3 Rules of Adaptive Stewardship: Disruption

Change: The Great Constant

Have you ever thought about all of the processes that are happening in your body to keep you alive? It may feel like nothing is going on when you sit still for a moment, but our bodies are moving, repairing, rebuilding and restoring themselves from the moment we’re born to our last breath. For instance, the average heart will beat 103,000 times and lungs take in 23,000 breaths every single day. If that’s not amazing enough, think about this: Around 330 billion cells are replaced daily, which is around 1 percent of all our cells. In 80 to 100 days, 30 trillion will have replaced—the equivalent of a new you!1 Similarly, planet Earth is in constant motion and in a constant state of repairing, rebuilding and restoring. We don’t feel it, but the Earth is actually spinning around its axis at a whopping 1,063 mph at the equator while zooming through space at 66,627 mph.2 This drives the reliable changing of seasons, and, much like our bodies, the innumerable cycles needed to maintain a hospitable environment for life to occur. These include the energy cycle, the water cycle, the nutrient cycle and the cycle of life, also called community dynamics. All life on Earth depends on these systems interacting and running efficiently.

Earth is constantly in motion and that motion is constantly changing! The shape of Earth's orbit around the sun fluctuates on a cycle of 100,000 to 413,000 years. Similarly, the tilt and spin (think wobbling of a spinning top) of the Earth fluctuate on a cyclical basis. These cycles lead to changes in solar radiation received, which plays a key role in the timing of ice ages and interglacial warm periods.

This brings to mind the difference between complicated systems and complex systems. So far, I’ve spoken of complex systems: the human body with its innumerable processes, as well as the Earth with all of its cycles. These are complex systems because they involve “too many unknowns and too many interrelated factors to reduce to rules and processes.” Complicated systems, on the other hand, can be “hard to solve, but they are addressable with rules and recipes.”3 Computers and cars are good examples of complicated systems. Another key difference between the two systems is is their ability to self-heal, self-organize and self-regulate. Each of our bodies knew how to organize itself into the human form we exhibit today. Similarly, our body knows how to begin the healing process immediately after an injury. Think about the level of complexity and intelligence it takes for that to happen! Take apart all of the pieces of your “smart” phone and see if it can organize itself into a phone again. Drop your computer from a second story window and see how long it takes to heal itself.


We have to realize as land managers that the Earth, plants, animals, soil and all of the biology within it are complex systems. They behave less like complicated technology and more like our complex bodies. We modern human beings have slowly lost this insight over time. One reason could be that more humans now live in urban settings compared to rural ones4, which separates ourselves from natural, complex systems and replaces them with inert or complicated systems. I imagine it would be quite easy for someone born and raised in the concrete jungle of a major city to feel that humans are here and nature is over there somewhere.


Another reason why we treat nature as complicated is that human societies in the past 150 years have experienced some incredible advances in the world of medicine and agriculture. We understand more about the world around than ever before. The trouble is that these advances mostly came about from reductionist research. This type of research places an emphasis on breaking down complex living systems into their complicated individual parts where they can be studied, like taking apart a car and observing all of its parts laid on the ground. While we can begin to understand each part, reductionist research cannot gather insight into relationships and interactions between each individual part. Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka put it best when he wrote that “An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.” No one is to blame as researching relationships and changes in behavior from an individual to a community level is extremely difficult, time consuming and expensive, but we’ve got to realize reductionist research is not the whole story.

Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008)

I am very thankful for the progress, the lives saved and the conveniences in my life that have come about as a result, but we must realize we may be reaching a point where we are suffering from our own success. We’ve lost touch with nature and our complicated solutions are less effective at solving our ever-increasing list of complex issues. This is why regenerative educators place so much emphasis on the fact that nature has the ability to repair, rebuild, revitalize and restore itself to efficient levels of functioning. The default setting for complex, biological systems is balance and health driven largely by diversity. Our job is to create the right environment and step out of the way to allow these systems to do what they do best. The Rule of Disruption is one of the best management practices we have at our disposal to do just that.


The Rule of Disruption states that nature is extremely resilient and can recover from insults (challenges) quite well. A disruption is a planned, purposeful change in management that brings about positive results to a farm or ranch’s ecosystem functioning over time. In other words, living beings need to move and be challenged in order to thrive! Just like our muscles build back stronger after microtears from lifting weights5, natural systems build back stronger after appropriate management practices. This is evidenced by the fact that soil-health parameters often improve after challenges, while productivity increases and diversity is enhanced.6  This differs from the soil health principle of minimizing disturbances because disturbances are man-made practices that are violent and detrimental to ecosystem functioning over time, such as overuse of tillage, synthetic fertilizer application and pesticide use.


