Holistic Ranching: A Better Way

Colt James Ranches founder Colter Devries embraces a holistic approach to raising cattle. Focused on enhancing flavor and nutrition through a balanced, healthy ecosystem, CJR is able to produce better tasting Wagyu that you can feel good about eating.

Holistic Management is a regenerative agricultural practice with far reaching benefits.

Through this practice, a farmer or rancher can use the land’s unique traits to improve the land’s health and minimize production risks. 

The practice is founded on two key principles, as described on https://holisticmanagement.org/

1. Nature functions in wholes

Taking a holistic perspective means paying attention to relationships between different aspects of the “whole.” When you manage your land resources, build biodiversity, or improve production, you can’t change or control one thing without impacting something else.

2. Understand your environment

All environments are not the same. Environments exist on different ends of a scale linked to humidity and how quickly dead vegetation breaks down. Tools respond differently in these environments.

Diversity brings balance at Colt James Ranches. 

Thinking of nature as a whole, Colter aims to reduce things with ulterior consequences.

“When we find out things like a dewormer might have an adverse effect in dung beetle population, we try not to use it,” he said.

Holistic Management practices have helped Colter keep his cows in such a healthy state and environment that they don’t need excessive hormones or antibiotics.

“They're very healthy and at less risk of disease because of the practices of holistic management,” he says.

According to Colter, in the natural world you want diversity. That means diversity in grasses, shrubs, trees, birds, predators, prey and insects.

“You don’t want a mono culture - that's an unbalanced, dysfunctional system,” he said. “One way we can help with diversity on ranches is to incorporate multi species livestock grazing because the cattle eat a different grass than the sheep, and goats eat whatever they want.”

Continuing, he explained that since goats eat a lot of weeds, you can use grazing animals to control weed populations rather than breaking out sprays. The goats’ urine and dung then return nutrients to the soil.

“This helps reduce inputs into a system, which is key,” Colter said. “A system that’s in balance and operating on its own shouldn’t need fertilizer.”

When you have a healthier environment, you also get better taste. For example, rather than letting the cattle roam free and over-graze (common practice in conventional ranching which results in desertification and loss of topsoil) we rotate our herds through the ranch lands, only allowing them to graze on one area at a time.

As the herd moves from one location to the next, the dung they leave behind enriches the soil, sparking a boost in plant life productivity. This helps eliminate the need for added fertilizers and chemicals, resulting in healthier grasses for our cattle, and healthier, tastier beef for you.

Work with the environment instead of against it.

A healthier, robust ecosystem creates healthier water for people downstream. It means less erosion and less sediment runoff. It makes for a more sustainable planet in which we are no longer fighting the elements and battling nature. Instead, we get to work with nature for the benefit of all.

“The conventional way of ranching was a house of cards where if you pulled one out, the whole thing comes crashing down,” Colter said.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way.

By working with the environment instead of against it, we can take part in a more responsible form of ranching with environmental, social and economic benefits.

So, next time you take a bite of Colt James Wagyu, take pride in knowing you’re doing much more than enjoying a delicious meal.