Photo Gallery - Holistic Management

March 19 2020 RMPP Regenerative Action Te Moana a Toi Action Group, Opotiki, Bay of Plenty

The group visited a dairy farm where they have been ahead of the drought most of the season.  They have yet to feed out but do have supplies if the dry continues as deferred grazing on hillsides is an option.  They’re also in conversion to organic so dealing with production issues while they work their way through that process, hence currently grinding up old shelter belts for cow bedding.  They compost all manure and bedding waste and feed a worm farm to create humates to spray on pasture.  They’ve just secured funding for 2 km of riparian planting and fencing.  They’re also exploring mixed permanent pastures such as what to group is standing in looking at whether plants have recovered enough to be grazed.  The real disappointment for this group is the lack of local commitment by other farmers to participate.  The difference between discussion and action groups is action groups are for doing and documenting change not just talking about it. 

March 17 2020 RMPP Southern Action Group, Clinton, Otago

This group visited dairy farmer Mark Anderson for the second time to check out how his pastures handled the summer verse winter.  We visited a multi-species pasture that has doubled in species and increased soil carbon by 1.3% in a year.  It can now carry an extra ½ stock unit.  We visited the bale grazing site we looked at during the winter.  The diversity was evident with red clover and timothy emerging.  Mark believes its stack up financially with the cost per head of $7.00 verses $20.00 for a feed pad and $40.00 for grazing off farm.  What surprised the group was a lack of mosaic and mounds of uneaten hay in the bale grazed paddocks, the quality of pasture at 5,500kgDM and the fact pasture species could double in such a short time just by lengthening pasture recovery between grazing events.

March 16 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers West Otago Action Group, Wairio, Southland


The group spent the morning with Walter Jehne learning about the role farmers have in controlling climate change and what they can do to sequester carbon and change heat dynamics driving weather patterns.  In the afternoon the group visited organic farmer Shane Robertson at Wairio to look at the simplest production system.  He demonstrated how he used sheep to trample rank pasture in January to produce brilliant clover pasture in 21 days.  He explained how mature grasses were removed by livestock from pasture throughout the year.  The group was happy with his livestock and began to realise how his grazing system differed from their efforts at home to achieve better pasture quality, especially from mid-summer.  Conversations at the end of the day focused on recovery periods and stock density to achieve better pasture quality.

March 11 2020 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay action group, Patoka and Maraekakaho, Hawkes Bay

A double property visit today to look at trees in the landscape.  As the group commented, trees require a generational approach because that is how long it might take to figure out what is appropriate.  It takes a long time to establish trees, to water them and keep stock off them.  Trees with seed pods took the group by surprise as they provide an alternative food source usually by lifting either energy or protein when grass is below its best, similar to fruit trees.  Some taste like peas.  How they might be used strategically in a grazing rotation was also discussed.  Hedgerows compared to silvoculture (trees to graze under) was demonstrated along with how susceptible trees are to aerial spraying.  The role trees around dams was explored.  The view was their leaves contaminate water for stock to drink therefore other plants are a better choice around dams.

March 10 2020 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Pongaroa, Manawatu

With this area recently declared drought these red meat groups are providing farmers with company and reassuring them of their situation as well as what they can be focusing on next.  The property today had plenty to celebrate; dams were clean and so was the water, soil has great structure, livestock were excellent despite a tough couple of months.  Drought is an opportunity to clear the mind of distractions and focus on necessities.  Stock water and feed become a priority.  Areas set aside but not yet riparian planted are ideal for grazing.  So are roadsides if they can be fenced.  While these actions deal only with the emergency of drought, the group today also talked about habits and routines, time management, and decision deadlines.  Drought favours those who act early, those who destock when it’s green, and those happy to take their profit sooner than later.  So how do you get there?


March 3 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Clifton, Golden Bay

Weather didn’t play its part today but we could see potential with the property climbing over 450 metres within 3 km of the coast.  Soils proved to be very good structurally so continued investment with lime and grazing.  Supplying meat to local market was something to continue with as was exploring the role accommodation could play in realising income for further pasture development.  The challenges of a smaller property in a relatively isolated area with a very seasonal local market were laid bare however, a supply of labour through woofers could also prove to be an advantage for some jobs.  It was clear that being part of the group has lifted their confidence in trying things and gaining more information through discussion and making connections.  The great thing about small groups meeting regularly is how people help each other take advantage of what their situations have to offer.


March 2 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Tutoki, Tasman

Visited a sheep and beef property near Murchison run by youngest group member.  It has been a tough journey as the small hill country property was run down but provided his family with an opportunity to learn more about landscape development.  Over four years lime changed soil structure creating good aggregates to improve drainage and water holding capacity.  Magnesium pan is disappearing, wasn’t on soil test as below sample depth, therefore highlights importance of digging a hole to look at soil structure.  Fern has reduced due to lime and grazing pressure, clover has replaced buttercup in many places.  Where to invest (water, fence, fertiliser) when building up a run down property took most of the conversation as calcium is quickly stripped from soil due to high rainfall but expensive to apply and its rate of return is shorter compared to infrastructure.  An interesting observation is native ground nesting birds including weka and kea are visiting the property to graze pastures. 

February 28 2020 RMPP Canterbury Foothills action group, Windwhistle, Canterbury

Today this group got to see results of someone finding answers to questions that had been nagging them a long time, questions around using inputs and traditional management.  Looking over the fence and finding a network of supportive farmers resulted in a $1,500/ha drop in cost of fodder beet crop compared to last year.  The introduction of flowering plants has seen an explosion of bumble bees which compared to monoculture crops of swedes and beet are literally alive and buzzing.   Soil health has changed, plants stitched into pasture/crops appear to be germinating faster than anticipated.  Moving stock daily or twice daily has produced steady gains, lambs averaged 270g/d over a month during the Christmas period, the highest recorded.  Cattle are fat.  Doubts of choosing a different path have gone and farmer focus keeps getting simpler: how to get more from less …

February 26 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa Action Group, Admirals Hill, Wairarapa

Another dry property, another opportunity to discuss what to do in the dry.  The group looked at pasture and soil to learn significant signs of ecosystem health from soil surface.  Covered soils hold on to moisture much longer which prepares land better for receiving rains when they arrive.  Mid-afternoon in high 20s and there was still moisture from morning fog under pasture litter.  Probably the most significant conversation today had nothing to do with production but lifestyle; is a farm for you or you for the farm.  Droughts highlight just how hard it is to create a dollar.  To be burning out from doing hard yakka is an important discovery.  Stopping and reviewing your situation in company of friends stimulates possibilities of having and eating your cake too thereby creating a thrill of a new direction.  Emotional stages of chosen change are very different to unchosen change and for this group to experience both today lead to new understandings on how confidence makes things happen in life.  

February 24 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Kaipara Action Group, Arunga, Northland

The Northland drought has made it clear how important stock water is for the survival of a livestock operation.  Access to water is not a problem for this property but flow rate to livestock is.  There are plans to put in a bigger pipe and use portable troughs to address this.  In shifting to a single mob on a long round using temporary fence to split paddocks has paid dividends.  The group saw cows and calves in good condition, dung score indicated they were not short of protein due to prominence of red clover, and an amount of feed which certainly impressed those who have not tried moving to a longer round.   Another benefit has been improving estimating feed supply to demand.  For this family being involved with RMPP groups has resulted in a renewed enthusiasm for farming despite challenging conditions.  They feel they are in control.

February 21 2020 RMPP Regenerative Action Te Moana a Toi Action Group, Atiamuri, Waikato

The group visited a pioneering organic dairy to look at their diverse pastures and management.  They are focusing on building soil, creating diverse pastures, taking steeper land out of grazing into trees, and breeding their own line of cows higher in milk and interstitial fats.  An important principle in management is looking for answers from nature and history as many modern remedies create too much work and cannibalise profits.  A cornerstone of their focus is soil carbon which has increased on the farm in places by as much as 20% in the last two years.  Many of their ideas challenge modern practices responsible for legislating farming out of business and creating a straitjacket through a social license to farm. 

February 19 2020 RMPP Regen Ag Waikato Action Group, Eskdale, Hawkes Bay

The saying seeing is believing is a myth.  Lots of farmers want to see a local example of regenerative farming but until they can believe it works they don’t believe their eyes.  The group visited Dean Martin in the middle of summer dry to see his situation and hear his strategies for dealing with it.  Much of what he talked about is common sense; offload stock and slow down the rotation.  He was not combining mobs yet but he was shifting his beef herd of 250 head twice daily on to half hectare breaks to keep stock density high and fertility even.  To prove the value of his soil he dug a hole with a spade to show its dark colour and crumbly structure which he could not have done a decade ago.  No superphosphate here for more than 10 years.  He knows the first rains his pastures will spring into back life much faster than many surrounding properties. 

February 18 2020 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Eketahuna, Manawatu

Knowing where to start with farm development with little money is challenging.  Traditionally the practice of a big loan and hope rainfall and prices swing in your favour increases risk.  The cheapest option for growing grass is fence because the rate of return lasts longer than any other intervention.  The family the group visited realised fencing is expensive so instead they’ve simply bulldozed ridges to run temporary fences down so they can use the same resource in multiple places.  Getting stock density drives change because it lifts fertility and reduces woody weeds simultaneously.  It’s making sure every paddock has water.  With the dry the simplest strategy is destock, run fewer mobs, preferable one, and length rotation.  Changing winter grazing regimes has lifted lamb weaning weight here significantly testifying the importance of management. 

February 17 2020 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group, Wallington, Hawkes Bay

Farmers cringe when having action groups visit at the worst time but that’s often when conversations focus on plans and actions.  Most of us only ever learn from our mistakes because disappointment is personal in a way success is not.  There are two kinds of questions, what are you going to do next?  Secondly, what is/was the root cause of this problem?  Most groups focus on the first without addressing the second.  This dry spell is highlighting how observations and action are not aligning so farmers get caught out.  Despite the dry, the farmer we visited was on top of his situation: had a plan of moving livestock, a list of repairs to keep busy, and time for his kids.  Keeping farming simple (not necessarily easy) provides options and creates control for the farmer.  All that adds up to good mental health.  As he says, “With decisions up to us it is good to take responsibility and learn. These tough times are the best learning in my experience.  I’m much happier now that we make all the choices and not our old controlling farm advisor”.

February 13 2020, RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Gimmerburn, Otago

Today’s property visit was another example of a farmer doing their own thing and creating a result that surprises fellow locals.  It was the longevity of the pasture (6 years at 800 metres altitude, 350mm rainfall) combined with its production that impressed the group.  The grazing regime of longer recoveries and large mobs (up to 8000 animals) grazing a week at a time has contributed to this success.  Another pleasing aspect was use of low cost equipment and a simple approach to sowing out pasture from native requiring three years to create a result, not rack up debt for something in six months.  The dominant grass is cocksfoot with a few herbs and clover (foreground) compared to native (background).  For me, it's the genuine surprise among those in the group seeing these pastures that's the most pleasing aspect of the day.  The beauty of small groups is experiencing something together and then discussing how it differs from home.

February 11 2020, RMPP North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Albury, Canterbury

The group visited a long time pioneering family in livestock farming where the younger generation are taking over.  With a history of innovation with genetics, nutrition, and farm finance, visitors heard first-hand accounts of trying different ideas about fertiliser and livestock nutrition as the family sought ways to be profitable in very cold country – average year round temperature in main valley is 4C.  The story they heard was of constant monitoring with scientists and other experts to gain knowledge about what works on this property; as someone remarked they ran their farm like a scientist but still acted like a cowboy.  Biggest impediment to change is worrying about what to do next.  What this family highlighted is to look to the fringe, change a practice and monitor outcomes.  If you’re not getting results you want, look at what you have or haven’t done.  To achieve this also means changing your farming friends, find those that inspire and support your work. 

February 7th 2020 RMPP Southern Action Group, Wairio, Southland

The group visited long time organic farmer Shane Robertson at Wairio.  Shane is one of the most successful low input farmers anywhere and has learned to farm with what he has rather than spend money and increase debt under the short term allure that increased production increases profit.  Lower lamb growth rates don’t worry Shane because marbling he gets with his lamb is exceptional.  He has a number of pasture projects on the go, including stitching species into established pasture.  The group was impressed with how dense pastures were and how good stock looked.  Shane’s focus on topping less and setting the mower higher seemed to be one of the key management strategies.  He has no problem using deferred grazing.  Free choice minerals had the group’s attention where livestock choose their own minerals from a smorgasbord.  Here is another farmer who is committed to change but not outcomes so he can change systems and ideas when things don’t work so well.  It’s this kind of mind set that Farmstrong should be looking into.


February 5 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag West Otago Action Group, Kanoni, Otago

The group visited a property looking to reduce expenses and save soil.  Yesterday the district received around 150mm rainfall but erosion was most evident on neighbour’s cultivated new grass.  Here we saw value of direct drilling species and broadcasting after using a groundhog and while 95% successful in soil cover we discovered an interesting insight.  The photo shows a multi-species mix and impact of cover; in background swedes dominate yet in foreground beans and vetch dominates in the gateway.  It appears grass held enough moisture for beans and vetch to germinate yet where herbicide was used swedes dominate.  Could this be another possibility to winter fodder cropping without herbicide?

February 3 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Aorangi Action Group, Makikihi, Canterbury

After managing to navigate their way through South Canterbury fog after a 30+ degrees previous day the group discovered a little showcase of what courage can achieve.  Here we saw low fertility pasture where post grazing residuals were high, over 2000kgDM with bulls gaining 1.3 kg/day.  Saw 100 400kg bulls being shifted four times a day without bother at the equivalent of 160,000kg lwt/ha rocking between high quality feed (foreground) and low fertility pasture at the top of the photo.  What really surprised the group was amount of feed grown in four months since sown with multi-species grazing crops averaging around 150kgDM/ha per day, particularly considering how dry it’s been since Christmas.  For a number in the group, seeing these examples demonstrated what is possible and strengthened many of the messages from overseas experts promoting such ideas in recent webinars.

January 30 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa Action Group, Napier

The group journeyed into the Hawkes Bay to visit Dean Martin.  What they found was surprising and inspiring.  The reviewing remarks highlighted this: “Olsen P doesn’t affect herbage P rates, Wiltshire sheep low maintenance and high yielding, sulphur reduces fly, good financial performance with low inputs, and diet to help my blood pressure”.  One thing that stood out to the group is how much Dean likes livestock; he happy to shift them any chance he gets and they don’t require much work.  Dean is also good at is acting quickly and decisively when things need to change.  He’s not locked into doing things a particular way as he now has confidence in his own abilities to bring things back into line when he stuffs it up.  The challenge for members in this group is discovering what personal biases they need to challenge if they want to do this at home.