Disruptions are designed with two ecological principles in mind: 1) Complex systems require motion, change, rebuilding and repairing to maintain health and 2) Appropriately timed challenges improve long-term strength and resilience. In addition, disruptions make use of the fact that all cells, from single-celled bacteria to human cells, have a memory that allows them to respond to past stimuli. Cellular “defense and resilience programs include epigenetic changes that leave a “memory/scar” – an alteration as a consequence of the stress the cell has experienced.”7,8 It stands to reason, then, that patterns or prescriptions of management cause cells to become complacent and less resilient to change because they do not build up these “epigenetic memories/scars”. In practice, this means that farms and ranches will respond poorly to stressful weather conditions and bounce back more slowly after conditions have receded. Implementing planned, purposeful disruptions is an effective management strategy to buffer the effects of unfavorable conditions through improved ecosystem functioning and resilience. For a real-world case study of this effect, read how quickly regenerative farmer Adam Grady’s land recovered from Hurricane Florence, which brought 35 inches of rain and 8 feet of floodwaters in 2018.

Livestock Disruptions

Utilizing livestock disruption on a farm or ranch is not as simple as purchasing livestock, letting them run loose during the growing season and patting yourself on the back for implementing the 6th principle of soil health and the Rule of Disruption. Mismanagement of livestock is one of the quickest ways to degrade a farm or ranch’s ecosystem through negative compounding and cascading effects. I encourage everyone to contact a neighbor or friend further down the regenerative path or a regenerative consultant when adding livestock to the operation or implementing novel disruptions. The last thing I want is for your operation to go backwards and come to the popular, albeit false, conclusion that animals are detrimental to the environment.

Below are a few examples of planned, purposeful disruptions livestock managers can implement. Talk these over with trusted friends or consultants and decide which make the most sense in your unique context.


Altering stock densities on a routine basis. Dr. Allen Williams of Understanding Ag calls this a “pulsing of stock density.”8 Stock density simply refers to the weight of livestock on a given amount of land. For example, say Rancher Rachel put 100,000 lbs of livestock on 5  acres. The stock density would equal 20,000 lb/acre (100,000 lbs divided by 5 acres). Easy. Now, say Rancher Rachel reads this brilliant article and decides she wants to reap the benefits of disruption. She will need to increase the stocking density an appreciable amount when her herd returns if she wants to see results from altered density. An increase from 20,000 to 50,000 lb/acre is a nice place to start. Increasing from 20,000 to 25,000 lb/acre is not a big enough difference as it would be like training for a marathon and expecting big changes from your body after increasing your 2 mile run to a 2.02 mile run. Yes, it’s a positive change, but a longer run is going to yield better results quicker. To increase from 25,000 to 50,000 lb/acre upon returning to the original paddock, she could either split the area in half with the same weight of livestock or double the amount of livestock while maintaining the same size of the paddock. In either case, the amount of time spent on that paddock will likely decrease, depending on the amount of forage available.

One practical way to achieve impact from high stock density is by implementing the “high density-low density”, or “paddock within a paddock”, strategy. The first step is to create a paddock that will supply the livestock with sufficient forage dry matter (DM) for a 24 hour period. Next, use temporary fencing to create a smaller paddock within that 24 hour paddock. The whole herd will graze inside this area for a short amount of time (usually 30 minutes or so) to achieve the desired trampling and manure/urine distribution. 500,000 to 1,000,000 lb/acre is not out of the question. Check out this video on the Grounded Regenerative YouTube channel to see what a  800,000 lb/acre stock density for 20 minutes looks like, courtesy of an Irish dairy operation. The last action to take is to let the livestock into the larger 24 hour paddock once the appropriate amount of time has passed and be done for the day.


If this all sounds confusing, just remember the golden rule: livestock should be moved before they are allowed to take a second bite of the same plant, no matter the stock density. The only difference is that high stock densities require them to be moved out of a paddock quicker because the amount of fresh bites decreases quickly. Also, be aware that heavily impacted paddocks likely require longer recovery and rest periods. Many regenerative educators advise waiting many years before grazing with such high stock densities in that paddock again. One simple strategy is to graze 20% of the land with a high stock density each year, meaning that it will take 5 years to return to the same piece of ground with high stock density.  Observation is ultimately the key to determining when livestock should return to the paddock. I will expand on the topic of observation later in this article.


