ADS Animal Dispersal System, FMNR, Planned Grazing

Dung beetles, Namibia. Dung beetles dig tunnels into the soil and incorporate the dung, improving the soil in numerous ways. Photo:

This page is about the ADS (Animal Dispersal System) – a system I formulated (although it was already created by God, or nature, if you prefer) drawing together numerous possible treatments for synergistic soil improvement, revegetation/ecological restoration, and regenerative agriculture.

ADS is about working smart, not hard, and utilises livestock to disperse soil improvers such as biochar, deficient fertilizer elements, as well as spores of beneficial micro-organisms such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi where appropriate. ADS also includes the option of feeding seeds to animals for dispersal (faecal seeding). All these elements are then further dispersed and incorporated into the soil by dung beetles and earthworms. While it is common to add one or two supplemnts to stock feed, such as seaweed meal, this system is a combination of numerous treatments and is intended to achieve better and faster results, where the whole should be greater than the sum of it’s parts. Click here of more: aid-savory-3rd  and here: Josephetal2015Pedosphere-Feedingbiochartocows .

I have changed the name from the AID system (Animal Improved Dung), because in 2010 I intended it to be associated with the idea of aid, as in to aid or help, but I think many people associate AID with AIDS and HIV, which was not my intention. Also, a lot has happenned since 2010, and I hope to do a revision and update of what I have written on the subject. When I get some spare time!

The ADS will probably operate best in a rotational grazing system, rather than set stocking, for example, Allan Savory’s holistic management/planned grazing, or similar. The net result should be restored or even improved ecosystems and agricultural land, including soils, vegetation and animal life, and the long term storage of a large amounts of carbon sequestered in soils as soil life (ongoing), humus (for decades) and biochar (thousands and possibly tens of thousands of years).

If the ADS was widely adopted around the world, most and potentially all of the anthropogenic Co2 in the atmosphere would be sequestered into soils as organic matter and soil life, as well as above ground biomass. This means that fossil fuels could continue to be used to provide cheap and reliable energy, providing a solid foundation for stable and prosperous societies, and at the same time soils would be improved for present and future generations. A huge win/win solution.

I implore those in authority around the world to act on this with alacrity, for the benefit of the people of the world and the Earth itself.

More about the ADS further down this page.

Also on this page: agroforestry, FMNR (farmer managed natural regeneration, aka assisted natural regeneration), Evergreen Agriculture, holistic management/planned grazing, fodder trees, environment, climate change, revegetation, reforestation, rewilding, permaculture.

I would like to recommend two YouTube channels which provide practical advice on rotational grazing: Greg Judy, and Joel Salatin.

The seeds of many plants are dispersed by animals

The photo below shows natural regeneration from seeds deposited by wildlife. Wildlife and livestock can be utilised to facilitate the dispersal of seeds as well as beneficial micro-organisms and biochar for reforestation and ecological restoration generally as well as regenerative agriculture and agroforestry.

Natural regeneration under a mango tree, of multiple plant species from seeds deposited by birds and fruit bats perching above. An umbrella tree is also growing in the fork of the mango tree. Cairns, Australia.

Natural regeneration under a mango tree, of multiple plant species from seeds deposited by birds and fruit bats perching above, including an umbrella tree growing in the fork of the mango tree. Cairns, Australia. Photo: David Clode.


Plant succession

The illustration below shows an example of plant succession, a natural process which can potentially be aided and hastened in reforestation and ecological restoration projects.

Plant succession. This natural process could be speeded up with the Animal Improved Dung sytem of treatments

Plant succession. This is a natural process where soil is built up and vegetation increases over time. Succession could be helped along and speeded up by utilising planned grazing, and even better and quicker results should be achieved if planned grazing is combined with the ADS (Animal Dispersal System). Illustration:


FMNR – Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration

A system where farmers protect and allow existing trees to regrow, developed by Tony Rinaudo in Niger in West Africa (also called Assisted Natural Regeneration).


The following two photos give an indication of what FMNR can achieve:

Niger, in the Sahel region of West Africa, before FMNR (Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration). Photo: Tony Rinaudo.

Tree regrowth in Niger in 2010, (approximately 20 years later) as a result of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. Photos courtesy of Tony Rinaudo, World Vision, Australia.

Niger after about 20 years of FMNR. This is not the exact same spot, but is in the same area, and is nevertheless representative. Additional rain in some years would also have been a contributing factor, and increased  CO2 levels (Carter 2013), however, if not for FMNR, new growth would almost certainly have been completely browsed by livestock, or completely harvested for fuel wood.

It makes good common sense to conserve existing resources – to manage and protect existing trees that may have been browsed down to a stump at ground level, to give them a chance to sprout again to above browsing level, and to protect naturally regenerating seedlings from over-browsing, over-zealous fuel wood collecting, and fire.

