Holistic Grazing Definition and Management Explained

Holistic grazing is an approach to sustainable agriculture and natural resource management whereby the patterns of grazing by herbivores are made to align fully with the ecologic conditions of the environment.

This article discusses holistic grazing definition and management, as outlined below;


-Holistic Grazing Definition: 6 Ways to Define Holistic Grazing

-Holistic Grazing Management

-Benefits of Holistic Grazing




Holistic Grazing Definition: 6 Ways to Define Holistic Grazing

Holistic grazing is the act and process of regulating livestock grazing in such a manner that ensures that the rate of removal of forage is aligned with regeneration rates [1].

The above is a very basic description of the concept of holistic grazing, and it captures the most basic purpose or aim of the practice; which is to ensure that grazing does not hamper the ability of the ecosystem to regenerate its own resources.

Such regeneration of resources is accompanied by benefits, some of which are mentioned in the alternative holistic grazing definition that is provided below;

Holistic grazing is an agricultural practice, whereby forage consumption by livestock is planned and controlled in a manner that establishes sustainability, protects the ecosystem, enhances biodiversity, mitigates environmental impacts, prevents overgrazing and its effects, and increases the economic viability of pastoral farming [2].

In addition to being the benefits of holistic grazing, the points listed above also include several functions or objectives of holistic grazing management. This ‘management’ perspective is further highlighted in the following holistic grazing definition;

Holistic grazing is a system of landscape and livestock management that is designed to mimic and support natural processes and geochemical cycles that control nutrient availability and forage productivity, in order to make livestock farming more sustainable and productive.

In the next holistic grazing definition, some important ecologic factors considered in holistic grazing are mentioned;

Holistic grazing (or holistic planned grazing) is a pastoral agricultural technique that aims to align livestock feeding processes and behaviors with naturally-occurring ecologic factors like soil, water, air, nutrients, plant growth cycles, and carbon sequestration, among others [3].

The effectiveness and efficiency of holistic grazing both depend on the mechanism involved. This mechanism is briefly described in the alternative holistic grazing definition below;

Holistic grazing is an integrated livestock management practice or system that is based on the mechanism of pastoral land-segmentation and livestock periodic-shifting across paddocks; in order to prevent overgrazing, protect the environment, and sustain as well as optimize biological productivity.

Holistic Grazing Definition: Periodic Shifting across Paddocks (Credit: Dave Young 2010 .CC BY 2.0.)
Holistic Grazing Definition: Periodic Shifting across Paddocks (Credit: Dave Young 2010 .CC BY 2.0.)


All descriptions so far suggest that holistic grazing is similar in concept and objectives, to sustainable agricultural practices. This is further clarified in the holistic grazing definition below;

Holistic grazing is a system of livestock farming that involves regulated herbivore feeding, with consideration of ecologic factors and natural conditions, and which bears similarity to some practices and principles of sustainable agriculture like; integrated crop-livestock farming (ICLF), biodynamic farming, agroecology, and permaculture [4].



Holistic Grazing Management

Holistic grazing management is a combination of schemes, equipment and techniques used to regulate and optimize herbivore grazing activities within a given area and time-period.

An outcome of holistic planned grazing that is effectively conducted, is a state of equilibrium between forage removal and replenishment.

The two main aspects of holistic grazing management are; holistic crop management and holistic land management.

In holistic crop management, the rate and determinant factors of plant growth are evaluated and used to draft a scheme for the conservation of plant biomass resources on pastoral land.

Holistic land management is the effective regulation of soil and water resources in any given area, to prevent land degradation.

Within the context of grazing, holistic land management may involve measures like land segmentation, fencing, nutrient supplementation, and organic mulching.



Benefits of Holistic Grazing

Benefits of holistic grazing include;

1). Reduction of complexity in livestock management

2). Increase in forage regeneration rate

3). Optimization of soil characteristics

4). Specialization to suit on-site conditions

5). Higher overall productivity




Holistic grazing is a system of land management that involves controlling the rate of grazing on pastoral land by taking into account all factors that determine the balance between vegetation loss and replenishment.

Holistic grazing management is a broad term that refers to all tools and methods used to manage grazing in a manner that covers the essential factors influencing ecologic sustainability.

Benefits of holistic grazing include; low complexity, increased forage regeneration, soil optimization, specialization, and higher productivity.




1). Hawkins, H. (2017). “A global assessment of Holistic Planned Grazing™ compared with season-long, continuous grazing: meta-analysis findings.” African Journal of Range and Forage Science 2017(34:2):65-75. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2989/10220119.2017.1358213. (Accessed 10 December 2022).

2). Mimi, H.; Ry, T.; Fungui, W.; Steve, A. (2019). “Impacts of holistic planned grazing with bison compared to continuous grazing with cattle in South Dakota shortgrass prairie.” Available at: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201900090169. (Accessed 10 December 2022).

3). Nordborg, M.; Röös, E. (2016). Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method.” Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Holistic-management-–-a-critical-review-of-Allan-Nordborg-Röös/ed564841f68ec5f7d5a7bf5bb4338093a07f7698. (Accessed 10 December 2022).

4). O’Donoghue, T.; Minasny, B.; Mcbratney, A. B. (2022). “Regenerative Agriculture and Its Potential to Improve Farmscape Function.” Sustainability 14(10):5815. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su14105815. (Accessed 10 December 2022).

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