plants make maximum use of rainfall, little rainfall evaporates directly off the soil, and any runoff that may occur causes no erosion and remains clear. Also a good air to water balance should exist in the soil, enabling plant roots to absorb water readily. For the water cycle to be effective in brittle environments, the soil must be covered with living plants or litter, as vast amounts of water are lost through the bare, exposed soil between plants.

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