Big Picture Thinking by Don Campbell

What is HM?

Today I want to discuss 3 questions. What is H M? What are the benefits of H M? Who can benefit from H M?

What is H M? H M is a decision-making process. H M is designed to help us make decisions that are simultaneously socially, environmentally & financially sound. Or in rancher talk H M helps us care for our people, improve our land & make a profit. These 3 areas are all vitally important. We can’t sacrifice one for another. H M helps us have balance; it allows us to make progress in all 3 areas.

I invite you to stop and reflect for a moment. If we don’t work and achieve success in all 3 areas is there any hope of us achieving long term success? I suggest that the answer is no. I have often told people that if I help you grow the best grass in your area & you don’t tie it to your finances you won’t be successful. If you grow the best grass and tie it to your finances but neglect your people you won’t be successful. The only possible way to be successful (something we all desire) is to create success in all 3 areas. As individuals we should settle for nothing less. H M can help us achieve this.

H M offers us many tools to achieve our dreams. I will touch on these in future blogs.

What are the benefits of H M? When I summarize the benefits, I have seen in my life & the benefits I have seen in people I have worked with the list looks something like this.

The first benefit is that people who are using H M have a better quality of life. This is amazing but even more important these same people have the belief that life isn’t happening to them, they are creating the future that they desire. They feel that they are in charge of their lives. This is priceless.

The second benefit is that the health of the land is improving. This means that there is an increase in production from a set land base. This is achieved by a change in management not by buying inputs. Many people have doubled their grass production.

The third benefit which comes directly from healthier land is lower costs & increased profits. If you reflect, I am confidant you will see the immense impact healthier land has.

The fourth benefit is the ability to have more animals or the have the same number of animals grazed for a long period of time. Each individual will choose what is best for them and their unique operation.

The fifth benefit is there will be less work required to operate the business. This benefit occurs naturally when we begin to see nature as our ally not our enemy. Working with nature is easier & more enjoyable than working against nature.

I invite you to reflect on these benefits. If you are new to H M would these benefits be of interest to you? If so, you might consider taking a course & starting on your journey to a better life. If you have been using H M you might ask yourself: am I achieving these benefits? If you are not satisfied with your results you might consider increasing your commitment to H M. Remember H M is a tested and proven process. Your success is tied to your application of the principles.

The third question was who can benefit from H M? My answer is not everyone, only people who make decisions in their lives. The last time I looked that would include all of us.

I have enjoyed all the benefits listed above. However, I want to get more personal about what H M has helped me achieve. H M helped me become a lifelong learner. Somewhere along the road I began to realize that where I am today is a direct result of the past decisions that I have made. If I want to improve my position, I need to make better decisions. The main obstacle between me and a better life is me. I suspect that this may be true in your life also. This was rather a sobering thought when is first occurred to me. Over time I have accepted this as being true. I now see this as being liberating. I can improve my life by improving myself. I am responsible. I can make it happen.

I can improve myself by the thoughts I think, by the people I associate with & by the books I read. All of these are in my control. I have worked at self-improvement for the last 30 years. I admit that is has been a slow painful process. The good news is that I am making progress. I am a better person than I used to be. I am not as good as I will be. Please note that I am not talking about how good I am only that I am better than I used to be.

I challenge you to live your dream. H M can help you do this.

To learn more about Holistic Managment and how it can help you, contact Bluesette Campbell at

Develop a Written Goal

Develop a Written Goal

I think the desire to be successful is universal. We all want to feel that we are successful. Are there some things we might do to increase our success? I think that there are: I submit the following for your consideration.

Let’s start with a definition of successful: accomplishing what is desired or intended. This definition leads to my first point.

A clearly written goal can give you direction and guidance and help you be successful. Your goal becomes like your personal “North Star.” No matter what trials or tribulations you face your goal can give you guidance, security and direction.

Your goal can become your personal definition of success. If you don’t know what success looks like how will you ever achieve it?

Your goal helps you decide what to say yes to and what to say no to. We all have limited time. Spending our time in line with our goal helps us walk our talk. The closer our walk lines up with our talk the more successful and satisfied we will be.