Alter Paddock Configuration. Believe it or not, the shape of a paddock affects animal behavior and their impact on the land. For example, one study showed that large paddocks used in continuous grazing allow the cattle to be pickier and to move in a circular motion, leading to a patchier landscape. Rotationally grazed cattle moved linearly and “distributed grazing pressure in a more spatially homogeneous fashion”.10 These long, narrow paddocks force livestock to become less picky eaters because they feel competition from their neighbors, meaning they’ve got to eat what they can while the food is available. Just like us humans, eating a diversity of foods increases the immune system and overall health of livestock.11 We are also benefiting from better armor on the soil surface via an improved trampling effect, as well as vastly better fertility management via a more even manure and urine distribution across the whole landscape. Also, think about the trillions of probiotic microbes seeded more evenly onto a landscape’s plants and soil through saliva, contact with body parts and manure. All of these benefits can be achieved simply by altering paddock configuration from square to long and narrow.


Finally, we do not want to stick with the same location of our long, narrow paddocks year in, year out. This is prescriptive and we already know that prescriptive systems cannot provide challenges that increase the resilience of the land. One technique to shake things up is to switch from north/south facing paddocks one year to more of an east/west directionality the next. This change is a greatly beneficial disruption because it naturally alters recovery and rest time of certain areas, forcing them to respond differently than they had in the past. Ultimately, it’s your decision and you get to be the artist that creates the necessary change that results in a regeneration of a functional, diverse and colorful pasture.

Difference in manure and urine distribution among various grazing strategies

Alter rest-rotation periods in each paddock. Proper recovery and rest of forage after grazing is of paramount importance to maintain and even increase forage production over time. A general rule of thumb is that regions receiving less annual rainfall require longer rest periods. Water makes the system run and areas with low rainfall are unable to move as quickly as those with abundant rain. Farmers and ranchers in semi-arid and arid regions should consider giving a paddock or pasture an extended 12-14 month rest every once in a while. The positive compounding and cascading effects of such a disruption with low rainfall can be unbelievable. Yearlong rests are not limited to low rainfall regions as this disruption can be positive anywhere.


The larger point is that we do not want to ascribe a magical number of days livestock must return back to a paddock. For one, this is highly prescriptive and we want planned, purposeful disruptions to challenge the land. Second, this pays no attention to the time of year. Forage regrowth and recovery occurs at various rates throughout the growing season. Always returning to the same paddock after, say, 30 days may be too quick or too slow depending on the time of  year AND it creates complacency in the land. Species that take roughly 30 days to recover will flourish to the detriment of species that require different recovery periods. By altering rest-rotation periods, we effectively even the playing field and increase plant species diversity over time.


Alter time of rotations through paddocks. Many farmers and ranchers graze the same paddocks the same time of year for the same amount of time before moving them to the same next paddock, if they move their cattle at all. While this system may feel like it gives us a sense of control and consistency we desperately desire in this chaotic industry, we are actually setting ourselves up for more chaos down the road. We are inadvertently teaching the land and animals through those cellular memory/scars to become locked in to one set of conditions in an ever-changing world.

If you tend to start each year in the same paddock, consider starting in a new paddock this year and a new one next year. Similarly, try to alter the timing of the last grazing event on a given paddock each year. Believe it or not, these simple changes can positively stimulate the latent seed bank, increasing the diversity of forage in the paddock.


Skipping a paddock on the next rotation, particularly after high stock density, is also a viable disruption worth exploring to give the land extended time to develop deeper roots, make more microbial connections and build soil structure through macroaggregation. Lastly, think about altering the amount of time that livestock graze in a given paddock. Life happens and we cannot always be there to move cattle as often as we may want. It’s absolutely fine to build a paddock that can support livestock for 2,3,4 days at a time. Life happens and this is why it’s called adaptive grazing! Just make sure to rotate paddocks that receive this disruption so that we don’t accidentally create a quasi-sacrifice paddock when we need to be away for a few days. Spread out the disruption to all paddocks over time and observe what it does for forage production and resilience.


Alter grazing forage height on and off a paddock. Another prescription we want to avoid is waiting to graze a paddock when  forage reaches an exact height and grazing down to an exact height. Grazing in this manner creates a narrow range of conditions that naturally discourages many plant species from flourishing. We don’t see grazing animals walking around with their tape measures looking for the optimal forage height to have lunch, so why are we managing the land in this manner? Yes, it’s beneficial to allow plants to recover and rest, but there is no such concept as the perfect height to always graze. Time of year, weather conditions, livestock needs and many other considerations play a role in determining  when to enter a paddock and when to leave. Remember, nature is complex and resilient. Pastures contain the wisdom and ability within them to strengthen when grazed at different heights. Give your land the chance to tell how much it can handle.


