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This is the first blog in a series to explain our system of Regenerative Ranching. I will start with an overview and then follow up with a discussion that explains certain aspects of our system in more detail. Our warning to readers is this:

Reading this blog will be like when the cows get out at midnight and the quad has a bad wire, so the lights flicker on and off sheding light intermently on a problem you understand all to well …. Hang on and don’t get bucked off!

My wife and I are both 4th-generation farmers/ranchers. I suspect that like every other human on this planet, our agricultural roots go back much further. But like most Western Canadians, our family history restarted when our great-grandparents emigrated from Europe to start anew on this previously untouched ground. We have birthed and raised the 5th generation on land 8 hrs straight east of our family homesteads in Alberta. Lured by the prospect of cheap land we began a lifelong process of converting this Saskatchewan farmland into a working ranch. The epicenter for this hurricane of hope is an old ghost that goes by the name West Bend.

The first lands were seeded with perennial grasses over 20 years ago and we have never looked back. In the beginning, we cut our teeth on a new concept called rotational grazing. Variations of this concept like “high-intensity grazing” or “multi-paddock adaptive grazing” have emerged throughout the years. Regardless of terminology, the basics have remained the same and we have successfully over doubled our stocking rates as a result. We are happy with the progress and successes we have achieved, but we are not satisfied.

We have farmed and ranched through the term sustainable and now for superior reasons we use the term regenerative. However, even with the resonance, the term regenerative has been found in uniting thousands of people worldwide the step-by-step-how-to-guide has remained elusive. This is where our lack of satisfaction is rooted. It has led us on a path to search for the root cause of problems, and implement objective methods and systems.

Aside from farming and ranching I have a background in mechanical engineering. This experience has taught me to search for the root cause of a problem, define the problem, and then create solutions that are repeatable.

A favorite place to find the root causes of problems is in the assumptions we make. Assumptions like “Regenerative ag can never feed the world” or “We need chemical fertilizer to achieve high rates of production”. These assumptions stem from the deeper assumption of “Resources are limited”. But what are the true resources in a regenerative system?

Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen are the building blocks of life and makeup 97% to 99% of all living matter. We can account for the vast majority of these elements in the natural systems of Photosynthesis, Carbon cycle, Nitrogen cycle, and the water cycle. Early school lessons taught us that these cyclical systems recycled C, O, H, and N in our environment naturally and we are part of these cycles.

We have never lacked in any one of these elemental resources and never will. What we lack is the ability to manage and work within the natural systems. It is true that combinations of these elements are concentrated into excessive amounts of certain forms, like CO2 and methane. But with the proper management, these excesses become opportunities with huge potential.

It is often said that a person cannot manage things he or she cannot measure. In subsequent articles, I will explain how we measure these elemental resources and then create management systems from them. In a nutshell, I will explain how we use a lab to measure C, O, H, and N. How we use those measurements to create things like balanced livestock rations. I will also explain how we extend these measurements to balance the interaction between animals and the land. In the process, I will show how balancing this interaction optimizes our use of these resources and opens the door to near unlimited production possibilities.

From the outside, we are a family ranch that doesn’t look much different than other ranches. But internally we have been struggling to find the step-by-step-how-to-guide of regenerative ag. Unfortunately, we have not found it, but we may have uncovered some paragraphs in certain chapters. We will share what we have and let you be the judge of its worth.

Thanks for hanging on, but the ride isn’t over quite yet. The cows are still out.

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