You might ask: why a written goal? There are lots of studies that show that a written goal is much more effective than a goal you may carry in your head. Writing your goal down allows you to share it with other people. This in turn allows those people to challenge you and to help you walk your talk.

Success is very personal. Don’t compare yourself with others. Compare yourself with your dreams and aspirations. The only person who can judge your degree of success is you.

One of the keystones to the success of Holistic Management is the three-part goal. The holistic goal covers the people, the land and the money. Nothing is left out. When everyone has input and commitment to your goal success is bound to follow.

To learn more about writing a three-part goal and Holistic Managment, contact Bluesette Campbell at

Believe in Yourself

Believe in Yourself and Your Family

Believing in yourself is essential. I am reminded of Henry Ford’s saying “if you think you can or you think you can’t you are right.” Your basic thoughts about success tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have always had a high degree of self-confidence. I tend to see myself as 6 feet tall and bullet proof. If something needs to be done, I am confident that I can figure out how to do it.

When I was introduced to H M my self-confidence went up. This occurred largely because of the tools H M offered me (goal setting, financial planning & planned grazing). The other huge benefit H M offered was all the wonderful people I met. These people became role models & mentors for me. A large part of my success is due to my H M friends.

I give credit to my parents for helping me develop my self-confidence. My parents always believed in and supported me. That made it easy for me to believe in myself. I am reminded about the time that I wanted to disperse our cow herd in the 1980’s. My Dad’s comment was “do what you think is best I believe in you.” What do you think that kind of support did for my self-confidence? If you are a parent, I encourage you to tell your children (don’t assume that they know) that you offer them unconditional love and support. This applies to our children at all stages of their lives (birth to death). There is nothing like parental support and approval to help us succeed.

We all know that the degree of parental support and encouragement varies greatly from family to family. I was blessed with strong parental support. That helped make my life easy. Your case may be different. That doesn’t mean you can’t believe in yourself and be successful. It means it will be more difficult. I believe you can still be successful. One thing we can all do is to make sure our children believe in themselves. If your family has a history of weak parental support, you can be the one to change the pattern. Give your children unconditional love and support. They will believe in themselves. Likely they will offer their children unconditional love and support. They in turn will believe in themselves. You have changed your family for the better. They, in turn, have changed the world for the better.

Believe in Your Spouse

 Bev and I like most married couples (I think) have lots of small things we may not agree on. Fortunately, when it comes to the big things Bev offers me unconditional love and support. When I turn to her and suggest we should make some major change in our business (sell the cows, buy our hay, or borrow a million dollars) she says, “do what you think is best, I believe in you.” I really think she feels I am 10 feet tall and bullet proof. What do you think that kind of support does for my self-confidence? I encourage everyone to strengthen their marriage and relationships. Believing in your spouse is a choice. Let me share a quote from Gary Gregor:

“You only achieve as much as your significant other believes you can.”

 Together you can do so much more than you can do alone. I know that I would not enjoy the success I have without Bev’s love and support.

To learn more about Holistic Management tools, contact Bluesette Campbell at

Role Models and Mentors

Find and Follow Good Role Models and Mentors

 I have been blest with good role models my entire life. When I was young it was my parents, my family and their friends. You may have heard the statement “it takes a village to raise a child.” I feel I was raised like that. I have had role models that I have known, respected and looked up to for 50 or 60 years. What a blessing. As I grew I was always able to find good role models no matter where I was or what I was doing. This included my university years, my veterinary career and especially my ranching career. Holistic Management encouraged me to become a life-long learner. H M offered me a wonderful opportunity to continue to be influenced by good role models.

 When I was about 50 I realized that I knew people who could really help me grow, increase my knowledge and skills and become a better person. This personal growth appealed to me. I phoned some of these people and said “I’d like to get to know you better and learn from you. Would you allow me to come and spend some time with you?” Amazingly people always said yes to my request. The result was that I set up a flexible program of learning. I spent as much as a day a month for up to six months with some of my mentors. I drove as much as 8 hours one way to invest in my learning. The result was rapid personal growth that resulted in a higher degree of success. Another interesting thing also happened; these people became lifelong friends.

