Buying Land

So You Want to Buy a Cattle Ranch?

So you Want to Buy a Cattle Ranch?

Cattle ranches are a tried and true operation in the livestock and agriculture industry, intertwined in the history and making of America. Cattle ranching is a popular method of farming due to its efficiency and profitability and can even be done sustainably. Sustainability in the cattle ranching industry can be successful in many different ways, but to maximize the potential, many would agree that grazing management is a key contributor to a profitable and cost-effective operation.

The Importance of Grazing Management

Grazing land is essential to running a sustainable and economical cattle ranch. Pastures are an incredibly valuable resource in the cattle industry. The simple reason being that pasture land provides a renewable food source for the cattle. This can cut costs tremendously if the amount of land can sustain the herd, because rather than having to feed the cattle consistently, they will require feed less often and only need supplemental feeds on occasion.

Cattle grazing can be managed in multiple ways depending on the needs and benefits desired. While each system provides different advantages, most grazing systems recommend rotational grazing in order to maintain the quality of the land and encourage optimal regrowth in the future. This visual from University of Minnesota shows some of the grazing systems and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

What to Consider When Purchasing Grazing Land

When purchasing pasture land for grazing, it is good to keep some considerations in mind. These aspects can be the determining factor of whether or not the land is viable for the size of the desired operation, and also can affect the potential profitability.

Soil Type
Soil type is a big detail to consider when purchasing land used for agriculture in general, but it can be helpful to understand the soil type for the cattle pastures in order to ensure that the pastures will support the kind of growth needed to graze.

Non-Grazeable Land
It is also important to understand how much of the land being inquired about is considered “non-grazeable.” This can be defined anywhere from land that is rocky or steep terrain, or land that is thick brush and is too dense for the livestock to access. Generally speaking, this “non-grazeable” land comes down to a percentage of the land purchased and depending on the desired herd will determine if the land is economically feasible for the ranch’s budget and needs.

Another essential consideration is water availability on the property. Most viable land needs to have water available no more than a mile apart on the property in order to keep happy and healthy livestock. Cattle prefer the area nearest to the water sources, so the land closest will be the most grazed on the property.

Last, but certainly not least important, is the land’s infrastructure. This can be a key detail to consider based on the vision and budget for the future of the operation. Finding land with an already established framework can save time, and save labor and money. A property that has reliable fencing or cattle pens already built can take off a lot of burden in the early stages of development.

Taking the leap into the cattle ranching industry can be extremely rewarding. Grazing land and grazing systems can be one of the most beneficial implementations to achieve a sustainable ranch and maximize the profitability. These considerations can be used to make an informed decision on what land will be the most cost effective for your desired operation.

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About the author

Harvest Returns

Harvest Returns, an online crowdfunding marketplace for agricultural investments that launched in 2017, helps people invest in farmland and other agriculture investments. With as little as $5,000, investors are able to own interests in farms and farmland, timberland, or orchards in different parts of the world, each with their own risk/return profile. Landowners and sophisticated investors are familiar with the benefits of investing in agriculture. Now there are ways for the average American to put a portion of their investment portfolio towards agriculture, arguably, the world’s most important industry.


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  • I am thinking of starting a bison ranch. Perhaps you would entertain articles in this area of ranching. Thank you for all your work! – JC

    • Joseph do you know anything about Bison? you realize they are not a animal that is tame like cattle? They run at 40 miles per hour and the bulls can fight one another fiercely. Before starting one I would seriously learn more about Bison.

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