January 29 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough Action Group, Clarence, Kaikoura

First meeting of the year and into helping work on the paperwork to keep funding going.  Focusing on farm action plans to ensure things are happening on farm and that the group is contributing to ideas and confidence to give things a go.  The group saw excellent cover across the property, stock with good condition, and plans to move forward with family first.  Their focus is low input but know they are sitting on many opportunities to gain financially and environmentally.  They’ve locked paddock off from grazing for a year and found that to be beneficial when grazing them this year.  Important lesson, the practice of set stocking is not for this country.  

December 8 & 9 2019 AgOtago Pathways of Innovation Symposium New Zealand Agriculture 2050, Dunedin

I presented my views on the nature of Regenerative and Holistic Farming as an option for NZ agriculture which was generally well received by an audience of academics, industry reps and farmers at Otago University.  It good that OU is climbing into the farming space to create tension with Lincoln University as they have been so slow to react to what is snowballing in New Zealand.  While the divergence in perspectives on show was obvious and necessary, it was in the final comments of Beef & Lamb Director Melissa Clark-Reynolds where she raised the challenge of going beyond intellectual debate and recognise the vulnerabilities of everyone engaged in this moment of change; while the pen is mightier than the sward, the deeper connections linking people to landscapes can only be found through empathy from the heart.

December 5 2019 RMPP Wairarapa Regenerative Farmers Action Group, Kahutara, Wairarapa

This first meeting with an enthusiastic group of farmers quick with figures and facts and curious about what regenerative farming techniques have to offer.  We spent the morning gaining direction and purpose for the group and in the afternoon went for a quick drive to look at a couple of paddocks.  The discussions with a local regenerative soil consultant helped galvanise where theory and practice meet.  Digging holes to look at the soil created opportunities to talk fertility and grazing management.  

December 2 & 3 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Cambridge, Waikato

The last Ian Mitchell-Innes workshop with my northern groups has inspired dry stock and dairy farmers alike to explore changes in grazing practices to satisfy themselves of the benefits.  Many of the actions farmers pledged at the end of the workshop were around changing mob number and size, varying recovery times, and experimenting with balancing rations, and more.  We already have farmers lined up for Ian to return next year as his ideas resonate with many of the speakers in my groups’ webinars to support farmers keeping more money in their pockets by allowing their management to triumph over unnecessary technology.

November 28 & 29 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Darfield, Canterbury

My four Canterbury and Marlborough groups came together to hear Ian Mitchel-Innes for two days at Darfield.  Many of the comments at the end of the two days were: more fencing, working with protein/carb ratio more, just focus on the best half of the farm, increase stock density, bigger mobs, top paddocks if can’t get enough trample, cattle in front of sheep, and focus time management on getting it right over a smaller area.  Families appreciate the simplicity of practices Ian promotes but also that it’s not easy.  They now have a summer to try new practices with their grazing.


November 25 & 26 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Roxburgh, Otago

Members of three of my southern RMPP groups attended these two days.  As usual those who said they would stay for one day made it both days.  Ian’s compelling story of how to save money by investing in livestock management, especially grazing management resonates with so many farmers and is providing key information missing with much grazing advice.  The role of soil carbon to reduce risk and debt was outlined again.  Many of the farmers left pledging to reduce mobs, start rotating now from set stocking, and leaving higher residuals to grow more grass.  


November 12 & 13, 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Elsthorpe, Hawkes Bay

Members of several North Island action groups attended these two days of simple techniques to lift grazing performance.  The focus is removing the top third of the plant to maximise post grazing residual and pasture regrowth as well as lift livestock performance.  Much of what was presented challenges current best practice by leaving more feed behind.  The principles of feeding are no different to that currently promoted but the frequency of moves to get optimum effect is challenging.  Many left with the intention of carrying out the practices so a network of farmers are now being organised to follow and comment on progress.


8 November 2019 Aorangi Regenerative Ag Action Group, The Levels, Canterbury

The role of cover crops and services plants provide dominated conversations on this afternoon.  Compaction is a common problem with cropping land and while farmers can spend money smashing soils harder, how can crops and mixes of plants be organised to address soil problems?  Furthermore, increasing root depth and organic matter throughout the soil profile were also areas explored as these are key to lifting water holding capacity.  The role of soil surface capping and its impact on crop growth through restricting water and gas exchange was also evident in a number of paddocks.  Observing these emerging signs and organising their disappearance with management choices other than technology is challenging.


6 November 2019, Canterbury Foothills Action Group, Ashburton Lakes, Canterbury

With this meeting, what started out as a quest looking into a triplet raising operation ended up focusing on livestock health and environment in a challenging location.  The question raised was whether the breed used was suited to the location because it required a raising enterprise.  What would happen if the profitability dropped?  Is there a long term breeding plan to strengthen the survival traits while maintaining the wool characteristics they enjoy?  Another issue explored was the potential costs to meet future environmental compliance.  With restrictions on tree planting, could now be the time to challenge that?  What benefits could shelterbelts and even silvoculture potentially provide? 


4 November 2019, North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Waiau, Canterbury

This meeting involved visiting two properties, both dealing with the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake.  The first on rolling hill country using a low input approach.  The biggest changes to influence production were liming and genetics that suited the landscape and management system.  Compaction appears to be a problem so recent investment in a Keyline Plow intrigued the group.  The second property was on broken hill country ravaged by the 2016 earthquake.  Controlling woody weeds on hillsides by minimising chemical use was a large part of the discussion. Decisions here focused on what area to plant trees, which to retire, and which to focus on grazing.  Both properties were using multi-specie pastures and working on grazing regimes to optimise livestock performance and pasture longevity.


1 November 2019 Regenerative Ag West Otago Action Group, Clinton, Southland

The group visited a property pushing boundaries of post-lambing management. As seen here this mob of 700 ewes with 1100 lambs plus cattle rotating through pastures being moved twice daily is a practice requiring a level of management beyond what most in the group had tried to date. The purpose of moving twice daily is to leave longer residuals to hasten grass growth once spring heat arrives. The trick is to keep livestock constantly full so they are only interested in grazing top half of plants each shift. The stock density of 40,000 kg lwt/ha verses 900 kgs lwt/ha for set stocked mob allows greater utilisation of all plants, not just best plants. These animals will be compared to another mob set stocked for lamb growth rates and pasture production. This is similar to research at Ruakura in the 60s but never developed. It will be interesting to see if anyone in the group will follow this up further…


31 October 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Riversdale, Southland

The group started with a webinar exploring software technologies and the minefield of programmes and packages.  Most were using such programmes for compliance, but to use them as business tools has many benefits.  The afternoon was spent visiting a techno-system on a property that’s had no fertiliser for 15 years.  The grazing system was adapted to create greater flexibility with each mob’s rotation length to address soil and pasture issues.  We were joined by a local soil consultant backing this path and showed us how the soil was changing.  His explanations linking soil to plants and livestock nutrition demonstrated a solid understanding of regenerative farming principles.  Many of the insights and observations he offered came from a long career in fertiliser and realising much advice from that industry has not benefited farm production for the long term. 


30 October 2019 RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Tarras, Otago

The group visited a property at Tarras only to be inspired further by what they saw.  We knew about multi-species they were using but not extent of impacts.  We saw horehound disappearing simply by direct drilling multi-species into those areas.  We saw burnt out lucerne stands being reinvigorated by drilling in multi-species.  Soil colour was different between paddocks due cocktail crops, worms were reappearing in soil.  They were also trying bale grazing to increase organic matter on northern slopes.  While RMPP insists farmers in its groups to list their KPIs, maybe its their PPIs (Pre-Profit Indicators) that we should be measuring as farmers in the regenerative farming are already demonstrating.  Even a couple of Maniototo farmers are planting sunflowers this season, maybe neighbours will notice?


22 October 2019 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Ward, Marlborough

After a year we’ve finally got this Marlborough group up and running.  After a morning exploring direction and purpose for the group at the Ward Hall we visited a local property to check out efforts at being regenerative and stumbled upon a gem.  We looked at multi-species fodder crops, checked out pristine unfenced waterways, looked at home bred bulls, discussed what to do with burned out lucerne pastures, and how to invigorate dry northern faces using grazing and livestock.  The property hasn’t used any fertiliser in 15 years and what the group saw was both surprising and pleasing to the eye as well as inspiring.  There is no way you could have guessed all this was happening from the roadside and is testimony to what can be achieved by a couple with vision and patience. 


18 October 2019 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group, Te Pohue, Hawkes Bay

One of those meetings full of surprises.  The group enjoyed the unexpected company of multi-species pasture guru Dean Martin, mentor and friend to the property owner.  The main management focus has been fencing for better stock control but established shelterbelts were very impressive.  One particular challenging area is prone to woody weed invasion so a long conversation explored options without using chemical.  While most of meeting focused on pastures, grazing, and livestock systems, this property has diverse income streams including accommodation, paintball, outdoor adventures and hunting, as well as a unique use for a retired shearing shed, a decent size man cave for hosting stag parties and such.  Themes which emerged from conversations considering free choice minerals, trialling multi-species mixes, have flexible selling policies, more knowledge on pre and post grazing residuals. 

17 October 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters, Dannevirke, Hawkes Bay

Visited a local dairy farmer who’s been in the regenerative farming game for over a decade.  His journey started with buying a farm where production collapsed in the first season and having to deal with banks that thought them so risky they basically doubled their interest rate.  Main focus has been soil health and balancing cations, lifting soil carbon levels, to create rich, dark topsoil, notice even the cows were interested in learning more...  No surface moisture in paddocks despite 40+ mm of rain the day before, no mud.  He experiments with once and twice a day milking in and around breeding season.  His focus now is to move completely away from applying nitrogen. 


15 October 2019 RMPP Regenerative Farming te Moana a Toi, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty

This group has emerged from several local dairy farmers wanting to learn alternatives to current dairy practice. Joining them is a number of dry stock farmers including one on the day.  The group exercises help everyone understand that while they operate different enterprises they have more in common than not.  Then during a lull in the storm we had a look at diverse pastures and residues cows were leaving behind, observing which plants they were grazing and how low they grazed.  Dug holes to check out how topsoil was changing due to more organic matter from higher residuals and deeper rooting plants.  The group was happy with cow condition and impressed with all the calves in with the cows. 


14 October 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Waikato action group, Ataimuri, Waikato

We met at a property experiencing soil changes surprising its owners.  Our guest speaker told us about a project conducted some 15 years ago showing dairy cow health declined across the Waikato as management focused on yield at the expense of all else.  This confirmed the work of Ruakura scientist Dr Arnold Bryant who conducted pasture trials in the 70s and 80s focusing on longer residuals and rounds.  The farm tour allowed us to see first-hand how soils were changing but also challenges of moving dairy cows to longer rounds with higher residuals.  Some 12 years from forestry, soils are changing from pumice yellow to deep chocolate brown due to multi-species mixes and seaweed soil conditioners, particularly on campsites and flatter areas, hillsides always take longer.  We spent time discussing what could be done to even out fertility using cows.


2nd October 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Kaipara action group, Kaipara Flats, Northland

On a stormy day we visited two properties in the Warkworth area.  Firstly we visited a local sheep breeder who spent many years developing worm resistant sheep often astounding academics with his genetics.  There were long conversations on how to stimulate sheep immunity by environmental stress, in this case by grazing swards to very low residuals.  In the afternoon we spent time with a family who were investing resources into planting waterways and steep hillsides to create a picturesque property while optimising livestock performance through pasture renovation.  Their Listen to the Land focus resulted from mistakes of maximising livestock performance more than decade ago and the fallout that had environmentally and socially on their family.

12th September 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Aorangi, St Andrews, Canterbury

This group took the opportunity to explore services pasture and crop plants provide to strengthen soil function; rainfall absorption, water holding capacity, reducing erosion, feeding soil health, transferring nutrients from below soil sampling depth, lengthening growing seasons, changing carbon/nitrogen ratios, and so on.  We then had discussions in the paddock exploring options and plans with multi-species crops and pastures to build such functions.  The farmers in this group are all starting to learn regenerative farming so exploring ideas together allows them to discuss pros and cons stirring curiosity to give things a go because only by pushing themselves and challenging one another can farmers learn from their mistakes.


9th September 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Waikato, Huntly, Waikato

The group’s second meeting included a webinar with grazing consultant Siobhan Griffin which the group was very receptive to, including several points about when and where to graze to lift residuals over time.  One discussion focused on encouraging bird life through grazing tall pasture and another on the benefits of deferred grazing instead of cutting silage.  The trip around the property was shortened due to the weather but we saw enough of multi-species summer crops to get benefits for the operation.  We also stopped at a composting site and discussed the benefit of that with fertiliser to pasture production.  The group will be reviewing farm actions at the next meeting.


5th September 2019 Eastern BoP Dairy Discussion group, Opotiki, Bay of Plenty

I’ve been speaking with several farmers in this group over the past few years and now had a chance to meet them.  All are dairy farmers trying to figure out how to bringing regenerative farming to NZ dairy.  Many of them have been weaning themselves off nitrogen (hence these worm farms) , trying pasture mixes beyond ryegrass and white clover, ignoring BVs when it comes to genetics, and challenging other aspects of dairying including longer rotations and creating soils to improve water quality.  The group is keen to have a similar format to Red Meat groups in how the group functions.  The reason they’ve asked me to help is access fresh ideas that DairyNZ simply ignore.


28th August 2019 RMPP Regenerative Ag Kaipara, Pouto, Northland

This group took time to review its direction and purpose before exploring management techniques that assist with making decisions and monitoring direction and progress.  Much of this focused on corrective action; bringing direction and progress back into line when going off track or when overwhelmed.  The afternoon was spent visiting three properties in the red sand country of northern Kaipara peninsula.  Conversations focused on diverse pastures and how to shift from annuals to perennials plants, grazing management, and possible enterprise opportunities with the road likely to be sealed to the southern end of the peninsula.  The group ended its day pledging farm actions as a result of the discussion. 

August 22nd 2019 RMPP Regenerative Ag West Otago, Heriot, Otago

This was the group’s first meeting so morning was spent sorting the extension plan. The afternoon was spent with Allan Richardson looking at multi-species winter fodder crops and pasture renovation. The group was impressed with crops they saw and lack of mud in spite of recent rain and snow. Group members came away greatly enthusiastic about these regenerative farming practices. This reaction is similar to my other groups where evidence of what these techniques can do plus enthusiasm of the farmer, in this case an organic farmer, inspires courage to use these techniques. I’ve also challenged group members to ask Allan’s RMPP group to visit them next year to continue discussing how to evolve these ideas.