Alter livestock species order when grazing a paddock. This disruption mainly applies to operations that raise multiple species. However, you may be surprised to find that untapped opportunities abound in your local area. You never know! Whether it’s your livestock or a neighbor’s, running species in a different order every once in a while provides them with an opportunity to consume different forage species, as well as different parts of the usual forage they see. Different species of livestock impact the land differently, so switching species order is a good way to shake things up and get a positive response out of the land. The key, as always, is to have an open mind, try something new and keenly observe the results.


Leader-Follower. Not only can we alter species order, but we can alter the order of grazing within species. Livestock have different nutritional needs depending on their stage of growth, just like us! Some livestock, such as yearlings, and/or livestock that are fattening up for finishing are good candidates to be leaders. Leaders are allowed to graze in the paddock first because nutrient density and protein content are concentrated in the top portion of forage. Once they have consumed the desired amount, a second group of livestock, such as cow/calf pairs or dry livestock, are allowed to enter the next day and get to choose from what remains. These animals can get by just fine most times on the more “stemmy” forage that remains. Special effort and observation must be taken as it is easy to accidentally remove too much forage in a leader-follower system. Some farmers and ranchers mitigate this risk by allowing the leaders to take 25% of available forage dry matter (DM) and the followers to take the next 25%, thus leaving 50% standing or trampled. Whichever approach you take, adding an additional grazing day through a leader-follower technique can be a very positive disruption to land that is not used to it.


Planned Burns/Fires. Natural landscapes experience timely fires, which are actually quite beneficial to ecological landscapes.12 Indigenous peoples around the world 13,14 have utilized low temperature burns throughout history to achieve the same benefits of these natural fires. Farmers and ranchers can also use planned, purposeful burns to speed up nutrient cycling, stimulate the latent seed bank and even catalyze positive changes to soil biology. If you do decide to utilize this disruption, allow a rest period of at least 5-8 years before burning the same area again.


Combining two or more Disruptions. The beauty (or downfall) of making changes to complex systems is that the results are often greater than we ever imagined. 1 + 1 does not equal 2 in most cases. Human lifestyle changes and their effect on health is a good parallel. Working out regularly and consuming a healthy diet are two great changes to make in their own right. However, exponential improvements to health are made when these two lifestyle changes are paired together. Imagine working out 5 times a week, but eating greasy fast food 7 days a week. Those gains will be overshadowed in a hurry. The same goes for the land. Consider pairing a high stock density event with an extended rest period. This is a very common way to introduce two new disruptions and reap the benefits. Alter the directionality and shape of the paddock upon returning and four disruptions have been introduced just like that! Be creative and be observant. This is the fun part of working with the land!

Cropping Disruptions

Stewarding cropland well is a monumental task, especially in annual cropping systems. However, there are plenty of ways to implement positive disruptions in such systems. I will reiterate that disruptions are designed with two ecological principles in mind: 1) Complex systems require motion, change, rebuilding and repairing to maintain health and 2) Appropriately timed challenges improve long-term strength and resilience. This means that leaving land fallow is not good rest for the land and it is not a positive disruption. This may seem counterintuitive, but leaving land fallow essentially slows down the system to a crawl, with much of the remaining activity degenerative. Microbes are not receiving fresh inputs of food, so they are forced to consume organic material, some of which prevents soil structure from collapsing.  I liken fallow land to a human being forced on bed rest for weeks and months where the patients is not allowed to eat, exercise, or use the bathroom. We begin to eat our own muscles and organs to receive the energy and nutrition we require to live. We also get bed sores from reduced movement and air flow to parts of our body. Moving, working and creating do not “mine out” our resources when we are properly fed. It’s the same with the soils we are stewarding. Secondly, two crop rotations, such as a corn-bean rotation, are certainly better than planting the same crop every year, but they do not provide adequate disruptions to improve long-term strength and resilience of the land. Weak and non-resilient land means more money out of the farmer’s pocket to pay for inputs AKA life-support.


Below are a few examples of planned, purposeful disruptions cropland managers can implement. Talk these over with trusted friends or consultants and decide which make the most sense in your unique context.


