In 2020, Noble Research Institution pivoted the focus of its operations to regenerative ranching. The goal? Build healthy soils, better landscapes, and improve ranchers’ bottom line.
The Noble Research’s recent docuseries Regenerating the Ranch features the institution’s seven ranches, which total 14,000 acres in Southern Oklahoma. Each of the seven ranches is unique in topography, use, and history. Some of the ranches include introduced forages, while others remain primarily native, but the main goal of the project is to improve soil health with sound grazing practices.
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Noble hasn’t always focused on regenerative practices. “In the past, the ranch was really used to house research projects. They were small plot trails, forage, trials, grazing trials, and the practices of that lead to a more degraded state compared to the regenerative principles we apply now,” says Joe Pokey, Noble Ranch’s manager.
As the proverb goes, “Methods are many, principles are few.” The six soil health principles the ranches apply are:
- Know your context
- Cover the soil
- Minimize soil disturbance
- Increase diversity
- Maintain continuous living plants and roots
- Integrate livestock
Episode 1: Context is Everything
“Rain is pretty important, but how much you keep and how much you lose is just as important,” says Pokey. “Having good soil health, it’s like having a good buffer between the extremes in our weather, so that you can hold onto more moisture longer in a really dry time and you can capture more of the moisture when it does rain because you’ve build that resiliency in your system.”
Episode 2: How We are Adapting Our Cow Herd to Regenerative Ag
“We’re trying to manage our cowherd adaptively. A lot of that is getting our cows to graze the way we want them to graze, perform under our grazing management. Managing this way is really good for a lot of things: it’s good for the soil health, it’s really good for the cow health,” says Joe Pokay. “It’s good for the ranch profitability as well.”
Episode 3: Raising Grass Fed Sheep on our Ranch
“We decided to get some sheep for the Coffey Ranch to help utilize more of the forages we have available. They utilize the broad leaves, the forbs better than cattle. We want diversity in our forages as well as our livestock to more efficiently utilize the forages that we have, and to have something other than cattle to market,” says Clark Roberts, manager for Coffey Ranch.