Sunday, October 17, 2010

Holistic Management

Measuring how much a cow eats: Tamara Gadzia, Graeme Hand , Kirk Gadzia and Ben Falloon at Taranki Farm

Spring has sprung. The fruit trees I bought from the Heritage Fruit Society are taking off. At least six of the seven grafts of the apples and plums have taken. The seventh is being very secretive as to how it is going. The scion doesn't look dead, it just isn't growing yet. I have faith.

I have been a very quiet blogger, but been very active in my permaculture life. In August I attended the first of the RegenAg (regenerative agriculture as we need to build back our soils before we can consider a stable, sustainable agriculture). It was a great 3 days learning about Holistic Management from Kirk Gadzia.

Holistic Management involves articulating your holistic goal to cover your farm, family, community etc life. You always return to your holistic goal to test your options before making a decision. One technique it focuses on is mob or rotational grazing: intense grazing of a short time and then serious rest so that the plants (especially the roots) can recover. As the paddock has a high number of stock, there is a higher concentration of manure (which is a great fertiliser) and feed is either eaten (and converted to manure) or knocked down and will act as mulch. Keeping the ground covered is super important for water retention, something that home gardeners appreciate.

The standard practice in Australia is instead stock grazing. It has low stock density for a longer period and low coverage of manure over the area. The downside to this is paddocks are often regrazed before they've had a chance to rest, so plant growth is less under set stock than mob grazing. This then leads to stock having to be fed hay, which is extra time and money.

Holistic management grazing technique manages to have better pastures, requires less additional feed such as hay and builds carbon in the soil. It builds soil as when plant leaves are cut, it shears off a lot of its roots. These roots are carbon, which are then broken done by soil microbes and kept in the soil.

The rotational grazing can also move the pasture from annual to perrenial grass. No need for the farmer to pay for new seed every year. The pasture can even move to native grasses, which is impressive to have grasses suited to the local soil and climate. Not bad.

I'd recommend any RegenAg workshops for farmers (whether the farm has been in the family for generations or small block farmers) and permaculturalists. The second workshop was Biofertile Farms; Keyline Design is currently being taught across Australia in October. Then Joel Salatin (of Food Inc fame) will describe Local Farms and Community in November/December. So popular that in Victoria the session has sold out, so they have booked a second one. I look forward to these workshops continuing beyond 2010.

Ben demonstrating the diversion drain in front of him that collects water and directs it to the dam to the right