August 13th 2019 RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Kyeburn Diggings Otago

This group met with John Barnes of Fertilizer New Zealand to explore soil health and soil conditioners and fertilisers.  There was a good discussion around the role of microbes, whether to grow them or import them, as well as how to apply them through plants or animals.  John sponsors a scholarship at Lincoln University and through that association is now gaining the trust of academics to explore various aspects of soil biology function.  The afternoon was spent on a local property discovering how pasture production is increasing through changing the fertiliser regime in a challenging climate.  We also saw examples of alternative income streams tapping into the unique tourism potential of the high, dry plateau of the Maniototo.

August 7th 2019 RMPP North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Cust, Canterbury

We had Tracey and Steph from Homoeopathic Farm Services provide an entertaining and insightful morning exploring alternative health remedies.  The group was surprised at the range of issues that could be treated by homoeopathic remedies and several have pledged to use them in their farm action plan.  The afternoon was spent exploring options to continue to lift pasture and livestock performance cheaply on a run-down property.  The group was generally happy with what they saw considering the season.  Experimenting with different stock densities to lift fertility was one option considered.

August 6th 2019 RMPP Canterbury Foothills Action Group, Mt Somers Canterbury

The group spent the morning with Sarah Barr from Coach Approach Rural to talk through issues around succession planning.  The group got emotional side is of greater importance than the financial side and that starting conversations early improves transparency helping to prevent inflated expectations.  The afternoon we spent with Regen ag farmer Simon Osborne looking at pasture and soil structure.  Practical observational assessment like digging soil, doing an infiltration test, looking at a brix test are simple techniques to get a feel for outcomes from your management.  The group ended the day talking about farm actions they were considering as a result of our guest speakers.


August 1st 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Garston, Southland

This meeting addressed the issue of diversification, particularly looking into tourism opportunities.  We visited Tom O’Brien and the Welcome Rock brand he and his family are developing.  They’ve built tracks on the farm for hiking and biking, got consents from DoC to offer accommodation in restored huts along a water race originally design for mining.  The view was even more spectacular with the recent snow fall and this hut was the first skiing hut in Southland, built prior to Coronet Peak.  The group was impressed with how the Welcome Rock business is progressing and the opportunities they are potentially creating for the whole community. 


July 25th 2019 RMPP Aorangi Regenerative Ag, Albury, Canterbury

The group had a good look at winter crops and livestock growth rates.  I mentioned some f the examples on properties in Canterbury, Otago and Southland where farmers are moving away from monocultures to multi-species.  We talked about how that could happen, how could a farmer set up a small trial plot which could be as large as a paddock, who could they go and see.  During the afternoon we had Justin Geary explain some basics around cash flow and budgeting, as well as his take on how the banks are going to behave in coming months and the state of the property market regarding sales and leasing. 


July 24th 2019 RMPP Top Soils, Darfield, Canterbury

Helped out with this group of cropping and livestock farmers.  The focus was primarily around soil health, checking out penetrometer readings, soil infiltration rates, and soil carbon.  My role was to explain the value of RMPP funding to the group and as a result the group has decided to register with RMPP.  Farmers still do not fully understand just what an amazing opportunity it is to be able to have funding to reach experts anywhere in the world on topics the group is interested in. 


July 23rd 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Masterton, Waiarapa

Today we spent an afternoon traversing Waiarapa hill country looking at outcomes of pasture mixes in the rain.  Conversations focused on grazing residuals, stock density, and recovery length, as well as fertility as evidenced by the presence and size of pasture species.  There were a number of instances where the diversity of species sown was reflected in the pasture sward.  We also talked whether sward height with new pastures could be higher as bare soil was common in some places.  Bruce Davison from Australia spoke to the group on the value of worm farms.


July 22nd 2019 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group Hatuma, Hawkes Bay

The group spent the morning on a webinar presentation from Next Level Grazing director Siobhan Griffin who explained how she changed her New York dairy from a kiwi grazing enterprise into a tall pasture grazing operation and the benefits she saw with livestock and pasture.  The afternoon was spent on a local property exploring questions around grazing and tall pasture management, especially understanding residual levels through the year.  The challenge for this group is setting up experiments at home for them to play with different stock densities and recovery times and observe outcomes.  Instead of worrying about making a mistake, they need to get on with making mistakes to learn from them.


July 4th 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Heriot, Otago

The group visited organic farmer Allan Richardson and Avalon Organics to look at his winter fodder crops.  To be fair it’s been a very kind season to date with unseasonably high temperatures but the examples were saw were perfection, note the litter in foreground of the photo as the group walks past R1 heifers.  It’s a tragedy that not a single policy maker is interested in conversing with farmers producing these outcomes thereby reducing sediment movement.  Allan also showed us how quickly he was getting regrowth on grazed multi-species crops which will provide tucker for hoggets in spring when they easily compete with pregnant ewes. 


July 3rd 2019 RMPP Dryland and Hill Country Maniototo Action Group, Palmerston, Otago

This group had a good chat with Brent Irving from Rabobank about issues around succession and its planning, alternative ways to farm ownership, and a discussion about what consequences might happen if the Reserve Bank increases the level of equity banks need to hold.  We also visited a property to look at the challenges of hill country development after pines including fertiliser and pasture seeding.  Also discussed where the property fits into the greater family business and where to from here if they want to make this home or a stepping stone for something bigger.


July 1st 2019 RMPP Canterbury Foothills action group, Windwhistle, Canterbury


The group did the RMPP Taking Ownership of your Financials workshop and enjoyed how the facilitators adapted their presentation to fit the time available.  The ability to take home calculations and look through own financials was well appreciated.  “If you can measure it you can manage it.”  The afternoon was spent most looking at winter fodder crops and in particular a diverse mix of kale, turnip, tritcale, daikon radish, crimson clover, lupin, and others.  Hearing about the experiences growing the crop encouraged others to start thinking about this idea for next season.  The crop grew well despite a dry summer. 


June 24 2019 RMPP Regen Ag Waikato action group, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

The first meeting of this group involved establishing direction and purpose and building an extension plan.  We then visited a local property and had quite an experience looking at a number of observations resulting from a change in management.  The property has a history of sheep overgrazing but a dozen years of different thinking has removed weed pressure, including gorse and ragwort, increased pasture production, and reduced the need for supplements.  A number of grass species including prairie grass have appeared despite never been sown due to longer recovery and taller pasture.  We also saw an interesting trick to electrify standard fences without the need for insulators.  The group was surprised about what can be achieved without a cheque book.


June 21 2019 RMPP North Canterbury Carbon Action group, Lincoln, Canterbury

The group had an interesting day.  It started off with a presentation exploring human health and the problems associated with the impact of the pharmaceutical industry on current practice of medicine.  Then the group joined ODPG and Quorum Sense networks to visit with Professor Pablo Gregorini and research and management teams at Lincoln University’s Ashley Dene farm to come up with ideas for changing the management of 150ha of dryland to regenerative farming.  It’ll be fair to say of the many ideas put forward will be challenging for the current management team.  However, one comment bringing the two sides together and endorsed by Ashley Dene manager which is simply that farmers want management that is cheaper. 


June 17 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Eskdale, Hawkes Bay

The group focus for this meeting was drawing on the experiences of Dean Martin and his attempts to drought proof his property.  As he said, “I threw away all the training I got from Lincoln (University) on quality to focus on quantity” because keeping short pastures meant selling too many livestock when prices were depressed.  He does whatever he must to get length on his pastures coming out of spring going into summer to get through the dry.  The group discussed seed mixes, how, when, and what to sow, and grazing management of diverse swards and how sward composition changes as a result of grazing. 


June 13 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Clinton, Otago


The group visited two properties at the leading edge, one sheep and beef, the other dairy, both challenging accepted norms of grazing and pasture management.  One is looking at doing the unthinkable; putting ewes, lambs, and cattle together in a single mob after lambing to grow more spring grass.  This type of action takes real courage in a community where everyone fears what the outcome will be.  The dairy farm we saw bale grazing where cows are simply fenced to eat hay bales and the dung as seen in the background shows the level of stock density.  Research shows this practice good results for improving soil structure and pasture production.  Will be watching both later this year to observe outcomes. 


June 5 2019 RMPP Kaipara Regen Ag action group, Mamaranui, Northland

The 4th meeting of this group looked at kikuyu management and alternatives with consultant Murray Jagger.  As a result it was made clear perennial ryegrass is not for Northland, better to work with kikuyu grasses and those that compete with or compliment it.  The group also had Steve Erickson from Chaos Springs run a Q & A session on composting for commercial farming operations.  On the property we visited we saw advantages of mulching kikuyu and use of specific pastures for growing bulls.  We heard they might run 30 or more mobs of bulls.  From a Holistic Management perspective I challenge this type of production system for family farms because that number of mobs cannot provide much quality of life for the farmer.  Bulls caused trouble when bored.  I’d be exploring larger mobs and shifting multiple times daily or another enterprise.


May 24 2019 RMPP Canterbury Foothills action group, Hawarden. Canterbury

First fully sponsored meeting of this group, we confirmed more of the extension plan and how to load farm actions online.  Visited two operations to focus on simplicity in farm management.  James Costello uses early weaning backed up with balansa clover to drive lamb growth rates to catch pre-Christmas premiums.  David Fincham uses organics and environmental pressure to create a sheep that require less labour – no drenching, vaccinating, footrot, shearing, crutching.  The group felt an important lesson was getting systems in place early to get long term benefits.


May 22 2019 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action group, Elsthorpe, Hawkes Bay

In the second meeting with this group we concentrated on firming up action plans for each farmer.  We then had Dean Martin share his experiences planting and managing multi-species pastures.  Dean’s experiences to combine multi-species and holistic planned grazing was creating a more resilient farm, especially dealing with summer dry.  This was followed by a tour of Greg Hart’s farm looking at areas that had changed since changing to holistic planned grazing.  Greg has found greater flexibility since shifting away from conventional grazing practices.  The group spoke of changing grazing practices at home to keep covers longer.


May 20 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters action group Bulls, Manawatu

Another first group meeting setting up farm action plans and extension plan.  Once finished we visited local forester and farmer Denis Hocking who has a passion for trees.  He showed how trees reduce erosion in sandy country, challenged the group about economics of trees verses livestock, and the value of different trees.  His focus is understanding land forms and creating vegetation and production systems that suited soil function.   Trees as income earners on poorer soils, but also of value to livestock (shade) and amenity value (also lifts property value) made the group wonder about planting trees in areas on their own farms.


May 16 2019 RMPP group Regen Ag Aorangi, Lincoln, Canterbury

This group’s first meeting to focus on direction and purpose.  Once the morning was done looking at group work, we visited a local mixed farmer at Leeston to learn more about soil health.  We learned the trigger point was buying bigger machinery to pulverise soil because soil was becoming more compacted every year using conventional methods.  A switch to no-till eventually produced results and then moving away from synthetic chemicals in recent years and replacing with biological stimulant and multi-species cover crops is proving so far to be beneficial to soil and cheap for profiteering from crops and livestock.


May 13 2019 RMPP Southland Action Group, Gore, Southland

This group’s first meeting where they set up an extension plan ready for submission and then visited a dairy property of one of the group members.  There we saw good understanding of livestock, plant, soil relationships.  We see saw a winter feeding pad to improve feed use efficiency and reduce time on pastures during wet periods.  Also saw a number of biological stimulants used on the property to kick along pasture growth.  Profits have been increasing steadily since moving into the biological approach with this season being the best ever.  Bank manager is really happy.


May 10 2019, RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Group, Ranfurly, Otago

The group visited a property using ryecorn as the basis of a pasture renovation programme as they move to lucerne based pastures.  The group was impressed with the path taken, primarily they bought the equipment to have flexibility to do it themselves.  Ryecorn grows well into winter months but it also increases problems with footrot.  Brix was over 11 but its unlikely that figure is dominated by carbs, quite possibly protein in excess of energy which is known to cause many health problems.  To reduce animal health issues a pasture mix would be better because it would provide other plants for livestock to graze reducing health problems.


April 29,2019,  RMPP North Canterbury action group, Tai Tapu, Canterbury

The major theme for this meeting was understanding financials which Craig Williamson from Rabobank presented.  The focus here was understanding the three basic KPIs RMPP requires farmers to list as part of their participation.  Of course the greatest insights from the session was the experiences of Craig.  A very wet afternoon meant our trip to Roger and Nicki Beattie’s property was confined to inside.  However, Roger gave us a great presentation to his ideas of how to get the public to appreciate regenerative farming and its benefits.


April 26, 27 & 28 2019 Biodynamic Farming Conference, Waihi, Bay of Plenty

I was invited to speak into Four Pillars of Agriculture focusing on William Albrecht, Elaine Ingham, Allan Savory and Rudolf Steiner.  I explained how much of what Allan Savory developed really started while in both the wildlife services and the army.  His role in developing tracking units gave him so much practical know how of reading soil surfaces and understanding ecosystem health.  There are so many stories he recounts during training to emphasise what observations mean.  The real success of managing holistically comes from military techniques embedded within Holistic Management framework designed to stop procrastination and create momentum during difficult moments.  This group is experiencing how being so close together changes behaviour regarding foot placement, a principle of stock density as a tool.


February 28 2019 Central Hawkes Bay group RMPP, Napier, Hawkes Bay

This was the first time this group met so the focus was on group extension plan and starting farm actions.  The group spent the morning brainstorming problems and opportunities they would like to address in their farms while being in the group.  This provides the themes for further meetings while identifying farm actions farmers want to so.  The afternoon was spent with a local environment award winning farmer to explore the role of trees in pasture as well as potential of goats.


February 19 2019 Kaipara regen ag RMPP Paparoa, Northland

The group spent the day with Nicole Masters and Michael Cashmore from Integrity Soils to learn about soil health and pastures.  The group got to hear about how soils function, the role of plants in developing and maintaining soil health, the role of plant Brix in understanding soil health, various ideas with pastures and animal health, what to observe on soil surfaces.  There were discussions around various brews for soil conditioners and dealing to biofilms.  An important learning from the days was to stop procrastinating and get started with something.


February 14 & 15 2019 North Canterbury RMPP group Balclutha, South Otago

This was an opportunity to visit three properties over four days and look at multi-species pastures and their management.  The first property was an organic sheep and beef to check out multi-species winter fodder crops, second to explore on-farm projects and research to find out what actually works on the farm in spite of industry advice, and the third was a chance to look at multi-species summer fodder pastures.  As a bonding experience it was great and we will see how many new projects emerge in the coming months from the tour.  


February 13 2019 Maniototo RMPP group, Oamaru, North Otago

The first meeting of this group was to start the extension plan and get ideas flowing about farm actions.  In the afternoon visited a nearby ram breeder who has not drenched their ram lambs for 25 years as a result of observations during the tough 80s.  The couple running the business were developing enterprises around opportunities with livestock genetics allowing them to start a cattle stud as well.  An operation run over two blocks they had a manager to bring in another skillset to the business as well as free up time for the owners.

