Regenerative Ranching

At TKREF, we work to demonstrate the practices and benefits of regenerative ranching and support the research and tools that can help it spread. Over ten years of learning has shown us 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

At TKREF, 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.

Our Regenerative Ranching Methods

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 TKREF, 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 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 TKREF, 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 TKREF, 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.

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

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 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. 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. 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

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  • Plant and soil microbial communities play an important role in carbon sequestration. Biological indicators related to these communities may offer alternatives to direct carbon measurements in some scenarios, potentially helping to forecast future changes. Despite their significance, considerable work needs to be done to identify which biological indicators, if any, can accurately predict future trends in carbon across a landscape. To address this, Point Blue and TomKat Ranch teamed up with scientists from UC Santa Barbara to investigate the relationships between plant, fungal, and bacterial communities and soil carbon changes across space and time. We found that certain combinations of plants, fungi, and bacteria served as reliable indicators of soil carbon storage. Specifically, we found bacteria that metabolize carbon more slowly and efficiently are associated with sites that store more carbon in the long run. Decomposing fungi were also associated with enhanced soil carbon sequestration over time. On the other hand, bacteria that thrive in high carbon environments and are thought to “leak” more CO2 as they work, were associated with sites that showed carbon losses over time. While more research needs to be done, this work contributes to a growing body of knowledge around biological indicators related to soil carbon sequestration. Our findings offer valuable insights for further investigation, and our hope–as ever–is that they will help to build strategies that promote increased carbon storage in the soil, mitigate climate change, and build resilience into working landscapes for a more stable future.
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    02/26/2021
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  • News
    02/26/2021
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  • News
    02/25/2021
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  • Opinion
    02/02/2021
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    02/02/2021
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  • Article,Resource
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  • Nature4Climate Website
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    02/02/2021
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    A beautiful new website called Nature4Climate.
    Read More
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    Read More
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    12/18/2020
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    10/30/2020
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    10/30/2020
    Local Food Security: Coops, Veggies, and...
    A large part of what we do at TomKat Ranch is...
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  • Article
    10/30/2020
    Thoughts on Regenerative Fire Mitigation Part...
    Log it, graze it, or let it burn.” It seems I...
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  • Kat Taylor Forbes Features Video
    Article
    10/27/2020
    Kat Taylor - A Forbes FEATURES...
    Kat Taylor using capitalism’s toolbox to fight systemic racism, environmental destruction...
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  • News,Resource
    10/14/2020
    Rising from the ashes - Growth...
    In the field of Positive Psychology, there is an important distinction...
    Read More
  • Study
    09/30/2020
    What We're Reading - Point Blue...
    Point Blue Methane Brief and Carbon Footprint Study of White Oak...
    Read More
  • News
    09/30/2020
    Growing the Table - Shifting Demand...
    During this crisis, a number of ‘farm to family’ programs have...
    Read More
  • Stemple Creek’s Petaluma Market meat department
    Article
    09/30/2020
    Regenerative Ranching Circle NORCAL -...
    Even though the regenerative ranching community in California is small and...
    Read More
  • TomKat Ranch Apprentices
    News
    09/28/2020
    Regenerative Ranching Apprenticeship - Join Our...
    Work with the TomKat Ranch Land & Livestock Team as an...
    Read More
  • Article,Resource
    09/17/2020
