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Closeup of sickly calf Alan Newport
Author says a large percentage of all natural systems activity is destruction and death. Part of the reasoning for this is to take the unfit out of a population.

What is the natural model?

Author often refers to the "natural model" in his writing. Here's what he really means.

I often refer to the "natural model" in my writing, but I have been accused by Editor Alan Newport of not adequately explaining what that is.

When we look at the soil-plant-animal complex with respect and emphasis on the natural model and health we must learn to think and act in "wholes." Every ecosystem and group of ecosystems is a small whole but is part of the larger whole. This is the view of the world described by Jan Smuts, a South African military man and philosopher, which in turn led Allan Savory to establish his ideas about "holistic management." It means all things are connected and all changes affect multiple other facets and ultimately the whole system.

I will add that the Creator put the creation together in perfection and any mistakes found in my manuscript are mine, not His. As I have looked for answers in scripture I have decided that the Bible is not exhaustive. The information the Bible gives us is without error but that does not always mean complete. We are expected to do a lot of our own thinking and check in on a regular basis.

Further, the creation is in the midst of some degree of change at any point in time. It was built with the capability of positively reacting to major swings such as droughts, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, horrible weather, volcanoes, and all other seemingly catastrophic events that come about. A large percentage of all natural systems activity is destruction and death -- perhaps as much as 50%. This is all by design, normal, and included in the natural model.

As we have managed land we historically have largely ignored the natural model, but this really should not have happened to the extent that has been recorded and witnessed. I suspect this comes from the human propensities of seeking total control and ultimately focusing on problems.

The natural model tells us to look at everything and to refrain from declaring war on things we do not like whether it is E-coli or a particular so called weed. The wildfires in California and much of the West are not a Santa Anna winds problem. They are a manmade planning, execution and management problem. Most managers desire to apply band-aids and carry on. But the situation tends to worsen. Don’t forget that Adam was instructed in Genesis 2:15 to “tend, protect and keep the garden” not mix up 2,4-D every morning or fight fires and mudslides.

My thought processes lead me to pre-Columbus times in North America. I realize that the native Americans were and had been making major impact on the continent for thousands of years. I believe that their numbers, culture and understanding were in some ways greater than what has been taught in American history classes. I also know that at one time there were many huge ruminants and other large animals that the fossil record says went extinct concurrent or shortly after human appearance on the continent. So it's worth remembering these huge creatures did not go extinct from smoking Lucky Strikes or walking a mile for a Camel.

As we look at issues in our own world and our farms and ranches, the natural model should lead us in the direction of principles and wholes. There just is not much of anything out there that does not have a reason and purpose. Having the ability to sterilize or cause mass death has put us as ranchers in a shaky position. The same is true as we select for single-trait animals and crops. The natural model is all about learning to look at everything. An example is that brambles can quickly get to be a big problem but they improve soil tremendously in two to three years.

I have a friend who once traveled several hundred miles west to a purebred sale to buy the bull with the biggest ribeye area. When he brought him back east the bull went to hell in his under-mineralized soil and plant environment. This is exactly what the natural model would have predicted. Later this same friend traveled south and east to purchase cattle. These animals have done wonderfully in an environment and soil and plant ecosystem that was better than where they were initially bred, raised and adapted.

Remember that we are directed to guard and tend and keep the ranch, not war with everything that we dislike. Love is more healthy than hate, but tree-hugging -- by that I mean unrealistic fixation on one part over all others -- is not part of the natural model.

In your mind ask the question what would be going on here if there was a herd of cattle surrounded by a bunch of wolves and they had to graze, find water and reproduce while staying alive and prospering. We may be the replacement for those predators in the management techniques we use. This gives us something important to think about and hopefully work toward with success.

Become a student of scripture, history and your local ecosystem. Try to learn from everything that happens.

Here are five basic principles related to the natural model which I hope can add clarity. In addition, I will have several follow-up blogs online in January.

  1. I define the natural model as what was present and going on before mankind got heavily involved with the creation. I tend to place emphasis on the animal-plant-soil complex and the importance of large predators and their effects on herding ruminants and the land. We don't have all the information, but looking at what is available can help us tremendously.
  2. Natural model programming is learning to observe and think about "wholes" and about ecological interconnections. Everything affects everything else.
  3. Natural-model thinking is a near endless study of nature and society, and it should result in health increasers throughout the system when the correct principles are applied and allowed to function.
  4. Natural model principles correctly applied should always result in increased stability during unstable times, such as drought, flood, cold or pests. 
  5. Natural modeling helps us see cattle as a major tool for soil and plant and wildlife growth, in addition to economic benefit and also improvement of human health.
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