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How To Switch To Regenerative Management Without Big Upfront Costs, Tough Trade-offs

Start small, and start with what you have, Noble leaders say (originally published for Noble Rancher).

When Noble Research Institute leaders talk to ranchers about making a shift to regenerative management, they inevitably field the two big questions: “So … what’s the cost? What’s the trade-off?”


Noble Senior Ag Consultant Mike Porter says ranchers often expect to hear that new management practices automatically come with a prohibitive price tag.


“The fact is, if somebody is doing regenerative management appropriately, they should have fewer costs,” Porter says. “The whole point is to work with the resources you have.”


He’s leery of anyone who says a rancher needs to make big, upfront infrastructure investment or pay a high price for a new tool or trick in order to consider themselves ‘regenerative.’


Trade productivity for profitability

Traditional thinking holds that more production is better: run the largest herd possible, weigh up the most pounds on sale day, grow the biggest bushel load to put in the bin, measure the success of a day by how many tasks were checked off the list.


Unfortunately, this productivity mindset does not always pay off with true profitability. Instead, a necessary, immediate investment may be the time and attention to keep very detailed records on exactly where money flows in and out of the ranch business.


“If you start looking – and I mean really looking hard – at exactly what it costs to feed that bale of hay or grow that bushel of grain or send that calf to market, you’ll likely become regenerative on your own,” Porter says. “It might become apparent that a lot of those expenses are not actually making money in return.”


He points to Noble’s Red River Ranch as an example.


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