November 12 Introduction to Regenerative Farming, Eketahuna, Waiarapa

With this group the biggest impact was understanding the influence of longer pasture on soil function.  Much of the pasture locally is severely, even overgrazed at this this time of year.  That has a huge influence on how these landscapes respond to summer, particularly dry summers.  By simply comparing the roadside with pastures the difference in plants and soil were extreme.  The significance to reduce mob numbers and push rotations and stock density to allow paddocks to freshen up after lambing certain drove discussion later in the day

November 9 ODGP Pasture observation workshop, Cambridge, Waikato

The Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group asked me to run a day on observing pastures and helping farmers get beyond kgDM and MjME.  We spent the morning exploring soil surface indicators and what their presence or absence meant.  We then stood out in the pasture and had a chat on pasture species, decomposing litter, dung scores, and rainfall infiltration rates.  


November 7 Taumaranui Sustainable Land Management group Taumaranui, King Country

Hosted by the Poole family, I spent the day with TSLM group exploring regenerative grazing ideas for both flat and hill country.  I did a card exercise with the group to get them thinking about plants and their functions in pastures.  We spent most of the looking at pasture and stock seeing some great examples of pasture growth and happy livestock.  Overall the group gave the property a pass but were wondering how it was stacking up financially.

October 26 RMPP Action Group North Canterbury, Oxford

Visited with Brandon Dalton and the operation he manages near Oxford.  The day was about how to lengthen recoveries in spring so as to utilise spring growth to build a bank of feed going into summer.  Season can be very short on this property, similar to alpine regions of the USA where Brandon is from.  We saw projects underway on diverse pasture species and sabbatical fallowing of pasture. 

October 24 RMPP Action Group, Kaipara, Northland

Spent the day near Maungatapere focusing on grazing and diverse pastures.  We looked at several pastures and livestock classes to compare what livestock were grazing, what plants were present, what livestock dung was like, how long the recovery period between grazing was.  Kathryn Eastern from Opus joined us and facilitated the afternoon and brought her knowledge of cattle farming into the conversation. 

September 27 2018 RMPP Action Group, Kaipara, Northland


The first meeting of this group focused on diverse pastures but it became apparent grazing management is very important to this group.  As a result we’ll be meeting in another month to focus on managing grazing for diverse pastures, stock density, deferred grazing of kikuyu grass, and more.  Garry Fraser from Seedforce joined us for the afternoon and provided a lot of practical knowledge around pasture mixes and grazing.  I ran a card exercise helping farmers determine pasture mixes beyond just livestock performance but also to enhance landscape function.

June 29 2018 RMPP action group, Waipara, North Canterbury

This first meeting of this group focused on Carbon for Dummies.  We spoke with Max Purnell, Alf Harris, and Robbie Hill about the state of carbon in New Zealand, focusing on the political scene, scientific debate about the subject, and what techniques might be useful for farmers to use to sequester carbon in soil as well as trees.  In the afternoon we were joined by Rob Flynn of Soil Matter and his crew of Amy and Reagan where they looked at the carbon component of soil tests and a pasture walk dig up soil and exploring any carbon features.


June 18 & 19, 2018, Holistic Management training Puketiriri Valley, Hawkes Bay

The group finished its training in Hawkes Bay at the top end of Puketiriri Valley at the local golf club which is an excellent seminar facility.  We used the two days to review knowledge linking ecosystem processes with tool, and holistic financial planning.  We also visited with Malcolm and Twix White and were joined by Blair and Barbie Simmons, both couple did the last course I ran 7 years ago and spoke of how their productions systems changed even through both properties now have quite different farm systems.  Hugh Jellie who will start up the Savory Hub in Rotorua this year also joined us.

May 16 & 17, 2018 Holistic Management Training, River Valley Lodge, Taihape, Rangitikei

At this amazing location the group explored Holistic Financial Planning.  Firstly we revisited decision-testing to remind the group of how easy the process is and its value when spending money, dealing with a problem, or when just stuck.  The group began to relaise you cannot do Holistic financial Planning without and context and decision-testing, it simply doesn’t work.  Brian and kicky Megaw who own River Valley Lodge are also great practitioners of tall pasture grazing with their trekking horses and we got a chance to view that. 

April 6th 2018 Greta Valley, North Canterbury - Pasture Walk

A small group met up with me at Davaar farm, North Canterbury to discuss ways of development focusing on fence and stock water. Many of the hillsides are covered in gorse but the plan is to increase stock density on the tops and flats to reduce gorse regeneration. With views to the southern ocean and half the property in forestry there are other options for income streams


April 3 & 4 2018, Holistic Management training, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

The group met in sunny Hawkes Bay to be pushed and prodded in way they weren’t expecting.  We reviewed what the group covered in the first day and then began exploring the world of personal change and ended the day in the cemetery.  That night local holistic managers joined the group for dinner which created a lot of enthusiasm.  On the second day we created Holistic Contexts and began checking decisions towards them as they learned.  Getting comfortable with this routine increases success, especially in times of pressure.


March 1 & 2, 5 & 6, and 8 & 9 2018 Ecological Outcome Verification training in Stuart Town, Braidwood, and Mudgee, NSW, Australia.

With fellow HM educators, Ian Chapman, Darren Baugley, Tony Hill, Brian Marshall, and Paul Griffiths I had the opportunity to share insights into ecosystem processes and setting up EOV monitoring sites for the Savory Institute Land to Market programme which seeks to verify grazing is enhancing landscape function so that farmers can be rewarded in the marketplace.  I meet a number of enthusiastic farmers eager to learn about these ideas and how it could benefit their properties and business.  I also took the opportunity to visit with a number of innovative Australian graziers all of whom were achieving interesting outcomes.  New Zealand Farmer published my experiences.

February 25 & 26 2018  Holistic Management training, Taupo

My first HM training in a number of years with six farm attending the first workshop on reading the soil surface.  As typical, starting with reading the soil surface is a great way for the group to build rapport and learn together what to look for in pastures.  The National Equestrian Centre was a fabulous venue as it gave us many different pasture types to look at and poke around in.  There were some great examples of compaction, something some participants thought would be difficult on pumice soils. 

January 17th2018, Cust, Canterbury – Pasture walk with Tony and Fran McQuail

Canadian Holistic Management educator Tony McQuail and his wife Fran joined a small group at Richmond farm to view the season so far.  With the heat in dry in November and December necessitating lengthening out recovery times we noticed how quickly pasture were bouncing back with the recent rains.  It was a chance to review holistic grazing plans and compare how anticipated grazing with reality.  We also checked out water infiltration rates which were high (photo).


November 27-30th 2017, Braidwood, NSW Australia Ecological Outcomes Verification training


The last week of November saw me join 20 innovative Aussie farmers and 10 educators with Savory Institute’s head of training Byron Sheldon.  The EOV is to ensure grazing practice is enhancing landscape function with the intent of rewarding farmers for providing environmental services for public good.  These rewards could come from the marketplace or regulatory bodies which oversee resource management.  Transects are pivot in the measuring to ensure accuracy with scientific measurement.  This scheme will also come to New Zealand in 2018.

November 8th 2017, Cooptown, Banks Peninsula – Pasture Walk

Visited Springvale with my group for a look at the country.  We had a look at different pastures because the topography exceeds 600 metres creating a number of different microclimates and seasonality across the farm.  Focus here has switched to fence and stock water to create a greater evenness of fertility across the property through grazing management by increasing stock density.

September 21st Greta Valley, North Canterbury – Pasture walk

My small group met at Davaar farm to go through holistic planned grazing charts, revisit issues when grazing in spring, and having a look at the landscape.  Big issues here with gorse as seen in the background, often a sign of low stock density.  Investment here will focus on fence and water systems before fertiliser as the return is greater when invest in infrastructure that build soil fertility.  This group formed after a couple of farmers expressed interested in the Holistic Planned Grazing after the HMI Open Gate event in May.  That two day courses occurred in June 2017. 

June 20th 2017 Avoca Lime Company Long Rotation Grazing seminar, Whangarei

Over 50 farmers and professionals attended this day thanks to Bryce Manderson and his team at Avoca Lime Company.  The seminar covered ecosystem processes basics aa well as Rest, Animal Impact, and Grazing tools.  The two big issues discussed were winter pugging (tall pasture spreads hoof weight over a wider area), and dominance of kikuyu grass (allowing winter dominant grasses to strengthen their roots to reduce kikuyu competitiveness).  Another issue raised was liver fluke but if grazing improves soil surface drainage that would reduce incidence of liver fluke.  The group was challenged to do something different at home using the Holistic Management feedback loop structure to design a small project.  


June 15 & 16 2017 Holistic Planned Grazing workshop, Greta Valley, North Canterbury

A small and enthusiastic group working away here.  The two days cover ideas that make farm environment plans easier because how the know of why things work is explained from an ecological point of view.  This means farmer can discover what to look for which indicates whether or not their grazing is enhancing rainfall absorption, deeper roots, and more soil organic matter.  All these benefits are not recognised by the Overseer programme but have a significant influence on landscape resilience.  The group meets once a month to review grazing plans and their skills to observe what is happening in the paddock.

May 8 & 9 2017 HMI Open Gate: Amazing Grazing Practices to regerate Pastures, Greta Valley, North Canterbury

Over 40 people attended both days.  Day one included speakers Scott McFadden explaining how his farm is beenfiting from longer pastures, Dr Nicole Schon from AgResearch on how earthworms can improve pasture productivity, Amy Duckworth from Soil Matters on appropriate fertiliser for pastures, Mark Stevenson from Cheviot on the innovative pastures mixes to deal with drought, and Malcolm White on rethinking grazing logic.  On the second day we visited organic farmer David Fincham and sheep farmer James Costello.  Both excel at running lower cost operations that successfully deal with drought conditions.  


February 16th 2017 Pasture Walk, Time Wilson, Springvale, Cooptown, Banks Peninsula

About a dozen rolled up to Springvale to explore low input options for hill country.  While subdivision is an issue in places, reliable water is greater concern and luckily there are plenty of water sources to tap into on this property.  In a conventional group fencing would have dominated conversation, but with this group observation and simple grazing practices helped question priorities and where big improvements could be made with labour rather than money.  Tim was pleased with the conversations and suggestions made by the group.  His next steps will focus on combining mobs, taking greater care documenting his planning and observations, and focusing on one infrastructure project at a time.  


December 2nd 2016 South Vets South Otago Discussion group, Balclutha

Hamish Bielski asked me to speak to the South Vets group near Balclutha facilitated by vet Hamish Moore.  I covered a range of topics around reducing risk and simplifying farming, presenting a range of ideas which stimulated robust discussion about what was of value to local farmers.  Afterwards we visited Hamish and Amy’s property to view livestock grazing mixed pastures.  The season has been very good for grass growth and Hamish was expecting to wean a week from the visit and send between 40-50% of lambs to the works.  We discussed his idea of mulching pasture to create an even litter distribution to blanket the pasture prior to direct drilling. This pasture here is prominantly chicory and plantain. 


November 23 & 24 Intro to Holistic Planned Grazing Workshop, Chaos Springs, Waihi, Coromandel

A small and enthusiastic group attended this event focusing on what to observe with soil function and linking it to grazing planning.  The two days focused on what to observe and then relate that to planning based on any special management needs of paddocks, e.g, increases in litter, shifting minerals up soil profile, improving soil structure, increasing pasture diversity.  Here, Steve Erickson explains the pastures he is producing through longer rounds and his own biological soil conditioners resulting in pastures substantially taller than many commercial farmers.  The group also experimented with organising a grazing plan across their properties to accommodate management events, production issues and imrpove soil function.  


November 4th, Stipa Workshop, Eurimbula, NSW

Over 150 people squeezed into the Eurimbula hall to hear Gabe Brown’s story.  It appears that his non-farming background helped him accept new ideas of how to do things differently.  He quickly picked up cultivation destroyed soil structure and had stopped that within two years of purchasing his property.  The next event was the loss of income for 4 years due to drought a hail.  Empty pockets sharpen the mind and that appears to be why Gabe from then onward stopped all fungicide and insecticide use, started planting cover crops and then stopped all synthetic fertiliser use.  Today his soils are regenerating in ways science find hard to comprehend because N, P, K and organic carbon levels continue to rise without agrichemicals.  There is much in his story that can be applied to New Zealand properties to reduce risk and lift profits.  


September 26, 2016 Lincoln University student request

There is increasing interest by students in the whole area of regenerative farming.  For example, I sat with a senior student on a flight to Auckland several weeks ago and out of our conversation she organised for me to talk with several of her friends one evening at the University.  Almost nothing of what I mentioned they had come across in their training including the insights of Allan Savory, Gabe Brown, Fred Provenza, Colin Seis, Joel Salatin, Bruce Davison, as well as the New Zealand examples I posted.  For me it typifies the growing gap between the type of agriculture which is starting to interest many students, especially young women, and what is standard fare.  They pledged to approach one of the farm management lecturers to explore some of these ideas further.  Watch this space.

August 5 2016, Smarter Farming, Reduce Risk and Simplify, Cheviot, Canterbury

Belinda Meares from the Learning Exchange in Amberley asked me to put together a presentation on farming alternatives that would be of interest to a drought community like North Canterbury.  Over 20 people rolled up despite the snow to partake in discussion and exercises linking how to partner with the environment and pay themselves first.  Even this exercise of sorting photos of the soil surface that reflect effective and non-effective rainfall absorption highlighted how important it is to read the soil surface and its relevance to pasture production.  Several in the group were energised by the examples and perspectives presented so am looking to see what eventuates from this opportunity.


July 26-30 2016 Holistic Management training, Holbrook, NSW

Worked with two groups in Holbrook.  Both groups mentioned these sessions were easier, not under the gun of learning something new regarding financial and grazing planning.  Some expressed how excited they were they could share with their partner their new perspectives and wished their partner could attend classes too. 

These sessions involved a good mix of grazing, financial, and communication exercises.  This card game which had to be carried out in silence had some subtle changes in rules which made a great discussion about communication and its importance with social networks. 

The holistic financial planning exercise brought together all the worksheet from the previous session and placed figures in the Income and Expense Sheet to provide structure and finalise the financial plan.  The grazing planning covered the growing season plan which unlike non-growing season is open ended so there is no end point.  We also covered monitoring of finances and ecological monitoring of pastures, after all the freedom to fail comes from the drudgery of numbers.  Bit tough to get outside cause of all the rain.