In the photo above, there are still opportunities to increase ground cover with more grasses, as well as nitrogen-fixing leguminous groundcovers, and other groundcovers such as those in the Cucurbitaceae, Asteraceae and Convolvulaceae families, plus perhaps Portulaca oleraceae (see photo further down this page) and other succulents. These could be established with planned grazing and the ADS.

A quote on the importance of perennial tussock grasses: “…grass tussocks produce biomass, some of which forms litter which protects the soil surface and contributes to soil organic matter and soil structure. This enables rainfall to be trapped increasing water infiltration (giving more water for more plant growth) and limiting soil erosion (more nutrients for more growth). In this way the accumulation of biomass ensures that the productive capacity of the ecosystem and the existence of the grasses and their dependent organisms is maintained. Biomass can therefore be viewed as a form of ‘biophysical capital’.” (McIntyre et al, 2002).

See AgNotes. FMNR3[1].

Reforestation project adds hope to food crisis –

Benefits of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration.

Benefits of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration.


Portulaca oleraceae growing in harsh conditions (a carpark in the tropics).

Portulaca oleraceae growing in harsh conditions (a carpark in the tropics). The plant is a succulent groundcover found in many parts of the world. It is good fodder for livestock and should be very successful if the seeds are fed to livestock for dispersal, as the seeds are like fine pepper and very few would be destroyed passing through the mouth and gut of an animal. Photo: David Clode.


Planned Grazing/Holistic management/Rotational Grazing

“Move, mob, mow”. Joel Salatin.

In the absence of predators, livestock tend to spread out, whereas in the presence of predators thay mob together for protection. Photo: Cairns, Australia, David Clode.

The photos of tree regrowth under FMNR show a wonderful result, but there is still potential to achieve much more. Livestock could be holistically managed in a planned grazing system (a further development of rotational grazing, but less rigid, adapting and improvising in response to changing conditions), where they are herded and bunched together in a particular area, and concentrate their deposits of urine (nutrients) and manure (organic matter and nutrients) in that area. The manure will increase the water holding capacity (WHC) of the soil, and increase water infiltration with less runoff and erosion, as it is incorporated into the soil by dung beetles (and earthworms in wetter places, and termites in some places).

The livestock will also have an impact on the soil surface, where hoof prints/indentations  press seeds into the soil for improved germination, and provide micro-sites where water, nutrients, and seeds collect, so more water infiltrates, and seeds germinate. If present, surface crusts will be broken up by the animals, allowing for better water inflitration and reducing water run off losses. Any potential problems of soil compaction will quickly be alleviated by vigorous root growth and improved soil structure that comes with increased organic matter and soil life. The area is then left long enough for plants to recover and for new plants to establish.

The potential of livestock concentrated in a small area to improve soil and plant growth. Maize control plot on the left (no livestock), and livestock treated plot on the right. Photo: Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Maize control plot on the left (no livestock), and livestock treated plot on the right. Concentrating livestock in a small area can dramatically improve soils and plant growth. Photo: Buckminster Fuller Institute.

A quote from Allan Savory: “This simpler planning process is covered in more detail in the Holistic Grazing Planning Handbook; here again, I only cover the basic principles it entails. Chief among them is the the need to achieve maximum density (of animals) for minimum time, followed by a prolonged recovery period. When this guideline is followed, plants are favoured throughout the year because overgrazing will be minimised in the growing season, and most of the old growth cleared by the end of the dormant season. No matter what the class or type of livestock, the animals tend to receive the highest plane of nutrition and suffer the least amount of disease and the least danger of parasite infection if they are continually moving and thus offered fresh, unfouled forage to feed on – as long as the animals are moved without stress. The soil, no matter what type, also benefits from the same treatment because more plants grow, root systems are healthier, soil-covering litter is abundant, plants grow more closely together and hold more litter in place, and the soil surface is periodically broken and aerated and compacted sufficiently to provide seed-to-soil contact” (Savory 1999).

Set stocking (in this photo near Melbourne Australia, a samll number of stock are spread out over a large area) . In ths system, it is assumed that a certain area can carry a certain number of animals. Under this system, the livestock tend to spread out (rather than being concentrated in a small area by the threat of predation in the wild). The stock tends to eat the palatable forage, and unpalatable weeds take over. Planned grazing/holistic managemeny is a far superior system of livestock/ecosystem management.

Set stocking (in this photo near Melbourne Australia, a small number of stock are spread out over a large area) . In this system, it is assumed that a certain area can only carry a certain number of animals, i.e. the land has a carrying capacity. Under this system, the livestock tend to spread out (rather than being concentrated in a small area by the threat of predation in the wild). The stock tend to eat only the most palatable forage, and unpalatable weeds then start to take over. Planned grazing/holistic managemeny is a far superior system of livestock/ecosystem management. Photo: David Clode.