Alter tillage. I discuss the harm of tillage in the second principle of soil health, minimizing disturbances,  so I recommend you check that out if you want further information. What I will say here is that planned, purposeful tillage may be appropriately used at some points during a long-term rotation. For example, subsoiling to break up deep compaction layers can be an effective disruption in some instances. If you do subsoil, make sure to use a straight shank/sharp edge ripper to cut through the soil and lift it a bit, rather than subsoilers that bring substantially move large chunks of subsoil upward.15   In addition, those of you who utilize intensive tillage can benefit from moving toward a less soil disturbing practice such as strip-till. Lastly, some cropland farmers find success in combating slug pressure with the occasional scratching of the surface with tines at the appropriate time.


The goal of designing a regenerative system is to build biological systems that aerate the soil, cycle nutrients and water properly and keep pests in check on their own. Not everyone’s farm ecosystem is that far down the regenerative path, so occasionally adding a tillage disruption can be beneficial if the disruption improves long-term strength and resilience of the land.


Alter cash crop rotations. Adding cash crops is a great disruption because it diversifies root exudates pumped into the soil, root architecture creating channels in the soil and disrupts pest cycles, such as the corn rootworm that was once only a problem in continuous corn but now re-appears in two year corn-bean rotations. Corn and soy farmers of North America should consider adding a cash crop like winter wheat to profitably alter the rotation, while keeping the soil covered more days of the year. Diversifying the cash crop rotation also builds financial resilience and, at the end of the day, the best way to steward the land is to still be on it implementing disruptions year after year!


– Cover crop integration. There’s a reason why the number of American acres utilizing cover crops has sharply increased in the 21st century.16 Disrupting repetitive rotations with cover crops is one of the most positive, if not the most positive, disruptions a cropland farmer can utilize, as long as  context and resource concern are taken into consideration! Resource concerns include, but are not limited to, erosion management, compaction management, organic matter development, nutrient runoff prevention, salinity management, soil fungi feeding, on and on. There are challenges and additional costs associated with integrating cover crops, but the benefits over time are well worth the initial hiccups.


– Alter cover crop rotation.  Cover crops are an excellent disruption for row crop operations in their own right, but we can make even greater gains by diversifying our cover crop rotation. Remember, living and dead roots feed soil biology better than any other method, hands down. Just like a variety of plant foods in our diet provide us with different nutrients, living roots from a variety of plants provide different nutrients to soil biology.17 Here’s something to chew on: research now shows that better health outcomes for humans results not from the total amount of consumed fiber from plant foods, but rather the diversity of fiber consumed. This is because every plant makes its own unique form and combination of fiber that provides various benefits to us and our gut microbiome. As such, people who ate the largest variety of plant foods were found to have the healthiest microbiomes and were likely to report the best health outcomes. (For anyone interested, consuming 30 different plants each week was found to be the number for optimal benefits from fiber intake. Benefits plateaued from 30 to 35 or 40.18,19) It appears that the same is true of organic matter inputs to the soil, specifically roots and their exudates. Diversity of plant inputs leads to a healthy, resilient soil microbiome. Amazing! Is it really a surprise, though, given the striking similarities between the soil and our guts? 20


So, with all that said, using something like a cereal rye monocrop as a cover crop is beneficial and much better than nothing. However, we need to begin thinking about ways in which we can add species and diversify the cover crop rotation further to speed up and magnify beneficial results. As always, seek advice with those around you and don’t be afraid to do trials with various mixes and observe the results.


– Alter time of year with a cash crop and cover crop in the ground. It matters when you have living roots in the ground! Understanding Ag consultants have observed positive results to soil health from delaying cash crop planting by just one or two weeks to allow cover crops a few more days of growth. Accruing these soil health benefits over years and decades will create positive compounding and cascading effects that result in more efficiently functioning ecosystem processes, which ultimately means decreased input costs and increased profitability.


Alter method of cover crop termination. I often hear producers and podcast hosts ask variations of the same question: If I had to choose the lesser of two evils, which do you think I should choose: Tillage or pesticides? I honestly believe it comes down to who you ask and when you ask them. Research, articles and documentaries abound with doomsday messages about both tillage and pesticides, so my advice is to hedge your risk if you are forced into that situation. For example, weed management might be controlled with an herbicide one year, light tillage the next, a roller-crimper on year three and tight animal grazing the last year. The key is to avoid becoming formulaic or prescriptive with our management or else the land falls into a pattern of complacency and dependence on one management technique. On the flip side, varying termination methods will select for resilient species that can better handle unexpected challenges.


