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New item for spring to-do list: Set up a monitoring site to measure regenerative progress on your ranch

It doesn’t take long to set up a transect or single site to benchmark and track improvements in soil and pasture health. Here are tips of what to monitor, record and use to reach your goals.

If you could increase the amount of productive land you operate by 30%, without an additional land payment or lease agreement, would you do so?


For most, the answer is a no-brainer.


Noble Research Institute Senior Regenerative Ranching Advisor Jim Johnson says it’s not uncommon to have pasture with 30% bare ground, which means the increase in land capacity you seek may already be right under your nose.


“If you’re able to work toward management principles that will help cover that 30%, you just earned 30% more acres to operate on for free,” Johnson says. The problem is, “most people don’t realize they’re giving up that much production.”


The best way to manage for more is to measure where you are now and where you want to go, he says.


The first step to achieving that objective may start with adding a simple, five-minute task to your spring to-do list: setting up monitoring sites or “transects” to establish a consistent location to observe and measure your land management progress.


A monitoring transect is a line between two marked points, along which you measure or take samples up and down the length of a tape measure stretched between the points. Marking a single-point monitoring location will do, also.


Where and when to monitor

Whether you set up a transect or stationary point, spring is an ideal time to establish the site, Johnson says.


The most important part is selecting the site itself. Ideally, the location will be representative of the ranch or the particular pasture. That may require more than one location. If you have upland and bottom ground, or introduced and native forages, or different soil types – you may want to select monitoring locations that represent those differences.


Make sure the location you select is not impacted by gates, fence lines, water tanks, livestock trails or other factors that would influence the area you’re monitoring. Consider other non-management impacts on the location – does it intermittently flood or have a pipeline running nearby?


“The key is to find a location where your management is the primary factor that has the ability to impact that land,” Johnson says. 


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