    A Regenerative Food System Can Only...
    A Regenerative Food System Can Only Be Realized When There is...
    Read More
  • News,Resource
    09/11/2020
    CZU Lightning Complex Fire - Our...
    The swiftness and destructive power of a catastrophic wildfire is staggering.
    Read More
  • Article
    06/01/2020
    Prescribed Burning for Wildfire Prevention and...
    Prescribed burns have multiple potential benefits, including reducing catastrophic wildfire risk...
    Read More
  • News
    05/29/2020
    Breeding Birds Update by Mel Preston...
    In Pescadero (and the rest of the northern hemisphere), bird nesting...
    Read More
  • Article
    05/29/2020
    15-year program to study prescribed burning...
    As part of our Profiles in Land and Management series, this...
    Read More
  • Resource
    05/28/2020
    Point Blue Issue Brief 2019: Methane...
    The purpose of this document is to provide Point Blue staff...
    Read More
  • Resource
    05/27/2020
    Fire Management and Prescribed Burns at...
    A collaboration between CalFire and TomKat Ranch. Prescribed Burns for Public...
    Read More
  • News
    05/01/2020
    Resilience & Regenerative Ag in the...
    At TomKat Ranch, we have the immense privilege of operating as...
    Read More
  • News
    04/29/2020
    California Healthy Soils Initiative - Grant...
    Calling all California farmers and ranchers! Healthy Soils Grant Program applications...
    Read More
  • News,Resource
    04/28/2020
    Science at TomKat Ranch: An Update
    For many practitioners, regenerative agriculture is a hands-in-the-dirt affair.
    Read More
  • Elk Glade Ranch
    Article
    04/28/2020
    Elk Glade Ranch demonstrates myriad ways...
    Elk Glade Ranch demonstrates that there are myriad ways to benefit...
    Read More
  • News
    02/26/2020
    Goat Herd as Ecosystem Reclamation Tool...
    <  Back to All...
    Read More
  • News
    02/26/2020
    EcoFarm 2020
    This past January, the Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm) held its...
    Read More
  • Resource
    02/26/2020
    SOIL: Soil Microbe Guide and Nicole...
    Water and minerals - the yin and yang of life on...
    Read More
  • News
    02/12/2020
    2020 Regenerative Ranching Internship - Apply...
    We are accepting applications for TomKat Ranch Regenerative Ranching 2020 Summer...
    Read More
  • Article
    01/24/2020
    Using Regenerative Practices to Create Meaningful...
    As part of our Profiles in Land and Management series, this...
    Read More
  • News
    01/24/2020
    A Win for California Healthy School...
    The recent release of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2020-21 budget...
    Read More
  • News
    01/24/2020
    Regenerate Conference 2019
    This past November, our team was thrilled to see Mark Biaggi...
    Read More
  • News
    01/24/2020
    Dear LeftCoast GrassFed Customers
    Dear Friends and Customers, due to a renewed focus on getting...
    Read More
  • Article
    12/17/2019
    Aspiring to Regeneration - A Thank...
    Aspiring to Regeneration - A Thank You to Skeptics from our...
    Read More
  • 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
    12/17/2019
    California Food for California Kids
    There is a growing urgency to understand and address how the...
    Read More
  • Study
    12/16/2019
    Adaptive Planned Grazing Reduces Fire Fuel...
    Adaptive Planned Grazing Reduces Fire Fuel Load - Profiles in Land...
    Read More
  • Resource
    12/16/2019
    Monitoring The Multiple Benefits Of Regenerative...
    Rangelands are an essential part of the health and integrity of...
    Read More
  • Article
    12/16/2019
    The Re-Generation: An Apprentice’s Perspective on...
    I struggled to write this piece for the newsletter. Not because...
    Read More
  • Article
    12/16/2019
    Regenerative Grass-fed Beef
    Grass-fed beef is so much more than delicious! As part of...
    Read More
  • Resource
    10/29/2019
    Profiles In Land and Management -...
    As part of our Profiles in Land and Management series, this...
    Read More
  • Article
    10/29/2019
    Celebrating our Coastal Fibershed
    A day of regenerative agriculture education for food and fiber.
    Read More
  • Changes in Soil Carbon at TomKat Ranch
    Article,Study
    10/13/2019
    Changes in Soil Carbon at TomKat...
    46% of the points monitored at TomKat Ranch gained soil carbon...
    Read More
  • Article
    09/30/2019
    Where are they now? Didier Bolaños...
    A question and answer session with our former intern Didier Bolaños...
    Read More
  • News
    09/30/2019
    Gathering of Women in Culinary
    Chefs play a vital role in our food systems. They are...
    Read More
  • Study
    09/30/2019
    What We’re Reading - Soil Wealth...
    In July, the Croatan Institute, Delta Institute, and Organic Agriculture Revitalization...
    Read More
  • Article
    09/30/2019
    Western Landowners Alliance Gathering
    Since its beginning, TomKat Ranch has invested in creating networks and...
