Part Four: Grazing Management Styles – Holistic Planned Grazing 

This is part four in a series about grazing management styles. See Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

At last we are finally here. Holistic Planned Grazing. I know, I know, another grazing term! However, Holistic Planned Grazing is quite different from all of the other grazing management styles. It’s a planned process.

Holistic Planned Grazing is as I’ve said, something you plan for. This was developed by Allan Savory when he developed Holistic Management.

Before we get into defining what Holistic Planned Grazing is, I want to clear the air on something. Holistic Management is not a way to manage livestock or grazing. Holistic Management is a framework for decision making. One technique or tool that Holistic Management uses is Holistic Planned Grazing. You could be a school teacher from Dallas, Texas and never even think about Holistic Planned Grazing, but you might use Holistic Management to plan your life and make decisions. Make sense? I hope so, if not that means I’m an awful “explainer” haha.

Now lets talk about Holistic Planned Grazing. Holistic Planned Grazing is a grazing plan that you make for the entire year. You use this plan to map out/plan where your animals will be and at what time they will get there. Let’s say you have 200 paddocks. It doesn’t matter if they are temporary or permanent. You would plan to utilize those 200 paddocks over the course of one year. Maybe you use each paddock twice. Maybe you use each paddock 5 times. I don’t know, it depends on a lot of things like rain fall, humidity, your geographic region, the amount of livestock you have, your management style, the types of livestock, etc.

This is what a grazing chart looks like. They are available from the Savory Institute or Holistic Management.



As you can see the grazing chart can be quite messy. I prefer to keep it simple. A lot of that stuff written on that chart was used by the people who made for some specific reason. You don’t need all that stuff.

The basics of how to use this chart are simple. You list your paddocks on the left hand side. In the picture you can see numbers 1-20. The vertical columns are days. Each chart holds 7 months worth of data. First, you mark each small box that corresponds with the day and paddock where you want your livestock to be. After that you fill in the actual place where your livestock were. This gives you a way to plan for what is coming and where/when your animals will be. With this chart you can plan lots of things like vacations, breeding, calving, but I’m not going to go into those right now.

Lets get back to talking about Holistic Planned Grazing and not the grazing chart, even though that is an important part of this whole deal, obviously.

The benefits of Holistic Planned Grazing are:

  • You plan for what you want, therefore you have control over your livestock, time and success
  • You know where you animals should be on any given day over the course of a year or however long you keep your livestock
  • It forces you to think ahead and not to “fly by the seat of your pants”
  • You have flexibility in grazing management styles. For example you are not limited to the “high density” mentality. There are times that call for high density and times where you might set stock your livestock in one paddock for a number of days or weeks.
  • Gives you confidence
  • Allows you to actually plan a vacation or other events. If you plan it the chances of something happen increase dramatically
  • Provides you with a detailed record of your grazing practices for each year. This will be valuable information for other employees or your children.
  • Shows you the “big picture” in your grazing management and planning for the year so you know what to expect. This is great for people just starting out in the grazing world

The downsides of Holistic Planned Grazing are:

  • This is a big one. When making a grazing plan on paper you might be tempted to stick with the plan. Remember, we are working within nature and nature is chaotic. The plan is there to serve as a guide, not to replace your common sense. What happens if there is a natural disaster or death in the family? You’ll probably need to change your grazing management for a period of time. What happens if it doesn’t rain for 3 months? Better change something, and quick. 
  • Creating a Holistic Planned Grazing chart can give you sense that since you have everything planned nothing can go wrong. It can. Be diligent about monitoring you animals and land, they tell you a lot more than a piece of paper.
  • If you are doing a sell/buy or bringing in and shipping out cattle on a regular basis the grazing plan can be hard to keep up with. However, you can plan for the average number of Animal Units you think you’ll have for certain time periods. For example, I might have 400 AU’s during May, June and July but drop down to 150 AU’s in August and September.

So as you can see Holistic Planned Grazing is not really high density grazing, mob grazing, MiG grazing or anything else. It can be all of those things or none of them. It gives you ultimate flexibility and doesn’t limit your mind to “high density grazing” or “mob grazing.” There are times of the year where Mob Grazing might not make any sense and if you understand that you are open to the possibility of breaking up the herd to achieve your goals.

Remember Holistic Planned Grazing serves as a roadmap, but ultimately you are the driver and you might need to change course, but at least you can see the road ahead(your grazing plan).

Whether you are a MiG, Mob, High Density, Low Density or Rotational grazier, Holistic Planned Grazing can work for you. Try it out, it might just be fun!

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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