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.

News and Resources

  • Article
    December 17, 2019
    Aspiring to Regeneration - A Thank You to Skeptics
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  • There is a growing urgency to understand and address how the food we serve in public schools impacts the personal health of students, the performance and resilience of communities, and the well-being and sustainability of our environment.
    News
    December 17, 2019
    California Food for California Kids
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  • Study
    December 16, 2019
    Adaptive Planned Grazing Reduces Fire Fuel Load - Profiles in Land and Management
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  • Resource
    December 16, 2019
    Monitoring The Multiple Benefits Of Regenerative Ranching
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  • Article
    December 16, 2019
    The Re-Generation: An Apprentice’s Perspective on the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture
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  • Resource
    October 29, 2019
    Profiles In Land and Management - Parker Pastures
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  • Article
    October 29, 2019
    Celebrating our Coastal Fibershed
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  • Changes in Soil Carbon at TomKat Ranch
    Article,Study
    October 13, 2019
    Changes in Soil Carbon at TomKat Ranch and Beyond
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  • Article
    September 30, 2019
    Where are they now? Didier Bolaños Gonzalez
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  • News
    September 30, 2019
    Gathering of Women in Culinary
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  • Study
    September 30, 2019
    What We’re Reading - Soil Wealth Report
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  • Article
    September 30, 2019
    Western Landowners Alliance Gathering
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  • Resource
    September 30, 2019
    Profiles In Land and Management - Lowry Ranch
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  • Article
    August 28, 2019
    Regenerative Ranching Day at TomKat Ranch
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  • Resource
    August 28, 2019
    Profiles in Land and Management - Sieben Live Stock Company
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  • Article
    July 29, 2019
    Profiles in Land and Management - Pueblo of Santa Ana
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  • Article
    June 27, 2019
    Soil Journeys - a Soil Trials Update
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  • Resource
    June 27, 2019
    What We’re Reading: “Regenerative Ranching: Maximum Sustainable Profit by Ranching in Nature's Image”
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  • Article
    June 20, 2019
    Profiles in Land and Management - Flying Diamond Ranch
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  • Article
    May 28, 2019
    Grassfed Alliance: Coming Together to Promote Authentic Grassfed
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  • Article
    May 28, 2019
    Profiles in Land and Management - Grupo La Báscula
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  • Article
    May 23, 2019
    A Day in the Field with Nicole Masters - A Photo Essay
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  • News
    April 24, 2019
    Where are they now - Evan Watson
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  • News
    April 24, 2019
    What We're Reading - Women Ranchers in the West - New York Times and Colorado Gazette
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  • Article
    April 24, 2019
    Native Perennial Grasses Continue Expanding Across TomKat Ranch
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  • Article
    April 23, 2019
    Profiles in Land and Management - Lonetree Ranch
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  • Article
    March 15, 2019
    What We're Reading - March 2019
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  • News
    March 15, 2019
    EcoFarm 2019 - Recap
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  • News
    March 13, 2019
    Equine-Assisted Learning Gathers for Action
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  • Resource
    February 12, 2019
    What We’re Reading - January 2019
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  • Resource
    February 12, 2019
    What We’re Reading
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  • News
    February 12, 2019
    Soil Up Learning Lab at Paicines Ranch
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  • Resource
    February 12, 2019
    What We're Reading - The Soil Will Save US
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  • Article
    February 12, 2019
    Carbon Farming Workshop for RCDs
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  • Resource
    February 11, 2019
    What We Are Reading - Kiss the Ground
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  • Resource
    August 6, 2018
    Accessing the Total Impact of TomKat Ranch - Research and Methodologies
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  • Resource
    August 4, 2018
    Growing Abundant Rangelands
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  • Resource
    August 4, 2018
    California Rangeland Plant Guide
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  • Resource
    June 15, 2018
    What We Are Reading - Politics of Scale
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  • Study
    June 4, 2018
    Fungal Inoculant Project - Update
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  • Article
    March 7, 2018
    Coyote Brush Control: Goats
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  • Study
    February 21, 2018
    Fungal Inoculant Project
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  • Article
    January 17, 2018
    Grazing Plan for 2018
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  • Article
    January 10, 2018
    Regenerative Talks: Photosynthesis and Organic Matter
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Photo Credit: Gabrielle Tigan