I keep learning so much from Ian that I find myself overwhelmed. Writing all of this stuff down on the blog is a way to reinforce what I’ve learned from him and most importantly share my learnings with all of you. Thankfully Ian has encouraged me to share all of this with you all.
Ian can be described as the opposite of a “conventional thinker.” However, I’m beginning to realize that Ian is thinking outside the box within the Holistic Management/Mob Grazing/High Density Grazing community, which many would consider “outside the box.” He is always pushing the boundaries of issues that many of us have taken as fact.
To illustrate this fact I want to use the example of unpalatable grasses. 99.9% of people in the previously mentioned community (Holistic Management) would think the best way to “deal with” unpalatable grasses is to trample them into oblivion with high density grazing/livestock management. Ian thinks that’s wrong.
It’s absolutely amazing that he thought of this when everyone in the Holistic Management community is so focused on looking at the land. His approach to unpalatable grasses is to leave them alone and let them die. Crazy right? This means he does not want to trample them. How can this be!?
This concept of “leaving them alone and letting them die” is a direct contradiction to Allan Savory’s advice on the issue of unpalatable grasses. Allan makes the argument in Holistic Managementthat oxidizing grass is a bad thing. This is what will happen to grass if you leave it alone (don’t trample it) like Ian does. Ian knows this is OK to do. It is not merely a theory. I’ve seen it myself. Let me explain.
The oxidizing unpalatable grasses are actually killing themselves. Not only are they killing themselves, they are contributing to the fertility of the land by being left alone. Let’s take a look at a picture to illustrate this example. Please take note that the unpalatable grass is very fine and thin. The new palatable grass has wider leaves.
As you can see, the unpalatable grass is dead, which has a white/yellow color. The exciting thing is that this dying grass plant is providing a beneficial habitat for a new species of palatable grass plants to grow. The dying grass plant is basically Carbon. One molecule of Carbon holds 12 molecules of water. This moist Carbon bed is a wonderful place for seeds to germinate. As you can see from the picture above, there is a new species of broadleaf palatable grass that is starting to grow. If you are still not convinced, the unpalatable grass plant is also shading itself out, which further inhibits its growth.
This may be hard to believe but let me reinforce the point I’m making. If you are trampling the unpalatable grass every year with high density grazing you are encouraging the unpalatable grass plant to come back next year. Why would you do that if your livestock don’t eat that species of grass? We know that high density grazing can stimulate and invigorate grass growth.
So, with all of this information you might be asking yourself, “does that mean Ian doesn’t use high density grazing?” Yes and No. As always, it depends. Most of the time, Ian is not doing ultra high density grazing. He is focused on his animals and how they are performing. This means Ian is focused on the animals, not the land! His mantra is “Animal performance, animal performance, animal performance.” Ian also says that if you properly monitor your animals performance “the rest will come.” He is referring to healing the land and growing more grass while putting more Carbon in your soils when he says “the rest will come.”
Well there you have it folks, Ian’s unique approach to unpalatable grasses. He is a real outside the box thinker. I hope this post made you think and question some of the current practices in your life, both agricultural and personal.