 I encourage you to look around. Is there someone you might learn from? Why not set up a personal mentoring program with that person? Your first reaction may well be “I can’t afford the time.” My response would be “can you afford not to invest in yourself?”

As I look at my life today I am confident that no matter what situation may arise I will know someone I can turn to for love, wisdom, guidance and support. What do you think that kind of support does for my self-confidence?

Effective Meetings

Today I want to talk about Effective Meetings. I am sure we have all experienced successful meetings & some that were not so successful. Wouldn’t it be great to know how to conduct a successful meeting? I want to share some tools that have helped me to conduct successful meetings. I hope these tools will benefit you.

In the early years of H M, I was introduced to the concept of using a circle and a talking stick. Traditionally most meetings start around a table or with a leader at the front & people behind tables. We break with this tradition.  We begin our meeting with our chairs in a tight circle, we are all facing each other. There is nothing in the center of the circle. Sitting like this changes the energy flow in the room. Each person becomes more open & more willing to listen & to share. A circle makes us all equal.

For clarity I will write this as if I am leading the meeting. I open the circle by introducing myself.

I am Don Campbell. I am holding the talking stick (any object you can pass around the circle). Whoever has the stick gets to talk. The rest of us are to listen. We have 2 ears & 1 mouth. Perhaps we are to listen twice as much as we talk. Share when it is your turn. I recognize that some people find this exercise difficult. I am inviting you to share what you want. The more you share the more you will benefit.

I then share some of my experiences both as a CE & as a rancher. My sharing sets the tone for being honest & vulnerable. I keep things light.

I have 5 statements posted on the wall. The statements are to help people get started. These statements can be changed to fit your situation. The statement given here were used during an H M course.

   1. I am (your name). Stating your name is important (even if everyone knows you) it brings your presence into the room.
   2. I am thinking.
   3. I am feeling. Asking a thinking & a feeling question activates both your left & right brain. It increases learning.
   4. I would like to learn. I record these points on a flip chart. Towards the end of the course, we review & make sure we have covered all the points.
   5. Please share something about yourself.

When a person is done sharing, I thank them by name. I let the circle go as long as people want. Some circles take much longer than others. I never worry about the time. A circle is an investment in creating a save environment. Time spent here will pay dividends down the road.

I have had excellent results using a circle & a talking stick. When people feel save & listened to it is amazing what they will share. A circle makes us all equal. A circle promotes learning & sharing.

I want to share a couple of circles that really stood out for me. The first one was where a husband & wife came to the course together. The wife was obviously dealing with some challenges. When we stared our first circle she sat outside the circle near her husband. I invited her to join, she declined. I carried on & never invited her to join again. On the last day as we were starting our closing circle the lady brought her chair & joined the circle.

Another time we were meeting with 3 management clubs at once. The circle was long & very personal. One young woman shared some thoughts on the difficulties of working with her in laws. Another couple shared about some marriage challenges. When the circle was done & we were moving to the other side of the room one of the people came up to me and said, “thank you for creating a safe environment.”

 A circle & a talking stick can be used in many different settings. It is a great tool for a management club. It can be used for a business, a family, inter-generational transfer or even 2 individuals looking to strengthen their relationship. I encourage you to try using a circle & a talking stick. It may feel uncomfortable but that is a good thing. Remember you need to get out of your comfort zone to grow. We all need to grow to create a better future.

To learn more about holding effective meetings and Holisitic Management, contact Bluesette Campbell at

Thoughts on Drought

We live at Meadow Lake, Sask. I have used HM principles on my ranch & in my life since 1985. I have taught HM since 1990. Since 1997 my wife Bev has taught with me. We retired from teaching in 2016 due to my age. I was born on May 11th, 1944. I am 77 years old.

HM has helped me & Bev life an absolutely wonderful life. We are living our dream & have been for many years. It is my hope that this blog will help you live your dream. Goal setting & better decision making (the basis of HM) may help you live your dream.

Drought was widespread in North America last year. Quite likely drought is your number one concern as we enter 2022. I think this is likely true whether you think about & plan for a drought in 2022 or ignore it & pretend the possibility isn’t there.

