Grazing lands do more than support the production of grazing livestock — cattle, sheep and goats. Grazing lands impact our climate, water, air, wildlife and domestic food security.
Grazing lands are one of America’s greatest natural resources, representing the single largest land use — covering 654 million acres — of this nation. Healthy soil contributes to:
Additionally, in the last 20 years, more than 11 million acres of U.S. agricultural lands have been converted, fragmented or paved over by development projects.
Every acre matters.
For Noble, regenerative ranching simply means improving soil health and building a stronger bottom line.
Within the soil lives a biological world that many agricultural producers do not consider or include in their operations. For modern agriculture, we have been taught to manage the chemistry within the soil for the benefit of plants, but recent science tells us the biology may be even more important than the chemistry.
To harness the impact of soil biology and soil health, we have to manage the whole system — soil, water, forage, livestock, economics and the farmer/rancher. It all has to work together.
The six principles of soil health are the backbone of our management on our own ranches and at the core of our guidance to the nation’s farmers and ranchers.
Apply the remaining five principles in accordance with your operation, climate, geography, resources, skills and goals. One size doesn’t fit all.
Tilling, fire, grazing and fertilizer interrupt the biological activity and/or structure of the soil. Use these tools only as needed to allow the life in the soil to function as intended.
Avoid bare ground. Cover crops, managed grazing and trampled residues manage the sun’s access to the soil, help retain moisture and prevent erosion.
The soil benefits from differing interactions of plants and animals. Increases in plant diversity increase pollinators, wildlife and the opportunity for soil health.
Living roots all year round keep the soil biology processes working.
Livestock manage landscapes, facilitate nutrient cycling and enable conservation through management.
Managing for soil health and a stronger bottom line in the ranching industry is contrary to generations of thought and practice.
Understanding the economics is essential. Margins are razor thin in the ranching industry, amplifying risks and the consequences of setbacks or failures. Traditional financial mitigation tools in agriculture, such as lines of credit, follow an age-old model that may not align with new practices based on ecological principles.
Ranchers operate within an environment where agricultural-sector salespeople, fellow ranchers, lending institutions and commodity markets conform to a singular production model. This model favors cheap, efficient and indistinguishable (commodity) products driven by costly chemical inputs to maintain the desired model. To deviate from this system typically requires personal resilience to overcome pressures from both community and industry.
Farmers and ranchers need two key elements to begin their regenerative journey — information and support.
While there is a growing body of research about regenerative ranching, there remains a need for science-based understanding and knowledge to assist interested farmers and ranchers. There is no recipe or standardized checklist for managing for soil health — it is affected by individual operations, climate, geography, resources, skills and an individual rancher’s operational goals.
There is a lack of experienced mentors and guides across the U.S. to assist farmers and ranchers interested in embarking on this management approach. Noble aims to fill both of the research and mentoring gaps for tens of thousands of producers nationwide.
We are building in-person and online educational programming to allow farmers and ranchers to master new skills and gain confidence to undertake a regenerative approach. We are building peer networks that enable ranchers to learn from other ranchers. And we are designing one-on-one consultation to offer guidance and mentorship to better ensure success. Beyond the application of in-field management, we will provide a framework for financial and operational planning, staff management and generational transition. Our programs depend upon critical thinking, planning and managing each ranch — no matter how large or small — as a viable business. We will launch our programming in 2023.
The average age of a U.S. rancher today is 57. In the next 15 years, 40-percent of America’s agricultural land will transition between owners. Ranchers in the Southern Great Plains face different challenges than those in the Northern Plains or West. We seek to understand not only the current generation of learners but also future generations of ranchers and land managers.
Despite this complexity, we are developing educational programming tailored to the learner — taking into consideration aspects such as goals, age, experiences, gender, values and geographic location. We focus on learning to meet individual needs of each adult learner.
Scientific research can help us see beyond the problem at hand. However, we don’t believe that reductionist science or laboratory-scale research can answer the necessary questions for producers stewarding pasture or rangeland. We have transitioned our work to landscape-scale research. This allows for observation, investigation and measurement of outcomes that impact soil, water, forage, livestock, economics and the rancher who manages them all.
Research starts on Noble ranches but extends to producer properties. We collaborate with and serve farmers and ranchers who help define the questions we seek to answer on our ranches. We make them a part of the discovery.
Below, we provide additional insight into the areas of research we are currently undertaking.
We have focused our research activities on the following five areas of regenerative ranching:
Select qualities and attributes of livestock well-suited for success and profitability in a regenerative system.
Design and measure impact of implementing regenerative management for native and introduced pecans. Assess impact of livestock grazing integration.
Observe, assess and measure the timing and impacts of a transition from conventional to regenerative management.
Measure impact of regenerative management of wildlife species’ (including insects) productivity and health.
Observe, assess and measure ecological outcomes, production, economics, nutrient quality and producer well-being based on landscape and livestock management.
Noble has been making a difference in ranchers’ lives for generations.
We are building educational programming, online platforms and tools to assist producers in making sound business and management decisions impacting their soil and livestock production. Our research intends to answer critical questions that remain unanswered or that need greater understanding.
We support today’s grazing animal producer and the land they manage. We seek to give farmers and ranchers the tools they need to be successful — not only in this generation but for future generations. Working across industry lines, we seek to create a critical mass of change within the ranching industry to profitably manage the regeneration of 164 million acres of land through the work of 84,000 farmers and ranchers. The consequences will be far-reaching — beyond the dinner table — to impact the viability of rural America and create healthier, more productive landscapes that are a tool against climate variability. Further, we are creating viable business operations for the next generation
We ask you that you join us in our pursuit to help farmers and ranchers transform our land so that it may produce healthier food, build resiliency against climate variability, store carbon, provide for wildlife habitats and benefit the lives of generations to come.
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