Regenerative Ranching

At TomKat Ranch, we work to demonstrate the practices and benefits of regenerative ranching and support the research and tools that can help it spread. We are learning that rangelands can produce healthy food while also providing habitat for wildlife and pollinators, preserving scenic open space, filtering and holding rainwater, and housing a diversity of plant and microbial communities that can transform soils into sinks for greenhouse gases.

Photo Credit: Gabrielle Tigan

Our Regenerative Ranching Method

Ranch-wide Planning

Ranch-wide planning is critical for supporting productive and resilient ranches that produce food as well as the many co-benefits of a well-managed ecosystem. Land and livestock management affects not just food production, but also soil health, human well-being, wildlife, watersheds, and the stability of our climate. As such, regenerative ranching starts with creating a comprehensive management plan that identifies and optimizes for the fullest range of potential costs and benefits. We use a combination of planning tools including Holistic Management, REX Farm Planning, Carbon Farm Planning, and grazing and conservation planning.

Monitoring

As with business accounting, rigorous monitoring tracks the effects of ranch management choices and helps create our ranch-wide plans. Because regenerative ranching leverages dynamic natural systems, it requires reliable and actionable feedback to support quick decision making and adaptation. We support the expansion of monitoring as a critical tool for ranchers and participate in monitoring networks, including Point Blue Conservation Science’s Rangeland Monitoring Network and the Soil Carbon Challenge, and employ tools like the Quick Carbon hand-held soil spectrometer and Change Vector Analysis developed by the Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative.

Managed Grazing

At TomKat Ranch, we use livestock grazing to grow healthy soil, support diverse and vibrant rangelands, and produce nutritious food for our community. By carefully managing the location, timing, duration, and density of our grazing with low-stress animal handling and portable electric fencing, we use our 100 percent grassfed cattle herd to prune and encourage growing grasses in the spring and summer and trample aging grasses into a protective mulch for the soil in the fall and winter. We coordinate and record these mini-migrations using PastureMap and FarmOS so that we can easily correlate our monitoring data with our management records.

Rest and Recovery

Similar to exercising at the gym, growing stronger and more resilient rangelands requires a healthy balance of productive stress and recovery. Managed grazing helps cycle nutrients and prune grasses, but appropriate recovery is required for plants and rangelands to thrive. We avoid insufficient recovery and continuous grazing pressure which can stunt and damage plants, create bare ground vulnerable to erosion, and debilitate native and perennial grasses that evolved to thrive under heavy but intermittent grazing pressure of migrating herds of herbivores.

Biodiversity Stewardship

Biodiversity supports and reflects the health of the land. A diverse plant and animal community provides benefits such as forage packed with important nutrients, pollinators, and healthy soil. Trees and shrubs are havens for birds and other wildlife that keep cattle pests in check, and deep-rooted perennial grasses grow long into the dry season feeding the soil and the livestock and reducing the need to purchase costly hay. At TomKat Ranch, our grazing plans explicitly work to promote and support diverse flora and fauna.

Building Healthy Soil

Healthy soil is foundational and complex. As soil microorganisms help create organic matter, the ability of the soil to hold water increases, ultimately increasing plant production. Across an entire ranch, these effects add up: a 1 percent increase in organic matter helps the soil hold an additional 16,500 gallons of water per acre. With healthier soil, water infiltration rates increase, reducing erosion, improving water quality in streams, and replenishing aquifers. Healthy soils can help stabilize our climate by sequestering greenhouse gases. At TomKat Ranch, we can support healthy soils by applying compost to jumpstart underperforming soils and using manure and grazing impacts to maximize plant growth that returns food to soil ecosystems.

Our Strategic Partnerships

We collaborate on-site, locally, regionally, and nationally with scientists, conservationists, technical assistance providers, and rangeland experts to contribute to the understanding of how to monitor and improve soil health, forage, and biodiversity.

News and Resources

  • Article
    March 15, 2019
    What We're Reading - March 2019
    Regenerative Agriculture Initiative at California State Univ...
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  • News
    March 15, 2019
    EcoFarm 2019 - Recap
    Kathy Webster has been attending the EcoFarm conference for ...
    Read More
  • News
    March 13, 2019
    Equine-Assisted Learning Gathers for Act...
    In January, during one of our biggest storms of the season, ...
    Read More
  • Resource
    February 12, 2019
    What We’re Reading - January 2019
    Draft of California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate C...
    Read More
  • Resource
    February 12, 2019
    What We’re Reading
    Natural climate solutions for the United States - Joe Fargio...
    Read More
  • News
    February 12, 2019
    Soil Up Learning Lab at Paicines Ranch
    Recently, two of our staff joined 35 healthcare providers, s...
    Read More
  • Resource
    February 12, 2019
    What We're Reading - The Soil Will Save ...
    Kristin’s Ohlson’s The Soil Will Save Us offers hope in the ...
    Read More
  • Article
    February 12, 2019
    Carbon Farming Workshop for RCDs
    This month TomKat Ranch had the pleasure of hosting 18 of Ca...
    Read More
  • Resource
    February 11, 2019
    What We Are Reading - Kiss the Ground
    During my summer as a Regenerative Ranching Intern at TomKat...
    Read More
  • News
    August 6, 2018
    Point Blue - Advancing Climate-smart Con...
    Objectives – this document aims to provide a shared understa...
    Read More
  • Resource
    August 6, 2018
    Accessing the Total Impact of TomKat Ran...
    This document explains the methodology applied to assess the...
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  • Resource
    August 4, 2018
    Growing Abundant Rangelands
    A TomKat Ranch-produced guide to growing abundant rangelands...
    Read More
  • Resource
    August 4, 2018
    California Rangeland Plant Guide
    This plant guide is a result of requests from many NRCS fiel...
    Read More
  • Study
    June 25, 2018
    Case Study - Flying Diamond Ranch
    The Johnson Family began practicing adaptive planned grazing...
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  • Resource
    June 15, 2018
    What We Are Reading - Politics of Scale
    Rangelands are unforested and uncultivated land on which gra...
    Read More
  • Study
    June 4, 2018
    Fungal Inoculant Project - Update
    I am sure you have been holding your breath waiting to learn...
    Read More
  • Article
    March 7, 2018
    Coyote Brush Control: Goats
    Over the years, we have tried many different ways of control...
    Read More
  • Study
    February 21, 2018
    Fungal Inoculant Project
    Growing up on a ranch in Paradise Valley, MT, I never though...
    Read More
  • Article
    January 17, 2018
    Grazing Plan for 2018
    Each year, the Land and Livestock Team sits down with collea...
    Read More
  • Article
    January 10, 2018
    Regenerative Talks: Photosynthesis and O...
    Through photosynthesis, it can be said that the whole world ...
    Read More

Photo Credit: Gabrielle Tigan