A SSHRC Insight Grant-funded (2015-2019, 435-2015-0702) project called Reconciling Holistic Management Practice and Science built on my Australian post-doc, and was inspired by engagement with the resilience literature (Abson et al. 2019) and push-back from experimental scientists about my policy endorsement of holistic management (Sherren et al. 2012). Holistic management (HM) is an approach to grazing decision-making based on explicit goal-setting and careful monitoring, often characterized by native pastures and high-intensity but short-duration rotational grazing. Science has been divided on its utility: experimental scientists see no benefits from the constituent practices in controlled experiments, while management-oriented agricultural scientists report benefits at the farm scale. To date, farmer experience and perceptions have been neglected or dismissed. We had particular interest in understanding and resolving the schism (Sherren and Kent, 2017), particularly as relates to the potential utility of such approaches for climate adaptation in various regions. This included case study work in the Canadian Prairies (led by co-applicant John Parkins with collaborator Ed Bork) and the Falklands (the latter OECD-funded), analysis of the science-policy interface (with collaborator Bertrum MacDonald), engagement with HM trainers and trainees (with Marney Isaac), as well as bibliometrics, discourse analysis and a survey of 200 Canadian beef producers.

This research set out to explore and mend the rift in research, policy and practice around holistic grazing management (HM), an approach for planning, implementing and monitoring high-intensity, short-duration rotational grazing more commonly referred to these days as adaptive or regenerative grazing. Bibliometric research about Holistic Management demonstrated that a division existed in research between the social science/management researchers who tend to work at the farm scale and natural/experimental science researchers who tend to seek to control out the farmer. It is clear from our work with HM trainers and trainees that holistic management is aligned with a capacity for systems thinking, more than any particular practice, and that such thinking is difficult to impart and sustain given social pressures that exist to conventional methods. Farm-based field work undertaken with beef producers in Alberta indicated that shorter grazing length associated with HM does improve range health, especially when conditions are dry, and that native pastures had improved weed and litter (mulch) outcomes. Fieldwork in the Falklands, a far south Atlantic British Overseas Territory, showed that holistic management provided deep leverage points for adapting to a history of overgrazing, land reforms and the drying they are experiencing with climate change. Yet grazing management is rarely discussed as an adaptive practice at the policy level in Canada, which is more concerned with high-tech, low-skill adaptive options. While Canadian farm and livestock organizations are aligned on the benefits of rotational grazing, regardless of whether they are talking about short-term weather or long-term climate issues, recent House and Senate reviews did not take on board any of the advocacy for these practices into their final reports. These insights have been tested with a survey of 200 beef producers, but papers are still pending.

In 2022, a Mitacs Accelerate postdoctoral fellow was recruited, partnering with Farmers for Climate Solutions and the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association, to assess the new national peer mentoring advanced grazing management program.


Sherren, K., Rahman, H. M. T., McWherter, B. and MacDonell, S. 2023. Are fencelines sites of engagement or avoidance in farmer adoption of alternative practices? Agriculture and Human Values.

Sherren, K., Hodbod, J., MathisonSlee, M., Chappell, E., and King, M. 2022. Adaptive multi-paddock grazing and wellbeing: uptake, management practices and mindset among Canadian beef producers. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2021. Why is grazing management being overlooked in climate adaptation policy? Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 45 (6), 843-867.

Dahl, K.M., Bork, E.W., Parkins, J.R. and Sherren, K. 2021. Assessing variation in range health across grazed northern temperate grasslands. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 74, 135-146.

Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2020. Leverage points for sustainable wool production in the Falkland Islands. Journal of Rural Studies, 74, 22-23.

Tourangeau, W., Sherren, K. and Delignieres, M. 2019. ‘We secured the tussac’: Accounts of ecological discovery, exploitation and renewal in the Falkland IslandsPeople and Nature, 1(4), 548-561. OPEN ACCESS

Mann, C., Parkins, J. R., Isaac, M. E. and Sherren, K. 2019. Do practitioners of holistic management exhibit systems thinking? Ecology & Society, 24(3), Art 19. OPEN ACCESS

Abson, D., Sherren, K and Fischer, J. 2019. The resilience of Australian agricultural landscapes characterized by land sparing versus land sharing. In, Agricultural Resilience: Perspectives from Ecology and Economics, BES Ecological Reviews book series, Cambridge University Press and the British Ecological Society.

Tourangeau, W., Sherren, K., Kent, C. and MacDonald, B. H. 2019. Of climate and weather: Examining Canadian farm and livestock organization discourses from 2010 to 2015. Weather, Climate and Society, 14(1), 95-111.

Sherren, K. and Kent. C.  2019. Who’s afraid of Allan Savory? Scientometric polarization on Holistic Management as competing understandings  Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 34(1), 77-92.

Mann, C. and Sherren, K. 2018. Holistic Management and adaptive grazing: A trainers’ viewSustainability, 10(6), 1848 (Special issue on Agroecology for the Transition towards Social-Ecological Sustainability). OPEN ACCESS

Sherren, K. and Darnhofer, I. 2018. Precondition for integration: in support of stand-alone social science in rangeland and silvopastoral research. Rangeland Ecology and Management 71(5), 545-548. [See also Ika’s blog post at Medium]

Posters and Presentations

McNee, M., Lacoste, M., Cook, S., McAdam, J., Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2020. Farmer-based research in rangeland grazing systems on the Falkland Islands. 1st International Symposium on Climate-Resilient Agri-Environmental Systems (ISCRAES 2020), 4-6 November, Dublin, IE/online.

Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2020. Systems thinking and the science-policy nexus: examining Canadian parliamentary debates on climate. Canadian Sociological Association (CSA-SCS) Conference, Planned for June 2020 at Western University, London, ON, but cancelled due to COVID.

Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2019. Placing animals in the science-policy-climate nexus. Presented at 2019 Canadian Animal Law Conference, hosted by Animal Justice and the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, October 4-6, Halifax, NS, Canada.

Sherren, K., and Tourangeau, W. 2019. Holistic Management as a leverage point for complex adaptive rangeland systems. Presented at ISSRM, June, Oshkosh, WI.

Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2019. Holistic Management as a leverage point for complex adaptive rangeland systems. Presented at Leverage Points International Conference on Sustainability Research and Transformation, 6-8 February, Leuphana, Germany.

Tourangeau, W. and Sherren, K. 2018. Watching, wearing, eating: The ethics of wildlife tourism, wool, and mutton. Presented at Animals and Us: Research, Policy and Practice. Oct 11-13, Windsor, ON.

Dahl, K., E. Bork, J.R. Parkins, K. Sherren. 2019. Grazing management options and range health outcomes with beef producers in Alberta, Canada. International Symposium for Society and Resource Management, June 17-22, Snowbird, UT.

Dahl, K., Bork, E., Parkins, J. 2018. Identifying Different Perspectives on Beef Producer Grazing Management Systems. Presented at Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, Jan 28-Feb 2, 2018, Sparks, NV.

Sherren, K. and Delignieres, M. 2017.  Tradition, Place and Change: Livestock Farming in the Falkland Islands. Presented to International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, June 19-22, 2017, in Umea, Sweden.

Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2016. Who’s Afraid of Allan Savory? Probing the impact of one influential author. Poster presented at Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, February 2, 2016, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Reports and other knowledge mobilization

Dahl, K. and Bork, E. 2018. Presentation to Alberta Environment and Parks, managers of rangeland in Alberta, about findings of AB case study.

Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2017. The View from the Farm Sector: Discourse in Producer Organizations around Climate, Science and Agricultural Policy, 2010-2015. RHoMPAS Report 3, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, pp. 61.

Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2016. Rhetorical Analysis of Practitioner Discourse: Examining the impact in holistic management and permaculture. RHoMPAS Report 2, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, pp. 48.

Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2015. Who’s Afraid of Allan Savory? Probing the impact of one influential author. RHoMPAS Report 1, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, pp. 52.

Magazines and newspapers

Sherren, K. 2018. The new battle for the Falklands. Canadian Notes and Queries. Winter issue, volume 101.

Sherren, K. 2016. Letter to the Editor. Penguin News (Falklands newspaper).

Research trainees

Dr. Brooke McWherter, Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellow (2022-24), researching the new national peer-mentoring training on grazing management being launched by CFGA/Farmers for Climate Solutions.

Dorothy Okene (MREM candidate 2020) interned during summer/fall 2020, doing qualitative coding and analysis of the rancher survey.

Ellen Chappell, MES 2019, and H. M. Tuihedur Rahman (former postdoc) both provided statistical support for our rancher survey .

Rachael Cadman, MREM, joined the team to provide literature review support from April to July 2019 before beginning her PhD in Marine Affairs.

Wesley Tourangeau, PhD Waterloo, joined the team from October 2017 to July 2019 to advance work on a number of fronts, including the Falklands qualitative data analysis, and examine the science/policy interface around sustainable grazing in Canada. He also helped get a few papers out the door on motivational crowding related to Wood Turtle Strides.

Carolyn Mann, MSc, joined the team as a research associate in the fall of 2017, continuing into winter 2018. She is working on the training stream of this project, interviewing and using Q-method with HM trainers and trainees, and even engaging in HM training herself! After her contract with the project ends in May 2018, she takes up a role in Natural Resources Canada’s Policy Analyst Recruitment and Development Program (PARDP).

Seonaid MacDonell, MREM, carried out literature review on the influence of direct neighbours on farmer adoption as her final MREM project in fall of 2017. She was hired soon after graduation by Farm Safety Nova Scotia, within the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

Sarbpreet Singh, MREM candidate 2017, joined the team as a research intern in the summer of 2017. He did research on discourse around rotational grazing and climate change in farming magazines, and developed a glossary of rotational grazing terminology.

Marilou Delignieres was an undergraduate exchange student at Dalhousie in winter 2016 but also Falkland Island farmer, served as a research assistant for my fieldwork in the Falklands in late 2017. She is now the first female pilot in the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS).

Kristine Dahl, a rangeland health expert, completed her Masters with SSHRC funding from this project, supervised by John Parkins and Ed Bork at the University of Alberta. She also won the Altalink Award in Disturbance Ecology, a major award through the University of Alberta. She spoke to HM and conventional graziers for her research project, as well as carrying out range health assessments.

Carlisle Kent, joint MREM/MLIS graduate 2015, undertook the bibliometric work and other research assistance for her summer internship in 2015, followed by social media research on rhetoric in HM and permaculture for her final project. She completed an analysis of policy engagement by farming bodies to understand how they perceive climate change and related grazing issues in spring 2016, before leaving the team to work at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Ruoqian (Joy) Wang, was funded by the Mitacs Globalink program to visit Dalhousie in  Summer 2015 to analyze Australian ecology data to establish whether any vegetation changes have resulted from different grazing practices. She put Google Earth Pro, specifically the historical images option, to great use. She completed her undergraduate degree at Sichuan University in China, returned in 2016 to Dalhousie for her MES and worked on change in forested wetlands, working with Karen Harper.