July 15, 2016 Holistic Management Implementation Class, Coonabarabran, NSW

This group formed after two years since their initial training course.  All recognised there were things that had changed regarding farm practice and there were things they had forgotten about managing holistically.  This was their first class so my role was to learn what they were missing and interested in.  Here the group are testing lifestyle and business choices, challenging each other’s understanding and knowledge to improve business and lifestyle.  Some of the comments were testimony to how managing holistically helped.  One person mentioned her life had been changed; she listened more because she asked questions.  All mentioned testing choices was something they wanted more practice with, especially with difficult decisions (pictured).

July 12 & 13 2016, Holistic Management training, Bega, NSW

Two days with the Bega class to prime them for Holistic Financial planning.  This involves going through the step by step process to help them calculate income, determine profit before listing expenses.  We then determine the wealth generating expenses (which create quality of life and generate additional income), inescapable (expenses were there is no wiggle room) and lastly maintaining expenses (including drawings, etc) which are essential to lifestyle and business.  The process of doing this on paper creates greater meaning about where money goes than punching numbers into a computer programme, therefore students have greater awareness and emotional equity in the planning process.  This is what is needed to generate discipline in monitoring and executing financial plans.


July 11th 2016 Holistic Management Implementation Class, Bega, NSW

This is the second time I’ve met with this group this year.  The focus of the day was financial planning and taking it a step beyond initial training.  As a group we looked at Xero online accounting and the versatility it offers in terms of running multiple accounts (one for bank manager, one for accountant, one for you).  The ability to input a single expense and code it simultaneously to different accounts makes life easy.  Testing options for on-farm investment, particularly the weak link in enterprises always proves to be a useful exercise to explore which option take the family toward their holistic context.  That expense then becomes a priority, even if the account would classify it as a personal expense because the impact of that action lifts the business too. 

June 17th 2016 Grass Board with Dick Richardson, Willow Tree, NSW

Spent the day with Dickson and his clients discussing the warm winter season so far and how that might influence grazing over the next three months.  This property has feed to burn compared to neighbours and with recent rains there is a good pick emerging and covering the soil surface.  This is encouraging greater plant diversity, maybe even offering the opportunity for sheep grazing either this season or next.  Soil here is amazing, so incredibly friable and holds at least its own weight in water.  The client is developing his own seeder for direct drilling pasture crops and discussion looked at what kind of grazing could accompany that.  It’s not the tools we use which create ecological changes in pastures but the change between one tool and the next. 

June 7-10 2016 Holistic Management training, Holbrook, NSW

Four days with two groups in Holbrook exploring holistic financial planning and readying students for their own accounts with Brian Wehlburg and Tony Hill.  We also revisited grazing planning and the most important skill students learn, decision testing.  The most important document is the livestock production worksheet as that determines all production expenses and potential income.  Once income is determined and profit finalised, students then set about making the sum of money left over to cover all other expenses.  This is where creativity and innovation come to the fore to help student prioritise their expenses rather than use tax categories.


May 16th & 17th 2016 HMI Open Gate days, Hawkes Bay

Many thanks to Holistic Management International and Greg and Rachel Hart for making this day happen.  About 40 joined us as Greg spoke about the expanding enterprises at Mangarara Station, Steven Haswell from BioAg spoke on soil and organic matter and what was humus, John King spoke on testing grazing decisions to illustrate Holistic Management is more than a grazing regime, it explore financial and social considerations too, Gavin Clements from Wesco Seeds explained benefits of diverse pastures and Bruce Wills outlined the changes he had made on his property since the 2007 drought.  The following day the group visited Glenlands operated by Dean and Antoinette Martin and explored the reality of cocktail crops and livestock performance.  In visiting Barnsdale operated by Malcolm and Twix White longer pasture recovery period was shown not to reduce pasture quality.  Here the focus of productivity was challenged with using quality of life as the driver for decision-making.


April 30th & May 1st 2016 Holistic Management training, Mudgee, NSW

In the company of Paul Griffiths and Brian Wehlburg I spent the weekend with two classes, an introduction course and implementation course.  This event coincided with autumn rains bringing a smile to everyone’s face.  We covered a wide range of subjects from ecological monitoring, reviewing grazing plans – how many paddocks and calculating recovery periods, practicing decision testing, reviewing grazing chart and what can be recorded on them (pictured).  With the implementation class, which is a new venture, we highlighted to need for the group to stand for each other, make regular contact so they can discuss what is happening on and off the farm with someone other than their partner, even if their partner is attending the same course.   

April 28th 2016 Holistic Management training – Implementation, Bega, NSW

This small group of trained graduates are looking to get to the next level and actively implementing the holistic processes.  In a very relaxed atmosphere Brian, Tony Hill, and myself spent the morning listening to what each person’s situation involved and whether they had achieved what they set out to do in the last session.  The buddy system was challenged back to two people than three as it seems to encourage greater accountability.  We had a look around the host’s property and demonstrated with holistic grazing planning process which included putting social events on the grazing chart.  


April 26th & 27th 2016 Holistic Management training, Bega, NSW

This lively group worked their way through ecological monitoring and into developing their Holistic Context.  It’s always great to see Brian Wehlburg working at the top of his game with these groups helping them see new perspectives and challenge themselves in ways they were not expecting.  The photo shows him explaining ecological succession near the cemetery and relating such observations to pastoral production.  All this work leads on to the decision testing which opens people’s eye to the reality that farming is seldom just about production and profit.  Even asking students to list what are all the questions they would ask to ensure any decision is financial sound, environmentally sound, and socially sound helps them explore their choices and realise the impact of thinking differently.

April 8th, 2016 Managing Holistically Overview, Warkworth,

A great bunch of people rolled up today.  Bev Trowbridge did a fantastic job in organising the day including holding the event at her farm with husband David.  We spent the day exploring how farming ecosystems work from a holistic perspective before looking into finances and then communication.  There were a lot of questions around grazing hard feed, especially in dairy situations.  One thing I suggested was changing genetics to livestock that could handle mature feed better.  The group is pictured sorting photos of soil surfaces to find out which had effective and non-effective water cycles.  The main purpose of this exercise is for farmers to observe how covering soil improves landscape function.

February 25th & 26th 2016 Holistic Management training, Bungwahl, NSW, Australia

Following on from days at Dungog, me and Brian worked with a group in Bungwahl near Bulahdelah, even had a father and son drive all the way from Sydney to join us.  It was during the biomonitoring exercise I stumbled across one of the most graphic demonstrations of the impact of livestock on soil function.  The outdoor site had chicken tractors and where they had been soil function had completely changed.  Soil under pasture around the chicken tractor site was so hard the pentrometer barely penetrated a cm or 2 and yet would disappear completely in the chicken tractor site.  Highlights the principle that for succession of species to occur there needs to be a massive disturbance at soil surface.  The photo shows Brian Welhburg taking great delight in volunteering students into various roles for Properous Valley Council where they have to deal with graffiti and to experience how decisions are made when drawing on the past instead of a process such as Holistic Management decision testing.


February 23rd & 24th 2016 Holistic Management training, Dungog, NSW Australia

Brian Welhburg from InsideOutside Management invited me to assist teaching bio-monitoring, holistic context and decision testing in Dungog and Bulahdelah, NSW.  Darren Baugley also joined us and was invaluable in bringing his many experiences to share with the Dungog class.  Despite temperatures into mid 30s, students engaged with outdoor tasks with enthusiasm, even doing late afternoon deep thinking out at the cemetery.  Students get great value of showing examples of they see at home with their land and then explore what those pictures are telling them about how their landscape are functioning.  It is during this time students are exposed to ideas that question what they are told is best practice when in fact their activities might be doing the opposite of that intended.  Photo shows Brian Wehlburg demonstrating the importance of pasture density and its impact on weed species, soil function, and season length using human plants.

January 29th 2016 The Acheron, North Canterbury

Joining me was small group of farmers interested in changes Scott McFadden's doing.  Over 18 months he's been grazing hillsides and tops differently resulting in longer pastures which helped weather drought, something he is pleased and proud of.  The group noticed how bare earth on northern slopes was reducing with evidence of litter thereby reducing runoff.  He’s made some interesting decisions, like overwintering half the number of Corredales and then due to high cattle prices buying a small mob of Romneys instead.  He is noticing they graze different parts of hill pastures which compliments grazing habits of his original flock.  Scott acknowledges his income has taken a hit but his costs have also dropped giving more flexibility to be profitable.  He is also comfortable that he may never reach the stocking rate he was running before but is happy that it is still a possibility.  The group suggested joining more mobs together to take advantage of recent rains to grow more grass which Scott said he would do. 

August 31 2015.  Soil Carbon Cowboys with LUYFC

Showed Soil Carbon Cowboys to a large crowd at Lincoln University Young Farmers club who listened and watched attentively.  This is such a good story specific points are hard to recall so people need to see it more than once.  Ranchers were doing things farmers already do here, using electric fences, rotational grazing, and diverse pastures.  Teasing out what was different bought questions, especially around tall pasture grazing application to dairy.  We also tackled whether it can be done on hill country, discussed differences around what is meant by diverse pastures, and how Overseer misses opportunities created by different grazing regimes despite it being weapon of choice for regulators.  

August 25 2015.  Chch WEA. How Regenerative Agriculture is using Livestock to save the Planet.

I was invited by the WEA to present How Regenerative Agriculture is using Livestock to save the Planet.  The group patiently watch Soil Carbon Cowboys before I launched into how pastoral ecosystems work and how aspects of grazing management affect these processes.  I took them through a photo sort to help them understand how their lawns were similar to farmers’ pastures (pictured).  They discovered moss was a sign of drought stress, a common sight in lawns and pastures.  I pointed out that during my recent research at Lincoln University, many trial pots in the greenhouses had moss growing over them and therefore were suffering drought stress despite being constantly watered.  

August 10, 2015

Holistic Management Overview, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

A small and lively crowd joined me at The Green Shed in Hastings for an overview on Holistic Management.  People came for a variety of reasons; mainly to learn about holistic planned grazing but also the financial planning process.  There were a number of robust discussions around facts presented and relevance to Hawkes Bay.  The group were engaged in a number of activities focusing on observation.  One thing that will emerge from this event is a push to establish a biological farming group in Hawkes Bay.  A number of people were interested in more training to manage holistically.  


May 11, 2015, HMI Open Gate Mangarara Station day

Many thanks to Holistic Management International and aka Greg and Rachel Hart for making this day happen.  About 60 joined us as Greg spoke of challenges farming in southern Hawkes Bay and how grazing helps land become resilient.  Malcolm White spoke how Holistic Management challenged him and wife Twix managing their hard hill country property and changing their grazing as part of a whole package that probably saved them from selling up.  Dr Phil Schofield presented evidence from John Kamp’s Mangleton property emphasising grazing and mineral rebalancing.  Participants were challenged with longer recovery between grazing, benefits of pasture litter and diversity, and creating their own sites of discovery to explore how grazing could lift landscape function and farm performance and resilience.  Hard on the heels of Agrisea’s Dr Christine Jones tour, participants were challenged to link pasture recovery to soil regeneration.

February 24, 2015, Farmer Flick night, Methven, Mid Canterbury

Thanks to Jeremy Casey and Kim Solely for allowing this event to take place in their auditorium converted from a woolshed.  Ran Soil Carbon Cowboys, Cover Crops for Livestock Production (Gabe Brown), and Growing the Grazing Revolution.  About a dozen people turned up including dairy, dry stock, and cropping farmers from a variety of operation sizes.  We had a robust debate about state of Canterbury soils where I agreed soils have deepened but not to the extent they can absorb all soluble nutrients thrown at them.  This is where ideas in these videos can provide insight and direction to reduce nutrient loading and improve waterway health.  We spend a lot of time in Canterbury building water storage facilities without recognising and improving storage capacity of soil.  We will definately be having more video evenings in this location.


February 23, 2015, Farmer Flick night, Cheviot, North Canterbury

Thanks to the owners at Cheviot Trust Hotel I ran my video evening where a dozen people stopped by to view Soil Carbon Cowboys, Cover Crops for Livestock Production (Gabe Brown), and a couple on effects of glyphosate (Roundup) on crops and livestock.  The conversations afterwards were positive as the practices shown in Soil Carbon Cowboys and Cover Crops could be applied in North Canterbury.  The question was asked how would it go on hill country to which I replied there people already doing it on hill country in the North Island.  Glyphosate videos surprised those attending about impacts of this chemical and encourages them to consider alternatives like grazing weeds where possible as suggested in Soil Carbon Cowboys.

February 20, 2015, Kirk Gadzia, Waiau, North Canterbury


Spent a day with talented US Holistic Management educator Kirk Gadzia, his wife Tamara from New Mexico and ranchers Stefan and Kimberley Knight from Arizona. We visited a couple of properties in North Canterbury seeing how HM trained farmers were dealing with summer dry.   Its been a bit of a shock because the last 5-6 summers have been wet.  What impressed Kirk was how relaxed farming couples were about their dry situation; there was no sense of panic or doom. While they acknowledged they could do more to lift profit the labour involved would compromise other aspects of their lifestyle.  


December 16 2014, Holistic Management Gathering, Murwillumbah, NSW Australia

Thank you to Brian Wehlburg, Jason Virtue, Helen Lewis and Brian Marshall for this opportunity at Murwillumbah.  I presented inspirational New Zealand properties and farmers who are either managing holistically or acting in ways complimentary to managing holistically.  I placed strong emphasis on marketing and financial discipline but also observation skills and learning to read landscapes and relating back to management actions.  I met Low Stock Stress educator Grahame Rees who covered a range of issues with handling livestock.  He livened up his audience with practical demonstrations regarding pressure and livestock well-being as well as explaining the nature of KLR marketing and livestock programme.  Brian Marshall reflected on work he has been doing in southern South America with farmers using mobs over 30,000 sheep and productivity improvements they are seeing there as a result.  He also presented his recent trip to Europe in particular visiting Scandinavian farmers managing holistically.   

December 4th, 2014 Regenerating Landscapes with Worm juice seminar, Mangarara Station, Otane

Greg and Rachel Hart hosted me and Bruce Davison and we were impressed with all that is going on at Mangarara Station.  The worm farming seminar was attended by over 20 people and here Greg and Bruce (closest to camera) are adding drainage material (sawdust) as the first layer in any worm farm of this size.  This worm farm was a smaller size than Chaos Springs but will still generate 300 litres per day once fully functioning.  Greg will probably build another worm farm closer to the dairy shed (seen in the background) to improve efficiency of resource handling, both material for feeding worms and collecting and storing leachate.  Bruce ran a similar programme to that at Chaos Springs except spent a little more time on reading and correcting soil tests.  The Hart’s Eco-lodge is a fantastic facility, built from timber sawn on the farm and a shining example of the confidence and vision this couple have for their business.  It was a pleasure to see stockpiled grass they had compared to the rest of Hawkes Bay.  This is easily one of the most inspirational farms in New Zealand.