    Read More
  • Resource
    09/30/2019
    Profiles In Land and Management -...
    As part of our Profiles in Land and Management series, this...
    Read More
  • Article
    08/28/2019
    Regenerative Ranching Day at TomKat Ranch
    Earlier in the month, TomKat Ranch held a Regenerative Ranching Day...
    Read More
  • Resource
    08/28/2019
    Profiles in Land and Management -...
    Profiles in Land and Management Series this month - Sieben Live...
    Read More
  • Article
    07/30/2019
    Profiles in Land and Management -...
    This month our Profiles in Land and Management Series explores regenerative...
    Read More
  • Article
    06/28/2019
    Soil Journeys - a Soil Trials...
    Soil health journeys are like onions, they have a lot of...
    Read More
  • Resource
    06/28/2019
    What We’re Reading: “Regenerative Ranching: Maximum...
    There are a lot of resources out there for those interested...
    Read More
  • Article
    06/21/2019
    Profiles in Land and Management -...
    This month we are excited to re-share our profile of Flying...
    Read More
  • Article
    05/29/2019
    Grassfed Alliance: Coming Together to Promote...
    For years, TomKat Ranch has proudly marketed our grassfed beef under...
    Read More
  • Article
    05/29/2019
    Profiles in Land and Management -...
    This month we are sharing our profile of the Grupo La...
    Read More
  • Article
    05/24/2019
    A Day in the Field with...
    Nicole Masters has been a visitor to our ranch this year....
    Read More
  • News
    04/24/2019
    Where are they now - Evan...
    A question and answer session with our former intern, Evan Watson.
    Read More
  • News
    04/24/2019
    What We're Reading - Women Ranchers...
    In January, the New York Times published a beautiful photo essay...
    Read More
  • Article
    04/24/2019
    Native Perennial Grasses Continue Expanding Across...
    As part of our regenerative management program, Point Blue Conservation Science...
    Read More
  • Article
    04/24/2019
    Profiles in Land and Management -...
    Over the last year, TomKat Ranch has traveled around the American...
    Read More
  • Article
    03/16/2019
    What We're Reading - March 2019
    Regenerative Agriculture Initiative at California State University, ChicoThis month we enjoyed...
    Read More
  • News
    03/15/2019
    EcoFarm 2019 - Recap
    Kathy Webster has been attending the EcoFarm conference for more than...
    Read More
  • News
    03/14/2019
    Equine-Assisted Learning Gathers for Action
    In January, during one of our biggest storms of the season,...
    Read More
  • Resource
    02/13/2019
    What We’re Reading - January 2019
    Draft of California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation...
    Read More
  • Resource
    02/13/2019
    What We’re Reading
    Natural climate solutions for the United States - Joe Fargione
    Read More
  • News
    02/13/2019
    Soil Up Learning Lab at Paicines...
    Recently, two of our staff joined 35 healthcare providers, soil scientists,...
    Read More
  • Resource
    02/13/2019
    What We're Reading - The Soil...
    Kristin’s Ohlson’s The Soil Will Save Us offers hope in the face of...
    Read More
  • Article
    02/12/2019
    Carbon Farming Workshop for RCDs
    This month TomKat Ranch had the pleasure of hosting 18 of...
    Read More
  • Resource
    02/12/2019
    What We Are Reading - Kiss...
    During my summer as a Regenerative Ranching Intern at TomKat Ranch,...
    Read More
  • Resource
    08/06/2018
    Accessing the Total Impact of TomKat...
    This document explains the methodology applied to assess the total impact...
    Read More
  • Resource
    08/05/2018
    Growing Abundant Rangelands
    A TomKat Ranch-produced guide to growing abundant rangelands and the benefits they...
    Read More
  • Resource
    08/05/2018
    California Rangeland Plant Guide
    This plant guide is a result of requests from many NRCS...
    Read More
  • Study
    06/26/2018
    Case Study - Flying Diamond Ranch
    The Johnson Family began practicing adaptive planned grazing on their ranch...
    Read More
  • Resource
    06/15/2018
    What We Are Reading - Politics...
    Rangelands are unforested and uncultivated land on which grazing is the...
    Read More
  • Study
    06/05/2018
    Fungal Inoculant Project - Update
    I am sure you have been holding your breath waiting to...
    Read More
  • Article
    03/08/2018
    Coyote Brush Control: Goats
    Over the years, we have tried many different ways of controlling...
    Read More
  • Study
    02/22/2018
    Fungal Inoculant Project
    Growing up on a ranch in Paradise Valley, MT, I never...
    Read More
  • Article
    01/18/2018
    Grazing Plan for 2018
    Each year, the Land and Livestock Team sits down with colleagues...
    Read More
  • Article
    01/11/2018
    Regenerative Talks: Photosynthesis and Organic Matter
    Through photosynthesis, it can be said that the whole world runs...
    Read More

Photo Credit: William Milliot