Buying A Ranch Property?

Published on Tue, 12/18/2012 - 8:03am

As you drive almost any highway, you currently see ranches for sale due to extreme persistent weather conditions and high production input costs. If you are interested in buying a ranch, now may be the time to start shopping. Purchasing a ranch requires a big investment; so clearly identify your ranching goals to ensure that the selected property will meet your aesthetic and appreciable expectations.

It is essential that the buyer have a clear focus on how the ranch is to be used and a business plan to guide the selection. A good business plan includes a mission and vision for the planned enterprise, production goals, necessary ranch characteristics and production capabilities and estimated operational expenses, income and profits. The plan also contains a list of needed equipment, buildings and other facilities and required personnel.  The business plan is compared with evaluations of available ranches to determine which property has the greatest possibility of producing expected performance. Results of the comparisons are used to estimate costs of needed improvements and renovations necessary to achieve desired production and in turn determine the true value of each candidate property.

The amount of existing nutritious palatable grass is a major decision factor in selecting a ranch for cattle production. A sufficient supply of standing forage is the most economical way to feed a cow and is essential for producing a profit. Research the area in which a prospective ranch is located. Learn how many stocking units a good pasture can carry while maintaining condition. Ask the owner of the prospective ranch for his stocking rate. What is the condition of his pastures? Do they have at least six inches of grass stubble height or have the pastures been grazed to the ground? If pastures have been abused, they will need two or three years of rest before they are grazed again. Depending upon the area, fertilization and reseeding may be required for pasture restoration. Abused pastures lower a ranch’s value and restoration costs should be considered before purchasing the property.

Obtain a description of a climax community for the area in which a prospective ranch is located. Compare a plant species inventory of the prospective ranch with the climax community description. This comparison provides the range condition and use history. If pastures have between 76 and 100 percent of the original plant community present, their condition is excellent. They are in good condition if 51 to 75 percent of the vegetation is climax plants and they are in fair condition if 26 to 50 percent of the vegetation is climax. If less than 25 percent of the vegetation is climax, the pastures are in poor condition. Professional range management specialists with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), state university extension services or private consultant companies can evaluate pasture conditions if you are not trained in these techniques.

In addition to vegetation quality, evaluate pastures for shade and water availability. Cattle need shade whether it is trees or sheds and there should be enough shade to accommodate the total number of cattle in the pasture. Pastures should also contain a sufficient number of clean water sources. A cow should not be required to walk more than a mile for water.

After pasture evaluation, look at the facilities. Are the fences and corrals in good condition and in the right places for efficient herd management? Do the necessary buildings exist and are they in good condition? Are there roads that provide access to the ranch in all types of weather?

Ranch property should not be purchased until an evaluation of its production potential is completed.