December 3rd 2014 viewing Three Things Seminar at Mangarara Station, Otane

To a small and enthusiastic crowd I started with the video Soil Carbon Cowboys to introduce what farmers are doing in North America to reduce farm and business risk by just changing their grazing.  After a discussion highlighting similarities and differences in grazing practices farmers do in Hawkes Bay I also asked the group what attitude did the farmers in the video have and what it would be like to live like that every day.   I then presented my Three Things Families do to Simplify Farming and Reduce Risk where I introduced perspectives around lifting efficiencies using the environment more effectively, replacing inputs with what nature provides for free, and then how might we redesign farm business to ensure farmers focus on their dreams without losing sight of day-to-day realities.  The evening ended with a robust discussion about the value of technology in farming resulting in several people coming to the worm farming seminar the following day.  

December 2nd,2014 Regenerating Landscapes with Worm juice seminar, Chaos Springs, Waihi

Thank you Steve and Jenny Erickson, Chaos Springs for hosting me and Bruce Davision.  The purpose of the seminar was to demonstrate the value of worm farming and its benefits for pastoral farmers.  This was similar to the course Bruce presented to South Island farmers last year but included an afternoon demonstrating how to build a farm scale worm farm.  About 20 people came along and got a morning session on soil biology as well as how to read and correct soil tests from Hills Laboratory.  The photo shows Bruce and Steve (closest to camera) holding hand fulls of worms from Steve’s compost piles.  A facility such as this can make up to 300 liters of worm juice daily once fully functioning.  Later that day we looked at Steve and Jenny’s livestock and pastures, all of which were very impressive.  Stock get access to seawater for drinking.  They point out their production goes beyond that which their soil tests indicate is feasible testifying that soil biology is making a strong contribution to productivity at their farm.  A truly innovative couple creating an inspirational farm.


October 9th, 2014 Resilience and Flexibility talk, Coonabarabran, NSW

This was a great opportunity to meet innovators and pioneers from Coona area.  Thanks to Jenny and her team for great food and bringing together a community which cares about future of rural family life.  We all know women are much more courageous than men but there were a few hardy blokes that rolled up to hear me talk on some of the exciting advances happening in agriculture.  Science has constantly backed up what observant farmers see in the paddock, particularly around the myth of technology.  By working more closely and partnering with nature we find farming becomes less stressful.  In hindsight with this group, one thing I didn’t mention was Dr Daphne Miller’s latest book Farmacology, a personal journey visiting alternative farming operations and then taking themes from each visit and relating them to her medical practice in LA, California.  This very insightful and delightful read explains how important innovative farmers are becoming as change agents for human health.  Thanks to all who came up afterwards to show their appreciation.    


October 8th & 9th, 2014 Holistic Management Training, Coonabarabran, NSW

Brian Wehlburg asked me to teach Holistic Financial Planning with the eternally effervescent Jason Virtue.  This is the class most students dread but as I pointed out, much of financial planning isn’t crunching numbers; it’s sorting out what to spend money on and where to get new sources of wealth.  On top of that, routinely reviewing your financial situation actually improves business efficiency because the act of keeping your finger on the pulse of business helps you become proactive and address issues before they become serious.  Managing holistically is largely about identifying what issues need to be a priority and then finding money within your budget to deal with them.  This is one thing education systems do not teach because they view business finances as separate from landscapes and families.  If you ever find yourself in Coonabrarbran, check out the Diprotodon skull and skeleton in the information centre.  Its impressive...


Sept 15 2014 Film night with Foothills YFC, Mt Somers Tavern, Mt Somers

Thanks to Foothills Young Farmers club for hosting me at Mt Somers Tavern.  I showed the short Peter Byck film Soil Carbon Cowboys which follows the observations of three North American ranchers in different brittleness climates when they made changes to their grazing.  I asked the group what they saw as similar to what they do on the farm; rotation grazing, building and shifting electric fence, using stock density, etc.  Then I asked what was different.  They came up with longer rotations, shifting more than once a day, extremely high stock densities, using plants to improve soil function.  I also asked what the attitude of these farmers was.  They said they were really happy and found it easier to work with nature than what they had been doing before.  We then spent over an hour discussing what they observed and reflecting what might work in their situation.   

Sept 8 2014 Farm Fresh Presentation West Melton YFC, West Melton Pub, Christchurch


Thanks to the West Melton YFC for hosting me but all would agree it was a tough evening; had to shout against a rowdy bar public crowd.  Funny how everyone went quiet when I finished my presentation.  I covered the basics around lifting efficiencies using the environment, replacing resources, and redesigning how we do business as options to improve farm flexibility and resilience while reducing risk.  About 15 rolled up for the evening and we did my photo exercise about observing the soil surface and what that might mean for water cycle effectiveness and productivity.

July 23/24 2014 Farmer Flick night, Ashburton and Greta Valley

I ran three great videos linking grazing to soil and livestock health in both Ashburton and Greta Valley.  Soil Carbon Cowboys highlights the experiences of three North American grazers who changed their grazing regimes and are now seeing their livestock store large amounts of carbon in the soil which improves pasture resilience, longevity, and flexibility.  The Cover Crops explores Gabe Brown’s practices to enhance landscape function in a cropping situation.  This was followed by Palatability where Professor Fred Provenza introduces the concept of Nutritional Wisdom, the ability of livestock to out-perform scientists when it comes to livestock performance.  The conversations following each video highlighted the vast array of observations farmers are seeing here which fit into what these videos promote.  


July 17 2014, Small Farm Group video night, BHU Lincoln University

About half a dozen hardy souls met at the BHU to watch a video on Eliot Coleman, vegetable growing guru from northeast USA.  The focus on the video was how to grow winter crops in climates much more severe than Christchurch with a focus on greenhouses and fabric covers designed to prevent freezing and the types of crops which are well adapted to winter growing.  Coleman’s property is about the same latitude north as Christchurch is south yet the climate is much more continental.  The group was impressed with the history around winter growing in hotbeds and the level of intensive production.  Some of the group have asked to develop a support group to help beginners and that will be explored further.


July 10/11 2014, Open the Gate workshops, Gore

I ran a series of workshops in Gore including; Overview of Managing Holistically, Farm Fresh, and Animal Instinct.  The challenge is taking ideas that come primarily from overseas and helping farmers and consultants here see their relevance.  What makes it somewhat easier is that the changes presented are so dramatic.  Many commented the intensification of New Zealand farming is not creating the lifestyle and business they want due to squeezed profit margins and increasing regulation.  The ideas presented focus on lowering production costs by using what nature provides for free and focusing on observing the outcomes from decision-making rather than just monitoring.


July 9/10 2014 Farm Fresh Presentation Tokomairiro YFC, Westside Cafe, Milton

Thanks to Tokomairiro and Maniototo YFC for hosting me.  The Tokomairiro group were really interested in the points of view I put forward.  Many of them got the photo exercise and were quite happy to ask questions about what was in each photo and what that meant for productivity from my perspective.  It gave me the chance to have a bit of fun with the group while taking about serious subject matter.  I introduced the group to local farmer Rick Cameron who skills and experience in developing farm projects to check appropriateness of industry technology and advice for his own farm is legendary.  It great to be able to connect young farmers to farmers who have a practical sense of what is important when starting out.  The night before I spoke to Maniototo YFC at the Ancient Briton Pub in Naseby.  It was a smaller crowd as a number of young farmers had flu and decided to miss the meeting.  However, a couple of farmers rolled up to bolster numbers including recent Gaia Pastoral Award recipient David Crutchley.  


June 3 2014 Farm Fresh Presentation, Pendarves YFC, Rakaia Pub

Thanks Pendarves Young Farmer’s Club for hosting me.  This group is a mixture of dairy, cropping, and industry professionals including contractors, probably a couple of shepherds in there too.  Close to 50 people packed the restaurant to listen to my perspectives on farming and three things families can do to improve farm resilience and flexibility.  I did a little photo sort exercise which was a bit of a gamble with such a large group and time of night because I didn’t get a good opportunity to explore what discussions were going on at each table.  But just getting them to reflect on what the soil surface is telling them is something we do not discuss much in farming.  This is why farming is becoming so expensive because many people have no idea what the soil surface should look like to regenerate its function which leads them into expensive and risky practices like pasture renovation.  If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.  Reminding them that weeds are not a problem, but a symptom of management ability is a challenge few young farmers consider.  Their reality is it’s always easier to reach for the shelf.


March 31 2014 Holistic Management Overview Blenheim

This group came together to find out that managing holistically is more than grazing.  I usually spend mornings debunking myths about farming by offering production perspectives industry overlooks or ignores.  These perspectives are grounded in experiences of innovative families who are ahead of the game.  I explain the science and compare it to industry messages common place in media.  Afternoons are for exploring finances and how some simple shifts in perspective open up opportunities to do things differently.  However, it’s the last part of the day which focuses on decision-making and how changes here help farmers make significant gains in their leadership abilities.  Managing holistically is all about dealing with the day to day of life without losing the big picture.   


March 30 2014 International Year of Family Farming, Rai Valley

This is the Rai Valley celebration for International Year of Family Farming organised by Rural Women NZ.  I spoke on innovative farming families doing things better than industry best practice and often overlooked because industry has a poor understanding of relationships between soil, plants and livestock.  These families are improving efficiencies by working with nature rather than trying to control it, replacing expensive inputs by substituting technology with other tools like grazing, animal impact, and increasing biodiversity in the paddock for example.  Finally, they look at business differently.  They plan profit as their first expense, not what is left over and then set about finding ways of using nature to make that happen


March 23 2014 Healthy Horse Happy Husband seminar, West Melton Christchurch

Here is Dan Urquhart pointing out features regenerative horse grazing is creating.  Dan began changing grazing management on this leased property two years ago and is amazed how pastures have come back from years of abuse.  He stated he spent hours trucking feed in and feeding horses, now all that has gone along with vet bills.  He hasn’t seen the vet in 18 months.  The more horses he had, the more problems he was fighting.  Even simple problems like swollen legs were cured by having horses on longer pasture which cushioned against hard soil.  By changing grazing regimes, letting pasture grow longer, mature, and set seed he surprised himself.  Even today pulling apart the thickest sward we saw new emerging seedlings growing up through a jungle of growth all protected from the weather.   Where the group is standing is a mat of plantain highlighting an area of severe overgrazing where only tap rooted species are emerging to regenerate grassland.  In time grasses will re-colonise this area even with its stony soils.  


November 25 2013 Farmer First Group Kaka Point, South Otago

This was the fifth meeting for this group and focused on monitoring, particularly pasture monitoring and its relationship to grazing management.  One member of the group is measuring a great deal about what is happening in their pasture and as a result noticing many changes as a result of the grazing strategies they employed.  It was a great example of how recording and then documenting livestock movement on the farm improves communication and opportunities for analysis and evaluation.  Recording included dates when stock moved, how heavily grazed was the paddock, brix of grass, and how quickly dung was breaking down.  This information was not only put on HM grazing charts but also farm maps so anybody could see where things were happening.  Daily shifts at higher stock density over two years had lifted fertility in many paddocks and had evened out fertility across hill slopes.  However, due to some issues beginning to emerge it is now time to move away from daily shifts of this nature and try something different. 

November 18 2013 Christchurch Young Farmers Club, Addington, Christchurch

I was asked to present my views on farming by the Chch YFC, a mix of mostly students and farming professionals.  The focus of my talk is what farmers do when they don’t make money by drawing on the ideas of social ecologist Stuart Hill.  The first things farmers do is improve efficiencies, when that no longer works they change their inputs, and when that no longer works they redesign their farm business.  The last bit is where Holistic Management decision-making framework comes in but many of the ideas in the other two situations are also triggered by Holistic Management training.  The group was positive about the ideas and the perspective I bring to discussions about what is actually relevant in farming, maybe more importantly I am highlighting the heresy that exists between what is good for farming industries verses what is good for the farmer – often it is the prior getting short term benefits resulting in longer term consequences for the farmer.


October 24/25 2013 Holistic Management training with Brian Wehlburg, Wingham, NSW

This time Brian invited me to teach the basics of Holistic Financial Planning.  Finances are never the hot topic in any course but as I pointed out to the group the freedom to fail comes from the drudgery of numbers.  Like all the group training in Australia, this group also has to work with a budget over several months and use the control sheet to evaluate, diagnose, and correct financial problems.  This is the kind of routine which instills discipline into management.  The process of Holistic Financial Planning is not one of not spending but trying to find the funds to spend on the things essential to achieving Quality of Life.  The two days erupted around the concept of what was an inescapable expense, something that you have a legal or social obligation to pay like rates for example.  Some students believed phones and Christmas presents would fall into this category but as Brian pointed out if you broke your hip and needed the money for something else you could use the money for these thing but not your rates.  Inescapables are very few because if they were many there would be a smaller chunk of your budget to question and shift finances from if an emergency struck.  It was a powerful learning experience for the class.


October 22/23 2013 Holistic Management training with Brian Wehlburg and Helen Lewis, Clunes, NSW

This time I was invited to join Brian Wehlburg and Helen Lewis in Clunes, north coast NSW.   I helped the class with the budget monitoring exercise, especially the control sheet in establishing causes of spending issues, action to bring them back in line, and who was taking responsibility.  We spent time on decision-testing, using testing guidelines or filters to work through decisions about various situations.  As with all things new it takes time to become comfortable with each question, the nature of each question as some cover a variety of social, financial, and environmental circumstances, and knowing when to move on if stuck with a guideline.  If discussion breaks out over outcomes of a testing guideline the best thing to do is move to the next as not every guideline needs answering to make a decision.  Discussion means more information is needed at this time therefore it’s better to find out and confirm what you already know and come back to others later.  Brian had a great exercise for explaining biodiversity and something I’ll be keen to use here with my groups and students


September 19 2013 Grass Board with Dick Richardson Cullerin NSW Australia


This was the second time I’d met up with this group.  We visited a property bought by people new to farming.  One of the problems was reducing the number of enterprises/mobs on farm to make the operation simpler.  The second thing was deciding which paddocks needed subdivided to help lengthen recovery periods and reduce the obvious signs of overgrazing and overrest in the same paddocks.  People new to farming often surround themselves with many different people and the danger is not only getting conflicting advice but often higher input costs due to naivety.  These issues everybody faces when learning a new kind of business and this family will be the same.  The benefit of Grass Boards is the practical experience of those farmers already in it.  The drama is owners who competently run other kinds of businesses that do not rely on nature can struggle with the reality of uncontrollable circumstances and can fail to see how quick technological fixes can lead to long term environmental problems and reduce resilience of the property to drought for example. 


