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WRITING

A Restoration Tale: Ruminants Small and Large Help Regenerate Depleted Prairie

See how a researcher and his family restored soil health, native grasses and diverse forages to abused and neglected land. Today, herds of sheep, goats and now bison continue the process as they graze under regenerative management (originally published in Noble Rancher).

When Kevin Lynch bought a dilapidated dairy farm in southern Oklahoma in 2011 it epitomized the need for regenerative management.


“When I first bought my place, it was in bad shape,” says Lynch, an agricultural research associate with the Noble Research Institute. “Bare soil, nothing but weeds, no grass hardly at all. It had definitely been abused.”


Back then, “regenerative ranching” – today central to the mission at Noble — wasn’t in his vocabulary. Now, 12 years later, Lynch can say he’s seen first-hand how using ecological processes has restored his degraded grazing lands.


Starting small then going big

Lynch’s primary livestock of choice for the past 30 years has been small ruminants. When he went home each day from his job at Noble studying small grains and grasses, he applied what he learned to how he grazed his sheep and goat herds.


Over the years, he developed his land into pastures with a variety of cool- and warm-season native and introduced grasses. More recently, he began incorporating cover crops to add even more diversity above and below ground.


When his son, Dusty Baker, began looking to transition from a decade-long career as a teacher and coach in 2018, they made plans to add more diversity to the land, this time in the form of a less-common large ruminant: bison.


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