Drought is real. It needs to be addressed. I was friends with Bud Williams. Bud was one of the early promotors of low stress livestock handling. He also promoted a marketing program. Bud is deceased but his daughter Tina & her husband Richard McConnell still teach Bud’s principles. They can be contacted at Hand ‘n Hand livestock solutions. Bud used to tell me “in the cattle business you have grass, money & cattle. You will never have too much grass or too much money.

 YOU CAN HAVE TOO MANY CATTLE. As managers of our businesses, we need to ensure that our animals match our grass. It is never wise to have more animals than you have grass.

Each one of us is unique & we all live in unique areas. Assess your strengths & weaknesses. How common is drought in your area? How well do you handle stress? How financially stable are you? As you ponder these & similar questions you will be able to come up with a plan for 2022.

The Principles of Drought Management in HM are:

  1. Combine your herds. Fewer herds is always helpful. One herd is ideal. How close can you get to the ideal?
  2. Slow down your animal moves. This will increase your recovery time & hopefully allow time for rain. As you slow down you will be increasing the severity of your graze. This is not ideal, but it may be necessary in a drought. Yes, you may remove some litter but if the plants are not growing due to the drought you will not be overgrazing. A friend once told me “remember you can’t kill a dead man.”
  3. Supplemental feed. Often people will say you can’t feed through a drought. I believe this decision is best made on an individual basis. Do what you feel is best for you & your unique situation. If you choose this route, I suggest you would start feeding early in the cycle. Don’t start to feed when your grass is gone. Feed to increase recovery. For example, if you can stay 2 or 3 days in a pasture you would do that & then supplemental feed for a day or two to increase your recovery.
  4. Destock. At some point it may be wise to reduce your animal numbers. I would suggest setting a date ahead of time. For example, you might say by this date (your date, example June 15th) I will sell this many head (your number) unless I have received this much rain (your number, example 2 inches). Having clear dates like this & sticking to them is a great way to reduce stress.

The earlier you destock the less you will need to destock.

Serious challenges like drought often lead to inaction. The process goes something like this. I am not sure what to do therefore I will do nothing. No decision is a decision. I encourage you to think, plan & act. You are in charge. You are responsible. You can handle the situation. Make a plan & implement it. I remember Allan Savory telling us that uncertainty is often used as an excuse not to plan. Allan said that the reality is the exact opposite. The more challenging the situation the more important it is to plan.

An effect of drought that is often overlooked is the emotional stress that drought brings. I encourage you to address this. Stress is real. Don’t ignore it. A dear friend of mine David Irvine told me “remember it is OK not to be OK.” I agree with David. We all know that there is a stigma attached to mental illness & depression. Each one of us has the power to ignore this stigma. Mental illness is no different than having a broken leg, see a Doctor or a Counsellor, get the help you need. Do it now.

It is strange how our first response as people is often not the most useful. When times are tough, we tend to withdraw. This is the exact opposite of what we need. Reach out, confide in someone. Remember that reaching out is a sign of wisdom & strength. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness. Do what ever it takes to maintain your mental health. I believe in you. I encourage you to believe in yourself. I encourage you to believe in your spouse. One of the most powerful things we can do is to confide in our spouses. We can all become more loving & more loveable.  Gary Gregor told me “you never achieve more than your significant other believes you can.” I think Gary is correct.

Another side effect of drought is financial stress. Here again I encourage you to meet it head on. Do a financial plan. Do whatever it takes. Remember you are talented; you will get through this. Once again this is a great time to reach out to a friend, get the help you need. Remember “life’s challenges are meant to make us not break us.”

I am going to share a poem. I hope it is helpful.

Excerpts from the poem

“This Year” by Steward St. John

This year will be the best year of my life.

 It will be a return to enjoying the simple things like family & friends.

It will be the year of less complaining & more appreciating.

 This year I will dance more, laugh more & love more.

  And be healthier than ever because of it.

I will live more consciously, deliberately, joyfully.


To learn more about drought resiliency and Holisitic Management, contact Bluesette Campbell at

Planned Grazing

Spring is on the way. This year’s grazing season will soon be here. It is an exciting time of the year. You only have one opportunity to do a grazing plan each year. Perhaps you will resolve that this year you will do the best grazing plan ever. If you choose to make this commitment, I am sure you will be pleased with the results.

