Summary: To avoid the threat to biodiversity and long-term productivity posed by extensive grazing, annual pasture burns, and the frequent applications of agrochemicals employed by conventional cattle ranching in the lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico, a small group of innovative ranchers are converting to holistic management through careful land-use planning, rotational grazing, diversified forage, and diminished use of purchased inputs. Eighteen (18) conventional and seven (7) holistic, dual-purpose ranches were studied using three sets of sustainability metrics combining economic, social, technological, and environmental indicators. Holistic ranchers have more pasture divisions, higher grazing pressure, greater lengths of time between pasture burns, greater milk productivity, larger forest reserves, lower cow and calf mortality, purchase less hay and feed, and use less herbicides and pesticides than their conventional neighbors, with holistic ranches demonstrating superiority for nine of ten indicators. Higher soil respiration, deeper topsoil, increased earthworm presence, more tightly closed herbaceous canopies, and marginally greater forage availability were found in holistic ranches, suggesting that holistic management strategies are leading to greater ecological and economic sustainability.
Ferguson, Bruce G., Stewart A. W. Diemont, Rigoberto Alfaro-Arguello, Jay F. Martin, José Nahed-Toral, David Álvarez-Solís, and René Pinto-Ruíz. 2013. “Sustainability of holistic and conventional cattle ranching in the seasonally dry tropics of Chiapas, Mexico.” Agricultural Systems 120:38-48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2013.05.005