Also, a quote from author Mary White, gives a brief overview of some of the advantages of planned grazing/holistic management, as opposed to set stocking: “The opportunities that exist for changes in grazing management are many and diverse. Maintaining set stocking invariably caused species change in the plant cover and often promoted rates of soil loss greater than soil formation rates. Rotational, time-control, cell, holistic, pulse, high intensity/short time, are all grazing systems that limit the time when plants are exposed to animals. Longer periods between grazings promote greater species diversity and more complex age structure. Longer recovery also increases leaf area index, which could be important for returning ecosystems to a more balanced hydrology. Greater leaf area increases the potential for sunlight capture and thus maximises growth potential using a free and renewable energy source – the sun. Greater leaf area means larger root systems, which adds to soil organic matter and root biomass, both major determinants for prolific soil life. Better ground cover results in more effective use of rainfall, reducing run-off and erosion”.

I would add that larger root systems and more soil organic matter in turn results in greater leaf area, in a synergistic cycle.

The opposite of planned grazing. Erosion as a result of keeping livestock in the same area for long periods of time. Curtain fig tree road, North Queensland, Australia.

The opposite of planned grazing. Erosion as a result of keeping livestock in the same area for long periods of time. Curtain Fig tree road, North Queensland, Australia. Photo: David Clode.


Overgrazed hilly landscape in China. The horizontal paths or terraces made by livestock are just visible. Photo: Qingbao meng on


Erosion near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Photo: David Clode.


Gully erosion caused by allowing stock access to a steep area which should never have been deforested and should have been fenced off. Cathedral fig road, Atherton tablelands. Photo: David Clode.

Gully erosion caused by allowing livestock access to a steep area where it would have been better to leave the forest intact and fence off the area. Cathedral Fig road, Atherton Tablelands, North Queensland. Photo: David Clode.

“Rotational grazing methods have the capacity to swing the successional balance in favour of perennial plants, whereas set stocking generally favours annuals. Increased root biomass with a litter layer at the soil surface creates conditions favourable to soil micro-organisms which recycle nutrients and create stable aggregates. Mycorrhizal fungi enable increased nutrient avalability and also provide an extended interface for moisture retention and water uptake.” (White, 2003). See Mycorrhizal fungi photos below.

Mycorrhizal fungi, pine seedling. Photo:

Mycorrhizal fungi, pine seedling. Photo:


Squash grown with mycorrhizal fungi on the right.


Basil grown with mycorrhizal fungi on the right.

See also: hol mgt.

The following article about repairing eroded gullies using planned grazing (“Small Farms” magazine, Nov.2012, by David Mason-Jones) shows a practical example of the outstanding results that can be achieved in reforestation/revegetation using planned grazing. Even better and quicker results could be achieved using the ADS, (see further down this page) adding selected appropriate soil improvers, beneficial micro-organisms, and seeds of superior/improved fast-growing, deep-rooted grasses, groundcovers and fodder trees. Click below for this interesting article on fixing eroded gullies using planned grazing: repairing eroded gullies with planned grazing . For more information, go to the “Agroforestry Links” page.

Erosion and eucalyptus die-back, North-east Tasmania.

Erosion, weed invasion (Ulex europaeus) and eucalyptus die-back, North-East Tasmania. Photo: David Clode.


Erosion gullies forming on steep slopes due to set stocking and overgrazing near Melbourne Australia. The tre

Erosion gullies forming on steep slopes due to set stocking and overgrazing near Melbourne Australia. This will only get worse unless the management system is changed for the better. On closer inspection (a left click will bring up a larger photo), a stepped terracing effect can also be seen on the steeper slopes, caused by livestock. Photo: David Clode.


ADS (Animal Dispersal System)

“Most trees in the tropics reach their place of growth via the gut of an animal” Corlett and Hau (reference at the bottom of the page).

In addition to FMNR and planned grazing, the ADS could also be applied for ecological restoration and regenerative agriculture, and could produce even better and faster results.

Faecal seeding

Mixed in with some fodder such as hay, sprouted seeds (often called hydroponic fodder), Super napier grass, or similar, and perhaps diluted molasses or glycerin for additional enticement for stock to eat it, the livestock could be fed with seeds of deep-rooted, fast-growing grasses, ground covers, herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees (including fodder trees, preferably some of them nitrogen-fixing) to disperse in their manure, to create a multi-storey grassy woodland/forest. Most livestock would consume any of the soil improvers suggested and/or seeds, simply by mixing with some molasses or similar syrup.

An initial treatment might just be seeds of small-seeded grasses, herbaceous legumes, shrubs and ground covers to build up biomass, soil organic matter and reduce erosion, with later treatments adding tree seeds, when the soil is improved.