August 20 2013 Farmer First group Meeting Kurow, North Otago

This was the fourth meeting this year for this group and focus on grazing.  We spent time reducing the calculation activities so member could gain confidence without doing calculations, after all monitoring situations are most important aspect of management as degree of execution determines success.  We went on farm and looked at litter composition of pasture and body condition of livestock.  Fence was the biggest limiting factor on the property and more investment in infrastructure ahead to lift soil fertility and water holding capacity.  Already within a year they’ve noticed an increase in the number of springs on the property.  They’ve a number of choices about their livestock mix over the summer months and the group discussed these at length.  Again, financial weak link alerts holistic farmers to where investment is a priority on the property and then finding ways of freeing up capital within the budget to make things happen.  An important theme to emerge from the day was the importance of communication on farm, particularly when it came to achieving goals and gaining a sense of moving forward.  This theme sparked another lively session within the group looking for constructive and positive ways tom address important issues.


August 9 2013 Allan Savory Masterclass, Dubbo, NSW, Australia

Hard on heels of the Holistic Management conference came the opportunity to learn the next level of innovation and ideas with Allan Savory, Graeme Hand, and Mark Gardner.  Allan again focused on policy while asking the audience to look for teachable moments throughout their days to help public understand what managing holistically means.  Graeme Hand explained how he was getting greater success with planned grazing by simplifying the planned grazing process.  Mark Gardner explained his 12 steps to improved communication and business management using the HM framework. 


August 6 2013 Holistic Management conference, Orange, NSW Australia

This conference celebrated new strategies in promoting the need to manage holistically.  Allan Savory was in Australia to speak to farmers for several years and spoke on the need for policy making to change to assist farmers to be professional in their duties of business and land stewardship.  Other speakers included Dr David Low of the Weeds Network, Tre` Cates COO of Savory Intitute, John Feehan the Dung Beetle man, Prof Mark Adams of University of Sydney, Dr Robin Stonecash Projects Director at UTS Business School, and Brian Welhburg of Inside Outside Management. 


July 24, 25, 26, and 29th 2013; South Island Worm juice seminar with Bruce Davison.

This event came about from an article I wrote about Bruce’s use of worm juice to replace fertiliser when he bought his farm in southern coastal NSW, Australia.  It’s by far the most requested article I’ve written and even two years on Bruce is still getting requests about what he does.  The seminar was hosted in Ashburton, Wanaka, Gore, and Blenheim respectively and had a great response from the audience.  Bruce ran through some soil biology basics before demonstrating how to use soil test to work out what soils needed, based on Albrecht’s ideas.  He explained about worms farms, how to operate them and then how to feed the juice to brew either a fungal or bacterial dominated brew.  One interesting things is unlike many soil experts Bruce believes anaerobic bacteria have a positive role in productivity in soils.


June 24 2013 Farmer First group Gore

This was the third meeting of this group this year with an emphasis on goal setting.  This was one of the liveliest meetings I’ve facilitated with several in the group having their buttons pushed by other members.  They were challenged about investment and business decisions with farm spending as in line with the weak link concept from Holistic Management.  The group was so engrossed in vetting each other’s businesses they didn’t have time to check out the property!  The group spent time goal setting and relating that to triple bottom line thinking.  This meant not only exploring production decisions but also decisions about personal communication and money.  The day really highlighted the value of farmers challenging farmers about what is regenerative agriculture when it comes to farm investment and development. 


May 3 2013 Farmer First group Kurow

This was the second meeting for this group this year building on supporting each other as changes in management and practices happen on farm.  Each business presents a report updating what they have done and plan to do over the next period.  They focus on their weak link and research options to strengthen their businesses.  This meeting looked at financial planning, in particular the importance of gross profit analysis for each enterprise, identifying the logjam in the business and any other limiting factors.  These become the focal point for investment.  However, as all business people know, a plan is one thing, executing it is something else.  The purpose of this group is to use peer pressure to help farmers change practices and management to improve results.  More often than not, farmers know what is wrong, what they want is the courage to try something different from what they already know.  Farmer First groups help farmers explore challenges they face with a group of peers so they build confidence together.


April 19 2013 Dick Richardson Grass Board, Woodstock, NSW

Dick Richardson asked me along to this second full day meeting for this group.  I attended their first meeting back in September last year.  We met on a rolling hill cattle property near Woodstock.  Each of the five businesses went through their reports covering weak link, bottlenecks, logjams, stock policy and numbers, and forecast their coming actions during the winter months.  The group then took the opportunity to look at a couple of paddocks to discuss recovery of soils and plants.  Despite the on-going drought we saw good soil cover in a lucerne sward, no bare soil despite it looking bare from the roadside.  We also compared that to the smallest paddock on the farm with a very diverse pasture and asked the question whether any further recovery time would benefit plants, soils, and livestock.  The new litter was already evident in the standing sward and chewed tips had gone.  


April 17 2013, Haniminno,  Boorowa, NSW

I got the chance to attend a practical biodynamic day presented by Hamish MacKay and hosted at the Haniminno property by Charlie Arnott.  While filling cow horns with cow dung isn’t the most delightful farming activity, the company made light work of the task and allowed the group to discuss a wide range of issue and topics associated with biodynamic principles and theories.  Later that week I facilitated Charlie and Haniminno staff to review their holistic goal.  It’s important to note there are some important differences when facilitating a personal from a company holistic goal, particularly around the Statement of Purpose.  Dick Richardson and I also met with Sue Ogilvy and used David Tongway’s Landscape Function analysis.  Sue is involved with a number of local farmers measuring pastoral grassland communities and relating the outcomes to grazing management.


February 19 2013 Farmer First Group Wanaka

This was the first meeting of this Farmer First group with the purpose of farmers supporting each other when dealing with mounting family and community pressure arising from challenging traditional production systems.  The focus of this group is humans and decision-making, not sheep and cows – or chickens as the photo shows.  Too much of farming is tied up in the pride of traditional activities without any critical reflection on why farmers are doing what they do.  It is a myth that if you’re busy you must be a good farmer.  Savvy farmers question, monitor, and test options before they commit to them.   Members described events that lead them to join together.  One stated he was shearing, inoculating, and dipping on the same day and the pour-on burned through his leggings; this was not the life he wanted.  Another said hours spent in dusty windy sheep yards handlin sheep under the burning sun was making him an angry young man; this was not the image of farming he had for his family.  The bigger and faster approach promoted by primary industry is what kills farm families and the romance which binds them to the land.   These men and women want to take their families in another direction away from crippling debts imposed by big business and banks.  They want quality of life to drive their decision-making, not stresses of overdrafts, sick livestock, and burned out pasture.   They want to belong to a group of supportive individuals who are every bit as critical as the naysayers.  They want to learn how to maximise what nature provides for free, grow healthy livestock, and be rewarded by society for their talented stewardship. 


October 31,2012  Papakiao Hall, North Otago.  Seminar on Sustainable Farming

As a means of getting my Certificate of Sustainable Farm Management into the wider community, the Under the Kakanui WIF (Women In Farming) group organised for me to hold a seminar bringing together many of the elements that make Holistic Management successful.  The group enjoyed the day and a common complaint was where to look for new ideas as the traditional agencies always promote status quo rather than real innovation.  The day covered how the environment works and what tools livestock farmers can use to enhance landscape function, especially cheap options.  I also talked about budgeting and the importance of profit first, then other expenses as a way of lifting returns on investment.  I also talked about decision-making, how to improve it and reap benefits from a systematic approach to exploring the outcomes of farm actions, spending, and policies.  An important part of the process is monitoring of actions and knowing what to look for to ensure management remain proactive instead of reactive. Photo by Sally Rae Ag editor ODT.


October 15th & 16th 2012 Holistic Management Training, Gloucester, NSW, Australia


Brian Wehlberg asked me to teach aspects of Holistic Financial Planning, including the livestock worksheet, livestock calendar, and weak link.  I also helped review their budget monitoring exercise which demonstrates discipline required for executing financial planning.  The group also got the opportunity to measure brix of various plants outside the training facility and learn about the value of brix in estimating feed value.  I also ran through a number of slides emphasising observing the environment and knowing where to look on the landscape to compare the effectiveness of decisions to that outcomes desired.  An interesting event occurred when several students left class to join a local demonstrating protesting against coal seam gas fracturing (fracking in NZ), including one prominent local politician.  As he puts it, the extent of unknown consequences and the blatant fear tactics and lies used by energy companies brings into question the very integrity of both the mining and energy industries. 

October 2, 2012 Memorial for Bruce Ward, Kiribilli Club, Sydney, NSW

I was privileged to attend the memorial for Bruce Ward along with some 260 others, the most prominent HM educator downunder.  I first meet Bruce Ward 16 years ago as he was starting to promote the value of Holistic Management to Australians and again several years later when interest gained a foothold in New Zealand.  Bruce was always supportive of my efforts and in recent years very prepared to offer suggestions and advice.  Bruce helped me understand the relationships between business size, overheads, debt, and risk, a critical point to help farmers recognise the difference between conventional gross margin and Holistic Management’s Gross Profit Analysis.  I also use his version of a profit and loss statement to help farmers appreciate the value of prioritising expenses when budgeting rather than merely using accountant’s categories.  His leadership, commitment, knowledge, and humour will be sadly missed.

September 25, 2012 Holistic Management Grass Board with Dick Richardson, Goulburn, NSW

Dick Richardson invited me to attend this group which was reviewing winter production and learning.  Much discussed in this group about stock policy, varying recovery periods, the value of pasture reseeding and how to go about it, mineral supplementation, and the value of pregnancy scanning.  We then had a look at several pastures with the comment the property had more fed than many nearby, something of value at a time when El Nino is being talked about.  The photo shows the group visiting a site where round bales were rolled around the tops of hills.  The fresh grass strip highlights the difference additional organic matter can make to quality of pasture.


September 19, 2012 Holistic Management Grass Board with Dick Richardson, Canowindra, NSW

Dick Richardson invited me to attend the first meeting of this Grass Board on a property near Canowindra.  The purpose of these groups is to learn and gain confidence to improve profits and resilience of their properties.  The farming businesses in this group were running a variety of crops, sheep, and beef.  The group started off exploring why they wanted the group formed and what they hoped to get from the experience.  We then spent time outside looking at pasture as one of the purposes of these groups is to help with the practical skills of what to look for in the paddock.  Dick is a strong advocate of pasture cages to help with judging growth and pasture quality.


September 10th & 11th 2012 Holistic Management Training, Gloucester, NSW, Australia

Brian Wehlberg and I taught grazing planning and explained how to calculate gross profit analysis to this group.  Teaching math behind recovery and grazing periods is a challenge, how to keep the audience enthused without losing them, especially if they are kinaesthetic learners like many farmers.  Even demonstrating how much complexity can be accommodated by the grazing chart needs to be facilitated with much common sense to portray its usefulness to those who do not use/like paper work.  I explained the difference between Gross Margin – a financial tool commonly used in farming to find out how much money each enterprise is making, to Gross Profit Analysis – a similar tool developed 50 years ago to specifically to help farmers find which of their enterprises generates the most money.  The difference between these tools can make or break businesses mainly because people do not understand the difference between overheads and the actual costs which generate income. 

September 8th & 9th2012, Holistic Management Training, Hornsby, Sydney, Australia 


Brian Wehlberg invited me to join him to teach environmental observations to members of the North Sydney permaculture network at the environment centre, Abbotsleigh High School.  This included introducing the group to using a brix metre to measure soluble sugars of plants in the garden, higher readings indicate better health.  I also presented slides of what to look for in the paddock as landscape function improves.  Sydney HM educator Paul Griffiths joined us for a photo opportunity for the local press and spent time with the group explaining the importance of monitoring.  



June 11th, 13th, 15th 2012 Enhancing Environment with Grazing Livestock seminars with Holistic Management educator Graeme Hand

Speaking in Hastings, Hurunui, and Gore, Graeme and I promoted the need for redesigning grazing systems with Graeme emphasising what he is seeing with his work from Tasmania to NSW in Australia.  Deep pasture decomposing litter is essential for grasslands to thrive as litter feeds soil and lengthens growing seasons without any inputs.  Proper decomposition is evident when pulling litter from soil surface as it acts like Velcro because it’s melting into the soil surface.  This is what farmers are searching for in the photo with Graeme crouching centre in the brown top.  Conventional fertilisers only add minerals to soil, never an energy source to stimulate soil life and the services they provide for free.  Evidence backing these insights is found in Australian research using the term landscape function.  As landscape function increases, properties become more resilient to climatic events such as floods and droughts.  To improve farmers’ quality of life any farming activities must not only generate more profit, but must simultaneously reduce labour and enhance landscape function.  Farmers find this thought challenging as this never happens with mainstream technologies and activities therefore they’ve never experienced it.  Furthermore, University of Sydney studies show farmer mental health strengthens when they feel they are regenerating landscape function, especially if it doesn’t require herbicides, insecticides, and salt fertilisers.  Improved farmer attitudes results in their children more willing to go farming. 

May 1st 2012 Holistic Management educator Kelly Mulville visits from Colorado, USA

Kelly Mulville and his wife Elaine Patarini passed through while travelling the South Island. I took them out to David Fincham’s property to look at the Kiwitech fencing gear and chat with a few locals. Kelly has managed a variety of ranching and horticultural operations and will address several New Zealand wine grower groups about grazing sheep in vineyards, a business he was successfully developing in California prior to the financial crisis. Kelly’s background includes biodynamcs and organic production and we spent most of the afternoon talking agricultural policy rather than production as well as human nutrition and its relationship to soil fertility. Elaine is a Weston Price advocate so the conversation also included the value of fermented foods. The photo shows me and Kelly chatting as we walk through autumn pasture – taken by Elaine. Kelly originally contacted me about an article I published in Acres USA and HMI’s In Practice about using fertiliser to calculate a market value for pasture biodiversity. He was interested in the production economics regarding the value of dung in the pasture and discovered we had similar figures.

March 12/13 2012, Holistic Management Training, Cobargo, NSW, Australia

This was the last class for the Bega group I met back in November. It was an opportunity to confirm progress about holistic grazing plans and holistic financial planning. It was also an opportunity to reinforce the practice of Holistic Management, especially bio-monitoring and financial monitoring. Here, fellow educator Brian Wehlberg from Insideoutside Management is about to demonstrate the role pasture cages can play as a visual reference to growth rates and recovery periods – time between grazing to ensure pasture longevity. I took the opportunity to emphasis observation skills, in particular simple signs of plant and animal health for farmers to be aware of. Also, I spoke on the importance of curiosity with farm and business management when targeting improvements on properties. This attitude is crucial for discovering ways and means to lift flexibility and profits.