Before I discuss Planned Grazing, I want to cover 2 topics that are always important but are especially important this year due to the widespread drought that occurred last year & the uncertainty of growing conditions this year. The first & most important consideration is to take care of yourself & your people. Drought can have a huge impact on mental health & relationships. Make a plan to maintain your mental health. If you are not healthy you will be of less benefit to yourself & others. Plan to maintain the mental health of those around you. There is lots of help available. Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. We all need help from time to time. Reach out to your friends & neighbors. Visiting people will likely help you & those you visit as well.

An old friend of mine, Bud Williams, told me that in the cattle business you have grass, money & cattle. Bud said: “You will never have too much grass or too much money, but you can have too many cattle.” I believe this is true. As managers we need to match our cattle numbers to our grass. This is always important; it is vital during a drought. Make plans now before the growing season begins on how you will achieve this balance.

Allan Savory developed the concept that overgrazing is due to time. This was one of Allan’s Four Key Insights. This definition of overgrazing has led to most of the controverse over Allan’s work. The old concept of overgrazing was that it was the result of utilization rate. This is where the take half, leave half idea came from. Before Allan’s work this definition of overgrazing was the best, we could do with the knowledge we had. We now have a new knowledge. We need to accept the new knowledge & move forward to better management.

Unfortunately, due to the power of paradigms people who are schooled in the old paradigm have great difficulty accepting the new paradigm. This has led to a great deal of resistance from Universities, extension people & others. Producers accept the new paradigm readily. They can see that planned grazing works and are willing to try it. Allan used to say: “ignorance never blocks learning, knowledge may.” The good news is that planned grazing works & more & more people including producers & professionals are accepting this.

That’s enough for a preamble. Let’s get down to the details of Planned Grazing. This blog is not meant to cover all the steps of Planned Grazing. I only want to touch on some of the highlights. I hope my ideas will motivate you to learn more about planned grazing. It is a fact that the human mind can only manage a small number of variables at one time. Planned grazing is set up to manage the variables one at a time which is relatively easy. By completing all the steps, you can be confidant that you have covered all the variables & that you have a solid plan.

One of the most common questions people ask is, “how many pastures do I need to stop overgrazing?” The best answer is “I don’t know.” Just a minute, don’t despair, while I don’t know the answer to your question if you give me some information about your operation then together, we can easily answer the question. Here is the information we need. What recovery period do you want? What graze period do you want? With this information I can now give you a simple formula to determine how many pastures you will require. The formula is: Recovery Period divided by the graze period + 1 = pastures required.

RecoveryGrazeRecovery/Graze Pastures
How many pastures do you need? It depends on the recovery and graze periods you desire.

Each of these answers is correct depending on what you the producer desires. Remember H M is empowering you to be the expert on your farm. Use your power to set your objectives. Use Certified Educators to help you achieve your objectives not set them.

Another common concern people express is when does growth start? How will I know when to start counting my recovery days? We used a set date to determine when growth started for a number of years. We were not satisfied with this as the start of growth can vary widely. In 2004 we decided that we would say that growth started when the leaves first appeared on the poplar trees. Interestingly I can remember pioneer farmers telling me “you need to get your wheat in the ground by the time the leaves come out.” I believe that the leaves indicate soil temperature & biological activity. There is no doubt that there will be some growth before the green leaves. I am suggesting that you can ignore this as long as you plan for full recovery. Using this method to determine the start of growth for the last 18 years we have observed that growth started as early as April 21st & as late as May 20th in our area. With this wide variation in the start of growth (30 days) it is easy to see that using a set date may not be very effective. I recognize that your area is unique, perhaps you don’t even have poplar trees however, if you look, I am sure you will find some naturally occurring plant that you can use to determine growth. Remember you are the expert on your place. I am not.

People often struggle with the question, “When can I start grazing in the spring?” I can remember having this struggle myself. I had 1800 yearlings being fed in a small pasture. I wanted to start grazing but I didn’t know when it would be wise to do that. I phoned Kirk Gadzia & asked him “what should I do?” Kirk laughed which upset me a bit but then he answered, “Who do you think held the buffalo back?” Kirk gave me a wise answer. I have used this concept for many years. Kirk was saying that animals are a tool to improve the land. They should be on the land 365 days a year. In the spring, you may graze stockpiled forage, or you may supplemental feed or full feed.  In each of these instances you will be benefiting the land as long as you begin to manage your grazing when growth starts.

