Continuing our examination of Alan Savory’s Four Key Insights.
Key Insight 3: The Role of Predator and Prey
The types of animals associated with the two types of environments (brittle and non-brittle) are also different. A relatively large number of large bodied herd animals, naturally concentrated and moving in the presence of predators, are vital to maintaining brittle environments. Much of the deterioration was initiated by the severing of the essential relationship between herding animals and their pack-hunting predators.
Animals behave differently in different situations. For example, large buffalo herds spread out when feeding, but not too far. They walk gently and slowly placing their hooves beside coarse plants and not on top of them. They also place full weight on the hooves compacting the soil. They make little impact on the plants and the soil other than the removal of forage and soil compaction.
However, once the herd begins to move or when predators are around, they bunch up as a herd for safety. They step recklessly and trample down very coarse plants containing old material providing cover for the soil surface. Their hooves leave the soil chipped and broken. In other words, the animals do what any gardener does. They first loosen the sealed soil surface, then bury the seed slightly, compact the soil around the seed and then cover the surface with mulch.
Even where they are herded (as opposed to being fenced in), they do not behave as they would under the threat of predation.
Large predators behave differently in different environments. In brittle environments wolves, lions, wild dogs, etc. hunt in packs and run down their prey. On the other hand, in non-brittle environments the predators (tigers, jaguars, etc) hunt singly and ambush their prey. Their counterparts in the more brittle environments (leopards and mountain lions) do not associate with large herds.
It was the pack-hunting predators who were mainly responsible for producing the change in behavior of their herding prey. Bunching up was the herd’s main form of protection.
Especially in brittle environments, large, concentrated and moving herds of animals in the presence of pack-hunting predators are vital to the health of the land.
But historically, as bare ground increased and the environment deteriorated, we attributed it to overgrazing which we, in turn, blamed on too many animals. We decreased animal numbers and thus increased the bare ground and the deterioration.
The fourth insight is that overgrazing is not in fact a function of animal numbers.
Source: Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making By Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield
- The Value of Holistic Herding (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)
- Managing the Ranch as a Business: Strategic Planning (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)