Alternatively, grasses and herb seeds could be fed to some animals, and tree and shrub seeds to other individual animals. This will help to spatially separate the grasses/herbs from the trees, since grasses/herbaceous plants are likely to compete with tree seedlings and retard tree growth in the early stages of establishment if they are growing close together.

At present, faecal seeding has been most successful with legume species, in particular species with small seeds and a hard seed coat (e.g. clovers, vetches, Desmanthus, and possibly Sesbania spp., Acacia spp., Crotalaria spp., Desmodium spp., Leucaena, Calliandra spp., etc.).

For more on faecal seeding, search for Cameron Griffin faecal seeding on YouTube.

Vigna marina, a nitrogen-fixing groundcover.

Canavalia maritima, a nitrogen-fixing ground cover.


Flowers of Lablab purpureus, a nitrogen-fixing ground cover and climber. Photo: David Clode.

They could also be fed with soil improvers which are appropriate (in this area of the Sahel, for example, an infertile, sandy soil, in a semi-arid to arid climate), such as powdered rock phosphate (and other rock dusts), clay (increases water holding capacity and cation exchange capacity), brown coal dust (improves WHC), biochar (adds long-lasting organic matter), deficient trace elements, and any others that are appropriate, available, and free or cheap.

Feeding biochar to cattle followed by the incorporation of the biochar/manure into soils by dung beetles has now been tested and proven to work. See the scientific paper by  Joseph et al further down this page. See also Doug Pow on the channel Sustainability Western Australia on YouTube and Dr. Bernard Doube (search for Bernard Doube dung beetles on YouTube).

In addition, they could be fed with spores of beneficial micro-organisms such as suitable nitrogen-fixing bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi, or topsoil/roots containing these.

All these soil improvers, seeds and micro-organisms would be mixed into palatable supplementary fodder, (such as haybales, cut branches from fodder trees, sprouted barley grass) with molasses or some other syrup (or perhaps salt, or perhaps sugar cane juice, glycerin) added to entice the stock to eat it.

February 2023 update on hydroponic fodder:

Sprouted seed fodder, often refered to as hydroponic fodder, has become very popular in recent years, with plenty of helpful videos on the subject on YouTube, for example, the channel called Grandeur Africa. This fodder would be ideal for mixing with soil improvers and feeding to livestock.

Sprouted wheat grass. Barley grass and probably other grasses such as Guinea grass can be sprouted in trays, broken up into pieces, mixed with soil improvers and seeds, and fed to livestock to disperse the seedes and soil improvers in the r manure.

Supplementary fodder such as sprouted barley grass can be sprouted in trays, broken up into pieces, mixed with soil improvers and seeds, and fed to livestock to disperse the seeds and soil improvers in their manure. This photo shows sprouted wheat grass grown in cocopeat in plastic trays. The sprouts could be grown in a medium of soil improvers, e.g. biochar, brown coal, clay, topsoil containing beneficial micro-organisms. Photo: David Clode.

Time is allowed (18 hours or more) for the soil improvers and seeds to move partially through the digestive tract, so that they are deposited later in the manure in the area to be treated. Stock could be enticed to spend time, concentrated together, in the target area, by placing particularly palatable fodder in the area (or they could be fenced in, usually with electric fences, or manually herded). The treatment time could be hours for large numbers of densely mobbed livestock, but a day or two would provide more time for seeds and soil improvers to pass through the animals and be deposited in manure on the ground in the targeted area.

Acacia seedling sprouting in elephant dung. Photo:

Acacia seedling sprouting in African elephant dung. Photo:


Legume seedlings germinating in Asian elephant dung, Myanmar (Burma). Photo: Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz.

Legume seedlings germinating in Asian elephant dung, Myanmar/Burma. Photo: Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz.

Some examples or possibilities of areas that could be treated with the ADS could include high ground/the tops of hills/mountains, or a strip horizontally on the contour, an eroded gully (see article above), river banks, or perhaps to form a windbreak, living fence, strip of fodder trees, a wildlife corridor, corners of fields that are easy and cheap to fence, etc. The livestock are then given more fodder with improvers and seeds, and moved to treat another area, and so on.

Vegetation should be given time to establish (livestock and grazing/browsing wildlife need to be excluded), to a point where it can cope with being browsed/grazed again, which could be as little as four months for grasses and herbaceous legumes in the wet tropics, and as much as five years or more for trees in drier and/or colder climates.

The area then receives repeated treatments, continually increasing fertility, organic matter, water holding capacity, biomass and biodiversity, as well as ameliorating the local climate (see the “Climate change, epiphytes, water plants” page – click on the button at the top of the page).