Now let’s look at the graze period. The rule of thumb is the shorter the graze period the better. The graze period you choose will depend on your unique situation. Questions like: How much labor do I have? How quickly do I want my land to improve? This type of question will help you set your graze period. For a general guideline I recommend a graze period of 3 to 5 days. When I say this, I recognize that 3 is better than 5, 1 is better than 3. The important thing is to get started. Pick a graze period you are comfortable with. You don’t have to be perfect only better than you were last year.

The recovery period is the key to planned grazing. The recovery period is the number of days between a grazing and a second grazing. A tool that has helped me understand the importance of full recovery is the “mirror image.” The mirror image says that what you see in above ground growth is mirrored below ground in root mass. When plants are grazed the roots die to provide nutrients for new growth. When the roots die they increase the organic matter in the soil & they make the soil more porous to allow water & air to enter the soil. The mirror image is maintained. Full recovery occurs when the roots are fully replenished. Full recovery occurs when a plant is ready to flower. At that stage of growth there is no detrimental results from the previous graze.  In a pasture situation you would be looking at the slowest growing plant that was the most severely grazed. I suspect that for many people this will be a longer recovery than you are used to.

Here are some guidelines for recovery periods. In Western Canada I recommend a recovery period of 60 to 90 days. In my personal experience & from people I have worked with I suggest that as you move closer to 90 days you will be more satisfied with the results. I want to point out that in more brittle environments a longer recovery is likely required. Grazing once in the growing season is likely best in these environments. Once again please recognize that you are the expert in your operation. Start with the guidelines & fine tune the recovery period as you gain experience.

The final topic for today is the difference between over grazing & severe grazing. As we have already discussed over grazing is a function of time. You cannot over graze with a short graze period (1 day).

Severe grazing is how much residual grass is left when your animals are moved to the next pasture. Everyone has their own idea of how much grass they would like to leave behind when they move their animals. I suggest that you should leave as much grass behind as possible. The more you leave the better. However, you need to achieve full recovery. The only way to do this is to adjust the severity of the graze according to the growing season. Hopefully this chart will help my explanation.

Here we have a producer who wants a 75 day recovery period & a 5 day graze period. Our formula tells us he will need 16 pastures. Growth started when we were moving into pasture #16. The black line with the arrow represents the moves.

As the growing season progresses, we monitor the regrowth in pasture #16. If we are having a normal growing season we stick to our plan & things will work. We will have full recovery and the severity of the graze will be moderate.

If our monitoring shows, we have excellent growing conditions we may choose to shorten our graze period.  This will shorten our recovery period. The result will be full recovery and the severity of the graze will be moderate.

If our monitoring shows that we have poor growing conditions we may choose to increase our graze period. This will increase our recovery period. The result will be full recovery and a severe graze.

Growing ConditionsGraze PeriodRecovery PeriodSeverity of graze  
Variations on the severity of graze with different recovery periods during excellent, average and poor growing conditions.

All of these are correct for different growing conditions.

We would do our monitoring where we were grazing when growth started. We don’t monitor where the animals are to determine growing conditions or when to move.

When you monitor where your animals are you will often make the wrong move. In the above example we are planning for a 5-day graze. In a year with excellent growing conditions, we will look at the grass on day 5 & say “There is too much grass here to leave behind. I will stay an extra day or two.” By doing this you will be increasing recovery when growing conditions are suggesting you should be shortening it.

If we are experiencing poor growing conditions, we will look at our grass on day 3 or 4 & say “the graze is already severe enough. I will move today. In this case you will be shortening recovery when growing conditions are suggesting you should be increasing it.

The way to make the best decision is to make a plan. Monitor your plan & adjust the graze period & the recovery period according to growing conditions.

I hope you have a great growing season. Planned Grazing can help you achieve your goals.

To learn more about Planned Grazing and other Holistic Management concepts, contact Bluesette Campbell at