 March 14/15 2012, Holistic Management training, Bega, NSW Australia

This is the third group I have been involved with in this community and their second lesson. The previous lesson had focused on eco-system processes and the tool humans use to influence them. This lesson focused on developing a holistic goal for each individual, an activity many find challenging. However, the way Brian Wehlberg and Helen Lewis deliver this insight results in groups comfortable with their initial efforts on the understanding this is a living document and will change as they become more familiar with using it, gain more confidence, and change their expectations of what they can achieve. I delivered the holistic goal process building on Brian’s efforts to draw from participants what was most important for them. This included an early morning visit to the local cemetery to spur reflection and inspiration. All who do this exercise find the experience safe and uplifting under Brian’s guidance. 

January 14 2012 Canadian Beef Farmers Greg, Dawn and their son Lee Ekert visit with David Fincham, Hawarden North Canterbury

Saskatchewan organic and holistic beef producers Greg and Dawn Ekert arrived in New Zealand with their doctor son Lee on their first trip downunder. I took them to meet organic mixed cropping and livestock farmers David and Sandy Fincham at Hawarden. After a long conversation at lunch we toured around looking at livestock, pastures, crops, and facilities. Topics discussed included linking pasture litter levels to soil carbon, different pasture plants for grazing, strategies to deal with rampant summer growth, ideal pastures for cropping farms, animal performance, dung and pasture quality, high density grazing, machinery syndicates, reducing hay and balage costs, marketing directly to customers, farmer innovation and knowledge seeking, and labour optimisation techniques and technology for livestock farmers. The Ekerts were in NZ for only five days but were planning to visit John and Emily McRae at Wanaka Organics where John runs chickens behind his cattle.

November 30 2011 South Coast CMA Grazing Meeting, Bega, NSW Australia


This half day meeting provided an opportunity to introduce and explain to 40 farmers environmental and financial benefits of Holistic Management.  Like many of these meetings I’ve attended, most participants are either new to farming or have experienced a crisis which has made them question mainstream information.  This group was interested in how Holistic Management differed to advice they already use, what benefits had other people in the area achieved from using it, and whether there were any limitations to using it.  I (pictured) and Brian Wehlburg, along with local DPI and CMA Landcare staff explained and demonstrated techniques and technologies outside that land holders could use to work more closely with the land and take advantage of what nature does for free. 


November 28-29 2011 Holistic Management Financial Planning training, Bega, NSW, Australia

Again teaming up with Brian Wehlburg I spent time with his Bega group explaining principles of Holistic Management Financial Planning and how it differed from what most businesses do.  As always, have profit as the priority expense and then use testing guidelines and insights on spending behaviour to prioritise where money goes within a budget.  The focus of HMFP is to grow wealth to ensure progress towards quality of life stated in holistic goal.  The first day focused on principles of financial planning whereas second day the group explored a realistic situation to use their new knowledge to address financial problems.  The next session they will use these same skills on their own situation to fully realise the impact of their training.

November 25 2011 Grass Board, Wellington, NSW Australia


Dick Richardson invited me along to one of his Grass Board meetings.  Grass Boards are small groups of farmers (no more than 7 businesses) where members share and discuss business and property issues.  At Grass Boards meetings farmers bounce ideas between their peers while drawing on skills and expertise of Dick, particularly tools grazing farmers can use to enhance biodiversity, lift animal performance, and improve profitability and quality of life.  Each member presents a small report summarising current activities and issues while comparing them to the previous meeting.  Discussions arising from these reports last an hour or more as each farmer explores options and possibilities to improve life and business at home.  Each meeting is held at one member’s property so group can drive and visit parts of their farm.  This allows Dick to demonstrate his extensive understanding of land function and grazing to explain plant and animal behaviour resulting from grazing management on different soils, aspect, and topography.  Photo shows Dick discussing evidence of soil compaction with emergence of rushes in pasture.

November 18-20 2011 Holistic Management Conference, Wingham, NSW, Australia

The first Australian Holistic Management conference in several years was a great success.  Driven by local enthusiasm, this event involved farmers and educators explaining principles and experiences with Holistic Management.  Bruce Ward brought new insights about risk management regarding the global financial crisis.  Callum Coats introduced Victor Schuberger’s ideas into subtle energies of water and incredible physics associated with water vitality.  John Feehan explained dung beetles roles in farming and latest initiatives with their spread including into New Zealand.  Dick Richardson spoke on his observations of Holistic Management practice and his concerns about managers falling into routines with grazing management leading to poor ecological health and animal performance.  Michael Kiely spoke on advances of Carbon Farmers of Australia and the future of carbon farming.  The following day in the paddock Dick Richardson spoke on grazing management and soil function, Sarah Fea spoke on Soilfood Web, while Bruce Maynard provided much entertainment with a great demonstration of no stress techniques to move livestock.  I gave a brief presentation of farmer observation using photographs showing fenceline comparisons, overgrazed pasture plants, and where and what livestock were eating in the paddock. 

November 14/15 2011 Holistic Management Grazing Planning training, Bega, NSW, Australia

Invited by Inside Outside Management to co-teach a grazing module in Bega with Brian Welhburg.  My contribution involved explaining animal nutrition and behaviour.  The first morning focused on students reviewing events from previous classes and what some were doing at home.  The afternoon was in the paddock estimating feed squares and measuring plant brix and soil properties.   The photo shows Brian explaining the use of a pentrometre to measure soil porosity which indicates water holding and drainage properties.  The second day I assisted Brian explaining the Holistic Grazing Planning process.  Students were given a grazing exercise to do at home. 


November 9/10 2011 Stipa (Native Grasslands) Conference, Holbrook, NSW, Australia

The conference focused on two areas, science around grazing in native grasslands and farmer initiative to incorporate ecological principles into farm management.  I went with Dick Richardson to this event to hear American animal behaviourist Fred Provenza.  He emphasised livestock abilities to choose from diverse herbage when grazing and how they balance diets and self-medicate.  These ideas were followed up by CSIRO scientist Dean Revell while farmer Bruce Maynard explained advanced stockmanship methods which drew on animals’ abilities to sort their own diet.  Walter Jehne from Healthy Soils Australia explained the dynamic relationship between grasslands and carbon sequestration leading to greater resilience of farming systems.  There is no group in New Zealand that currently emphasises native grasslands and their management for conservationists and farmers to discuss common ground.  The photo shows Anna Coughlan explaining paddock history to the group and relating previous management to the resulting plant community.

June 17th & 20th 2011 Mark Bader, Animal Nutritionist, Ashburton, Gore

I sponsored Mark Bader to visit New Zealand and explain to farmers how to improve nutrition.  Mark Bader is someone who explains the science other experts either ignore or overlook.  Mark’s knowledge on chemistry linking soil, plant, and animal health links science to observation.  His explanation of chemistry is simple for anybody to understand and he then gives examples which all farmers can relate to.  For example, why do animals graze the top third of the grass plant when they enter the paddock?  Because it has lower protein and higher energy meaning it suits the animal best.  Excess protein causes the majority of production and health problems in New Zealand ruminants.  As Mark observes, “New Zealand farmers are too busy to make money!”  Instead of optimising efficiencies they move animals too fast, apply soluble fertiliser and toxic chemicals, or sit on a tractor all day topping.  Following some simple rules of chemistry reduces many expenses and grows more grass.  Canterbury dairy farmers focused on ration balancing to lift efficiencies and reduce costs whereas Southland sheep and beef farmers wanted to know how to make tall pasture grazing work for them.  All recognised the common sense of Mark’s ideas but left knowing full well the challenges of making these ideas work.

June 13 & 14 2011 Probitas Conference Rotorua

This conference differed from last year’s event by focusing on the basics.  Only four speakers; Ewan Campbell (Probitas system and its benefits to land function), John Godwin (Radionics and healing the land), Mark Bader (Balancing animal nutrition), and me on changing grazing practice.  My role was to explain how growing longer grass benefits both soil and animal whereas Mark Bader provided the science behind grazing mature pasture and its impacts on meat and milk quality.   I focused on identifying environment signs revealing land health and its resilience.  The photo shows the group identifying and sorting soil surface photos into effective and non-effective water cycles.  Non-effective water cycles reduce productivity but seldom are farmers aware of what to look for and its impact on their business, they lack enviro-literacy.  Once they can identify what to look for in the environment they can be proactive in doing something about it like change their grazing practices.

May 2011 EM Farmer First Meeting Tapanui, West Otago

The EM group spent the morning visiting George Redditt’s and Neil Thomson’s properties checking out earthworm numbers, brix levels, and discussing how to monitor the environment on the farm.  Rick Cameron led discussion on brix, how to prepare the grass for crushing, how to operate the refractometre, and what the result meant.  Mike Daly led discussion on earthworm counts and I explained how to do Visual Soil Analysis (VSA).  These activities showed a decline in worm numbers with the frequency of cultivation along with a decline in soil structure.  The afternoon involved group members evaluating their use of EM in cropping.  One unexpected outcome was the lack of seed shaking out in crops sprayed with EM which lifted second year crop yields.  All commented they wanted to learn more about using EM and discussing ways and means to make the most of its use.

May 2011:  Holistic Management training, Puketitiri Golf Club, Hawkes Bay

This group’s final HM training session explored grazing.  Brian Wehlberg (third from left) from Inside Outside Management, Australia co-facilitated training and brought a wealth of grazing experience.  New Zealand farmers find learning Holistic Planned Grazing challenging because the focus is recovery period, not kgDM.  Usually farmers start grazing planning with calculating kgDM so they know how many animals to run.  The problem with this approach is no connection to pasture regeneration by avoiding burnout.  The priority with Holistic Planned Grazing is calculating recovery period first and then work out time animals spend in each paddock to avoid overgrazing.  From there farmers calculate whether enough feed exists and then plan strategies if it doesn’t.  While farmers in this group struggled with the holistic planning approach, they recognise using kgDM alone will not solve productivity problems driving their interest in Holistic Management.  Overall, the group really enjoyed the Holistic Management course and exposure to new insights and ideas.  From here they plan to run a support group to improve their practice of Holistic Management.  “The course gave us a brilliant strategy for tying all the disparate parts of the business to a single focus. We find that the discovery process of HM, rather than a prescriptive 101 factsheet, arouses interest and curiosity. The inherently flexible nature of HM means that if we get an undesired result, somewhere a wrong decision was made, not that the HM process itself was wrong” – Malc & Twix White.

Apr 2011: Holistic Management educators with Keyline designer Darren Doherty, Orange, NSW

Darren Doherty shared the best part of 20 years experience with Holistic Management educators keen to learn how to read landscapes according to Keyline principles.  Here Darren (centre, brown hat) is conversing with Ian Chapman as the group reviews the design and development of Ian’s property over 20 years using Keyline.  The maps show dam sites which will be built as the funds become available, not before.  A cornerstone of Keyline is the Scale of Permanence which ranks landscape features and property infrastructure to improve soil fertility.  This knowledge uses geotechnical insights into harvesting and storing rainwater to redistribute it from valleys to ridges via flood irrigation.  Keyline strengthens Holistic Management at the design level through identifying land patterns for improving utilisation and efficiencies of soil and water resources when developing farming properties.

Apr 7th & 8th 2011:Holistic Management training, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay


This group’s third session concentrated on finances and psychology of planning earning and spending money.  The group explored decision testing guidelines by delving into how money is spent, returns on investment, which farm development costs are a real priority, and how to determine the greatest bang for a dollar when running a business.  The group used their own figures to calculate gross profit analysis (which identifies the true income generating costs unlike a gross margin), use financial weak link to invest in their enterprises, determine whether a logjam existed in their business, and how to find money within their existing budget to move business forward.  As a result farmers begin investing in expenses that grow grass cheaply using principles of solar dollars instead of increasing input costs and hoping market price (paper dollars) will cover their planned costs.  The group here is choosing the right layout for a farm development plan by using existing resources rather than traditional borrowing from banks and being railroaded into decisions that burn out both property and farmer.  The group meets again in May to do Holistic Grazing Planning.

Mar 13 2011 Holistic Management overview, Gisborne, East Coast

This full day overview was hosted by the Tairawhiti Organics Group.  The day covered the relevance of farming in sustaining civilisation, how the environment works, the tools farmers use to change the environment with special focus on grazing and land management practices, what does holistic mean?, what is a holistic goal?, how is a holistic goal practical for business and family decision-making, an overview of the decision-testing and feedback loop processes, how the farmer can plan for profit (profit is the farmer’s responsibility, not the industry’s), how to re-prioritise expenses to get greater emotional ownership of financial planning, and where to get ideas when looking for innovative solutions to old and new problems.  Those attending enjoyed the day, the practical nature of the information, and left inspired to learn more.  The group pictured is doing an exercise demonstrating how current grazing practices lead to pasture burnout resulting in higher input costs 

Mar 2011 Holistic Management Training, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

This group's second session concentrated on holistic goal development and decision testing.   Some families brought along photos of their property to review examples of effective and non-effective ecosystem processes.  The first day focused on reviewing ecosystem processes, understanding the nature of personal change, and creation a holistic goal.  The second day involved completing the holistic goal, demonstrating decision testing, the feedback loop, and developing SMART goals to help make the holistic goal practical.  The group meets again in April to experience Holistic Financial Planning.



Feb 9th & 10th 2011 Holistic Management Training, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

This is the first group of Holistic Management trainees in the Hawkes Bay.  All are livestock farmers and brought their wives and children along to participate in training.  The focus of this workshop was to explore the four ecosystem processes and the tools farmers use to enhance their function.  The picture shows Paul Ashton enthusiastically demonstrating community dynamics and the concept of edge effect where biodiversity is higher along the boundary between two ecosystems – the lawn and the herbicided bare earth.  Much of the workshop is activity based designed to stimulate robust discussion linking the realities of farming with the need for a healthy functioning ecosystem.  The group will have three more workshops over the next three months looking at decision-making, financial planning, and grazing planning.

Feb 1st 2011 EM Farmer First Meeting Tapanui, West Otago

Farmers from West and South Otago came to listen to Rick Cameron talk about the importance of monitoring.  He described his operation and the many projects he has conducted over the years to find out what practices make his farm profitable.  Even in an area of reliable rainfall Rick notes that dry spells are what cost his business profits.  He emphasised the importance of reading, communicating, and learning to ask the right questions, a skill that comes from experiencing unexpected results.  Mike Daly spoke on the EM product range and research highlighting the benefit to animal, pasture, and crop production.  The picture shows farmers sorting photos about the soil surface to identify the signs of effective vs non-effective water cycles and what that means for productivity.  Farmer First group members took the opportunity to share their projects using EM.  All were happy with the way the season had progressed and were waiting eagerly for the harvest season to start.