Spreading seeds by hand or machine – broadcast and trampling

Another possibility is to broadcast seeds by hand or machine directly onto the ground, and then concentrate livestock in the area. The livestock will eat the vegetation (if the vegetation is mostly weeds, livestock could be used to reduce the vigour of the weeds with intensive, and perhaps repeated, grazing/browsing), and trample the seeds into the soil, while adding nutrients from urine, as well as nutrients and organic matter from manure. On their farm in Devon, Rebecca Hosking and Tim Green “…increase the diversity of the fields by sowing extra grasses, clovers and herbs. The trick is to sow them in the paddock where the animals will be the next day, then they get trodden in”. (Whitefield 2013).

When seeds are fed to animals, there is the problem that some or even all may be destroyed (seed survival is greater for small seeds fed to large animals, and prabably hard coated seeds), so spreading seed by hand has the advantage that more seeds will survive, however a disadvantage is that the seeds of some species passing through some types of animals have enhanced germination. Another disadvantage to spreading seeds by hand or machine is that you are doing the work, whereas feeding seeds to livestock/wildlife is working smart, not hard – the animals do the work of spreading the seeds in their normal daily activities.

A Torresian Imperial dove eating the fruits of a Carpentaria palm.

A Torresian Imperial dove eating the fruits of a Carpentaria palm. These birds disperse seeds tens of kilometres away. Photo: David Clode.

“Seeds and fruits eaten by animals may later be regurgitated or excreted unharmed, but some animals destroy most of the seeds they eat. In feeding experiments on a tapir in Costa Rica, Janzen (1981) found that all seeds of one species and 78% of another were killed when ingested. Fruits and seeds are often eaten and dispersed by ground-living animals after falling to the forest floor. Rodents, such as Agoutis (Dasyprocta), make hoards of seeds, some of which may germinate before they are used. In some tropical trees the percentage germination is significantly higher if the seeds have passed through birds, monkeys or bats. e.g. in Cecropia palmata.” (Cecropia species are usually a very important and major component of forest regrowth in Latin America). (Richards 1998). p 110.

More on ADS further down this page.


Seed balls

February 2023 update:

Demi-lunes with Zai holes inside them have proven to greatly increase plant growth in  the semi-arid Sahel, and seed balls sown inside demi-lunes, or on top of Zai holes within demi-lunes should be more successful then random scattering. See the Zai Holes Page.

Zai hole demi-lune combination (or Zai hole half-moon or multi-functional demi-lune). Photo: from Jean-luc Galabert (cropped and enlarged).

There are also opportunities to use seedballs for reforestation, (see the articles “Direct seeding Faidherbia albida“, and “AID plus seeds”, page 26). See the page Seed Balls page and the Reforestation projects/reforestation methods page on this site for more.

Seed balls (or larger seed bombs) can be useful to place particularly important plants in a specific position which is favourable to the plant and/or people. They can also substitute to some degree for a lack of livestock. See the “Reforestation Methods” page.

Sesbania sesban grown from seed balls. Photo:


Seed ball infographic from


Using a catapult to distribute seed balls in Kenya. Photo:


Seed balls or seed bombs. Photo:

Seed balls. Photo:


Over time, these techniques combined (FMNR, planned grazing, ADDS, seed balls) could be used to not only halt encroaching desertification and ameliorate the local climate, but could even provide a solid base of healthy vegetation from which to revegetate and drive back the desert.


As an aside, some Australian Acacias have been used with great success in the semi-desert Sahel region of Africa. The seeds of Acacia holosericea, Acacia torulosa and many other legumes could perhaps be successfully dispersed by livestock, or broadcast and trampled in. For more information, visit and, and “Domestication of Australian Acacias for the Sahelian zone of West Africa”. Also,


acacia holosericea seedling growing in rocks and clay

A naturally regenerating Acacia holosericea seedling growing in stones and heavy clay subsoil in a hot, sunny, dry environment. James Cook University, Cairns, Australia. The seeds are edible, higher in protein and minerals than grains such as millet, and can be stored for years. It is also one of the toughest and most adaptable of tropical Australian Acacia species.


Acacia holosericea is ver adaptable, in this case coping with a saline waterlogged environment.

Acacia holosericea is very adaptable, in this case coping with a challenging saline waterlogged environment.


“The greatest service which can be rendered any country

is to add a useful plant to its (agri)culture”

Thomas Jefferson, circa 1800.


Acacia holosericea (prev. A. colei),  Acacia torulosa and other Australian acacias have proven to be fast growers in the Sahel region of West Africa (they produce much more leaf litter and fuel wood than local Acacia species – about 3 x more). They provide high protein edible seeds, used to enrich human diets, and can be stored for years and so improve food security. They can also be used as supplementary feed for poultry, and possibly as part of a long-term mixed, improved fallow, as a substitute for Sesbania sesban for example, which would be used in wetter areas. They also provide leaf mulch (and potentially compost for Zai holes) and fuel wood, and can be used as windbreaks to increase the productivity of millet or sorghum crops.