– Introduce livestock. Every terrestrial landscape throughout history developed with the help of animal disruptions, meaning that animals are integral to the building of soil health, ecosystem functioning and, dare I say, *gasp* a healthy climate, despite what many say today. Our domesticated livestock can be managed in a way that mimics the system that built our healthy soils, thus reversing the decades of degradation we’ve done. One simple way to implement positive livestock disruptions is to allow the animals to graze cover crops or previous crop residue. Their manure, urine, hooves, beaks, fur, saliva and microbes challenge the land in ways that some pieces of cropland may not have seen for over 100 years. Over time, livestock can increase soil nutrient availability21, soil aggregation22, water infiltration23 and productivity of the cash crop.24 Music to a crop producer’s ears of corn.


There’s an old adage that says, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Any consultant worth their salt, whether it be a regenerative agriculture consultant, agronomist, or even doctor, should live by this piece of wisdom. Their goal should be to supply their clients not just with their service, but with the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions on their own in the future. Dave Ramsey, host of the popular financial radio show The Ramsey Show, goes so far as to say folks should only entrust their money with a financial advisor that has “the heart of a teacher”. Consultants and advisors with the heart of a teacher are determined to empower their clients, not create lifelong, dependent customers.


The biggest strength and weakness of regenerative agriculture is that it’s a thinking person’s game. It takes much more thought and planning on the part of the farmer or rancher as compared to the predictive, prescriptive nature of conventional agriculture. This can be a daunting barrier to entry to overcome. However, with the right coaching, the right teaching and the right attitude, I believe anyone can learn the language of nature and gain the knowledge necessary to regenerate their landscape and “eat for a lifetime.” Knowing which disruption to make, and when to make it, is a crucial step in becoming self-sufficient in regenerative decision-making. It requires a keen sense of observation and all of your senses. What is the land telling you when you walk onto it? Do you hear a symphony of insects or is it dead silent? Are there birds chirping? What about below the surface? Is the soil well-aggregated or compacted? Are there signs of invertebrates burrowing and churning up nutrients? How about the smell of the soil? Is it sweet and earthy, indicating a healthy balance of microbes, or is it metallic, acidic or bland smelling? Really observe what is happening on your operation to determine the state of the land and the efficiency of the four ecosystem processes (energy, water, nutrient and life cycles).


Now comes the hard part: doing something. Determine your risk level and choose a disruption on as small a piece of land as will allow you to sleep at night if the experiment does not go as planned. There are no failures when knowledge and experience is gained. If you don’t believe me, take it from, Thomas Edison, who managed to obtain 1,093 patents in his life:

The key to becoming a successful regenerative farmer or rancher lies in the ability to observe natural processes and apply that knowledge to the next decision and the next and the next in your unique context. Take adaptive grazing, for example. When should livestock be moved into a new paddock? It all depends on your observation of the situation. Andre Voisin, author of Grass Productivity (1959), wrote that,  “It is not a case of rigidly obeying figures: one must follow the grass. One has no right to say: so many days after grazing at such and such a time of year, I will start grazing again. One must look for the plots that are ready for grazing, and graze them. Figures are only guides: in the end it is the eye of the grazier that decides… To repeat: the grass commands; the eye of the grazier follows in its train, ready to receive its orders.”


Be brave and be willing to try new disruptions. Observe the changes that happen over time and be someone with a determined spirit to keep improving year after year.


Watch this YouTube video by Understanding Ag consultant Jeremy Sweeten to learn more about the power of observation on a real regenerative grazing operation.


How often do we hear agronomists, educators, doctors, public health officials and politicians talk about resilience? Oftentimes, they speak like plants and animals and life as we know it are hanging on a knife’s edge with one little change containing the power to wipe away all of our hard work in a moment’s notice. While I tend to disagree with most alarmist messaging, we do live in uniquely challenging times and should focus on developing resilient systems able to absorb shocks and come out the other side even stronger. Like a good workout, planned, purposeful disruptions are just the trick. As an agricultural community, let’s really begin to focus on resilience as a key metric for our farms and ranches.


 To do this, we need to always remember that biological systems, such as the Earth, the human body and the soil, are complex and ever-changing. Understand that the ability to self-heal, self-organize and self-regulate is baked into the cake of biological systems. Health and balance is the default setting when the conditions are right. This paradigm shift allows us to better understand ourselves and our place on this beautiful blue and green planet we inhabit. On a practical level, it will help us improve our management of the complex agricultural systems we have been called to steward.









8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2882105/

9 https://understandingag.com/adaptive-grazing-rules-part-2/