Acacia torulosa, arborescent form, Sahel region, West Africa. Photo: Tony Rinaudo.

Acacia torulosa, tree form, Sahel region, West Africa. Photo: Tony Rinaudo.

These Australian acacias, plus indigenous acacias and Faidherbia could be established utilising livestock to disperse the seeds, either as faecal dispersal, or broadcast and trampled, along with suitable soil improvers (e.g. nitrogen-fixing bacteria, biochar, trace elements).

Windbreaks could be created, if livestock are confined to a strip, or a tethered animal could produce a circle of a mix of improved fallow species, including perhaps A. torulosa, for a circle of crops to follow once the soil is improved. Faidherbia seeds could be sown in the centre, with a circle around it of a few metres free of plants, so that the Faidherbia tree can establish quickly with no competition. As the Faidherbia tree matures, the productivity of the crops beneath it’s canopy will increase. See Direct seeding Faidherbia albida in the Sahel final. The demi-lune with Zai holes inside it may prove to be the best way to establish Faidherbia albida trees. The demi-lune/Zai hole combination would also recharge groundwater which should help to establish Faidherbia, and other plants.

Acacia colei in Niger Africa. Photo: Aaron Thacher.

Acacia colei in Niger, Sahel region, West Africa. Photo: Aaron Thacher.


The ADS (Animal Dispersal System) continued…

Livestock can be used to disperse seeds of desirable plants, for example, deep-rooted, high biomass grasses (e.g. Guinea grass) and preferably nitrogen-fixing trees (e.g. Faidherbia albida, Leucaena leucocephala, Calliandra spp., Sesbania spp.), shrubs and pasture legumes. Ideally the trees and grasses selected would be complementary species, and the trees would provide fodder in the form of leaves accessible for browsing, or which fall to the ground, or drop nutritious pods. Livestock which are non-selective feeders, i.e. that eat leaves, pods, herbs and grasses would be ideal, to make the most of all the feed (e.g. goats, Bali or Galloway cattle, eland).

Sheep feeding on tree lucerne (Tagasaste) in South Africa. Photo: Myles Esterhuizen,

Sheep feeding on tree lucerne (Tagasaste) in South Africa. According to, this tree can produce up to 11t/ha/yr DM, which is very high for a Mediterranean climate plant. Photo: Myles Esterhuizen, (South Africa),

In a planned grazing system, livestock can be bunched together, to treat an area with their dung and urine (speeding up the recycling of nutrients and organic matter from standing, often dead vegetation and returning it to the soil more quickly because it is in contact with the soil and has been chewed into finer particles), break up soil crusts, and add soil improvers and seeds at the same time, the combination of which will dramatically improve soil fertility, seed establishment and promote vigorous plant growth.

The livestock can also be fed with appropriate Rhizobium bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi, so that seedlings establish better and grow faster. The soil improvers could include things such as such as deficient nutrients including trace elements, clay where soils are sandy, rock dusts such as rock phosphate, biochar to add long-lasting organic matter and reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, etc.

In nearly every environment, the “improved” manure will be incorporated into the soil, either by dung beetles, earthworms, termites, or all three.

Update 23 April 2018: Utilising livestock and dung beetles to incorporate biochar into soil has now been researched and scientifically proven to be beneficial both economically and ecologically – click here for the scientific research paper: Josephetal2015Pedosphere-Feedingbiochartocows


Dung beetle tunnels extending deeper than 60cm. (Bubas bison).Photo:

Dung beetle tunnels extending deeper than 60cm. (Bubas bison).Photo:


Dung beetle tunnel entrances. Phot: John Feehan,

Dung beetle tunnel entrances. Photo: John Feehan,

Dung beetle tunnel entrances.

Tunnels made by earthworms and dung beetles increase air and water infiltration and provide passages for root growth. Photo:

Tunnels made by earthworms and dung beetles increase air and water infiltration and provide passages for root growth. Photo:

The net result of applying this system will be a high standing biomass of vegetation, prolific soil life, and a long-term (thousands of years) improvement in soil fertility. Treatments can be repeated as necessary for continual, synergistic and ongoing improvement to soil fertility and increases in biomass, and biodiversity.

With repeated treatments, semi-arid areas of sparse grasslands could likely be converted into grassy open woodlands, and in wetter areas, grassy open woodlands to denser forests with a grassy under-storey.

With more biomass production, more fuel wood is produced which can be used in fuel-efficient stoves, producing more biochar/charcoal and ash, which can be fed to livestock to add to the soil (via dung beetles and earthworms), providing ongoing increases in decay-resistant carbon storage and long term soil improvement.

Ultimately, presently degraded land could become healthy rangeland, and analagous to natural forests if a diversity of trees and middle-storey and under-storey species are established. Existing rangeland could even become arable land in time, increasing agricultural productivity, and so reduce pressures to cut down, burn, or graze natural forests.

Land which may have been abandoned because of degradation by poorly managed livestock could quickly be rewilded using the ADS. Increased agricultural productivity on less land could also mean that land could be spared for rewilding.

See the article: aid-savory-3rd.

Seeds germinating in Cassowary dung. North Queensland Australia. Photo: Damon Ramsey.

Many plant species in many ecosystems rely on animals to disperse their seeds. This photo shows rain forest seedlings germinating in a pile of cassowary (a large bird) dung, in North Queensland, Australia. The seeds of at least one hundred rain forest plants are dispersed by these birds (some sources suggest over 400 spp.), and the dung piles may weigh up to one kilogram. In Tanzania in Africa, a pile of elephant manure was weighed and came in at 8 kg’s, and contained 12 000 Acacia tortilis seeds.

Clearly, wildlife and domestic livestock can be managed to play a major role in reforestation projects, agroforestry and regenerative agriculture.


An example of a rock dust, made from volcanic basalt rock. This has been tested in North Queensland by James Cook University, and proven to provide long-term improvement to a variety of soils in a wet, tropical climate.

A soil improver. Crushed Basalt rock, an example of a soil improver. This can be sieved, and the powder fed to livestock (with supplementary fodder) to disperse in their manure, which in turn will be incorporated into the soil by dung beetles, earth worms and termites. Basalt dust has been proven to increase the fertility of leached tropical soils in North Queensland (see also Peter Van Straaten, “Farming with Rocks and Minerals”).

Other possible soil improvers (which could be dispersed by livestock) include clay (for sandy soils), Rhizobium bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi (possibly from dug-up plant roots and topsoil), biochar/charcoal (which could come from fuel efficient stoves, and be dispersed by livestock) brown coal, as well as other rock dusts such as gypsum, lime, dolomite, rock phosphate and glacial deposits, seaweed meal, and deficient trace elements (see Engel, 2002, below). It may be that the nutrients in rock phosphate, for example, may become more available to plants due to acid and bacterial action in the gut of animals, and perhaps more finely ground up in the crops of birds (both of these are the case with earth worms). The soil improvers would be selected on the basis of a soil test, and according to what is available, and the costs involved.


Adding trees to pasture to increase productivity

Galloway cattle like to eat tree leaves as well as grass. Photo: courtesy of Chris Stuart,

Livestock which browse the foliage and pods of trees and shrubs as well as graze on grass, can produce much more meat and other products because there is more feed available to them. Higher stocking rates become possible, and increased productivity that comes with a sheltered, treed, environment.

A newspaper article in the Cairns Post ( April 14 2021, page 24, by Bronwyn Farr) reports on a trial in North Queensland Australia, where Leucaena leucocephala fodder trees were added to native pasture (which was already lightly wooded) at 10 metre spacings. The results were amazing: “steers in a leucaena paddock were gaining 600g per day compared with 300g for steers on pasture”. In other words, productivity was doubled!

Goats graze grass and browse leaves.

Galloway cattle, as well as Bali cattle, goats and the African eland antelope, are all browsers as well as grazers. The livestock can of course be used to disperse seeds and soil improvers themselves, to improve the pastures, add trees and middle-storey shrubs, and continuously improve the soil, all resulting in increased stocking rates/productivity, and carbon fixation.

A typical scene in Australia and many other places. Galloway cattle gathered under one of the last remaining trees, seeking shelter from extreme weather. Photo: courtesy of Chris Stuart,


Fodder trees. The right trees can provide shelter, fodder from the foliage and pods, and combined with the right grasses, can increase pasture productivity, and so increase livestock productivity, carbon fixation, and improve soils.

Cow eating Sesbania seed pods. Photo:

Cow eating Sesbania seed pods. Photo:

Cow eating Sesbania sesban seed pods, Ethiopia.

Bali cattle eat grass and the leaves of trees and shrubs. Timor Leste. Photo: Colin Trainor,

Bali cattle eat grass as well as the leaves of trees and shrubs. Timor Leste. Photo: Colin Trainor,


Bali cattle - the trees in the background have clearly been browsed as high as possible. Photo: Colin Trainor. Wikimedia.

Bali cattle – the trees in the background have clearly been browsed as high as possible. Photo: Colin Trainor. Wikimedia.


Rain trees (Albizia saman), from South America, produce pods which are high in carbohydrate and protein and edible for livestock and people (like carob in Mediterranean climate regions), fix nitrogen and so improve soil fertility, and some grasses grow better underneath its canopy. Crops and grasses can be more than twice as productive growing under the canopy of nitrogen-fixing trees. This has been proven with Faidherbia albida in Africa, and Prosopis cineraria, in India, for example.

So, not only can trees provide more food for livestock in addition to grass, but some tree species can also increase grass growth, providing even more food for livestock.

Rain tree Seed pod. Tastes sweet and eaten and distributed by livestock and wildlife.

Rain tree Seed pod. High carbohydrate and protein, and tastes sweet (a little like dates) and eaten and distributed by livestock and wildlife. Photo: David Clode.

Seeds, or whole seed pods of these trees can be fed to livestock to disperse in their improved manure, and so grow more trees which provide more pods for fodder in the future. The seeds germinate easily, and are also likely to establish successfully using seed balls.

Rain trees can also be grown from cuttings (branches up to 2 metres long) pushed into the ground, early in the wet season. They can be coppiced, to allow more light in for pasture growth, and the coppice growth thinned and used for timber or fuel wood. Rain trees have been used successfully in reforestation in Central and South America, and Indonesia.

Leucaena leucocephala seed pods. A nitrogen-fixing fodder tree which increases soil fertility, but can be a weed. With some trees, whole pods or fruits could be fed to livestock to disperse the seeds. Leucaena can be direct seeded for reforestation, but it is susceptible to some pests and can be invasive outside of its natural range.


Coppice growth, Cecropia sp. Overstorey trees can be coppiced occasionally, to allow more light in for the growth of under-storey plants.

Pollarded rain tree. photo: David Clode.

A pollarded rain tree. Photo: David Clode.

A pollarded rain tree.


The flowers of Giricidia sepium, Madre de cacao. This tree is popular in agroforestry, and is often used to provide shade for cocoa and coffee, but also for living fences, and intercropping with maize to provide nitrogen-rich mulch and good quality fuel wood. This tree has the advantage of being able to be propagated by pushing large “stump/stake/truncheon” or “quickstick” cuttings directly into the ground, early in the wet season. The cuttings can be placed diagonally into the ground and intertwined to form a living fence. It is also a fodder tree, a useful reforestation species, and the seeds can be used as a rodent poison (so it is probably not suited to ingestion and dispersal by livestock). The flowers provide nectar for wildlife. For more info on Gliricidia see PROSEA no. 11, Auxiliary plants.

Guava flower, Psidium guajava. Where it is native, guava fruits could be fed to livestock or wildlife to disperse the seeds (it can be a weed where it is not native).

Guava flower, Psidium guajava. Where it is native, guava fruits could be fed to livestock or wildlife to disperse the seeds (it can be a weed where it is not native).



February 2023. At present it is disappointing that there are many techniques, including the ADS (Animal Dispersal System), which are available to achieve quick and synergistic results in regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and ecological restoration, including long-term soil improvement, which are barely utilised. In addition, given that it has now been proven that livestock can ingest biochar and deposit this in their manure, which is then incorporated into the soil by dung beetles etc. for long term carbon sequestration, it is at best a mystery why this has not been widely and speedily adopted as a major tool to solve the purported existential threat of anthropogenic carbon dioxide induced climate change.

David Clode B. App. Sc. (Hort.), Certificate Permaculture Design.

Thanks for visiting.


Some references

Carter, Robert; Spooner, John. 2013. Taxing air: facts and falacies about climate change. Kelpie Press.ISBN 9780646902180.  Pge. 112.

Corlett, R. T. and Hau, C. H. “Seed dispersal and forest restoration”.

Engel, Cindy. (2002). Wild Health. How animals keep themselves well and what we can learn from them. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0 297 64684 2.

McIntyre, S., McIvor, J. G., Heard, K. M. (Editors).(2002). Managing and Conserving Grassy Woodlands. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0 643 06831 7. Pg. 11.

Richards, Paul W. 1998. The tropical rain forest: an ecological study. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0 521 42194 2 (pbk). Pge. 110.

Savory, Allan and Butterfield, Jody. (1999). Holistic management: a new framework for decision making. 2nd ed. Pg 514.

White, Mary E. (2003). Earth alive!: from microbes to a living planet. Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 1 877058 05 x. Pg. 130.

Whitefield, Patrick. 2013. “Ecological farming”. Permaculture magazine No. 77 Autumn 2013, pge. 50.


13 Responses to ADS Animal Dispersal System, FMNR, Planned Grazing

  1. Chris Stuart says:

    I agree with your comments about the benefits of nonselective grazers — it has been an interest of mine for a while –hence my collection of photos of Galloways browsing on trees. Ditto for the benefits of dung beetles for putting nutrients into the soil. Our association recently held a “dung beetle field day” with John Feehan –association writeup ison our website. David Mason Jones of “Small Farms ” magazine attended and also wrote an article which apeared in a recent issue. We use compost and sewerage ash on our soils and have found the pasture to be greatly improved by them.


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