There are a few different ways to make money owning and managing ranchland. In this article, we have included a few of the best practices for both absentee owners and managers.
- Start with a soil test. You will not be able to apply the correct amount of inputs unless you start with a baseline. Too much fertilizer is a waste of money and the wrong pH in the soil will reduce your bale tonnage by a great amount. All my leases require the renter to apply fertilizer and lime as recommended by the county
- Keep records. Keep records of how many bales you get per field that will let you go back and see if your production is improving or declining. You won’t know that you have a problem without records. This is especially important if you have a tenant. Knowing this information will help you verify best practices are being used because a decline in production raises
- Paddocks. Installing paddocks can improve the animal carrying capacity of the land by a great deal. If animals are just turned out on open range they eat the best forage and ignore the less palatable plants. At the same time, they trample areas that often lead to erosion or soil compaction. With a system of paddocks, we can control how long our animals are on a particulate, ensuring even grazing while allowing the rest of the land to grow without pressure from animals. This method will ensure the maximum grass growth since growth is stunted for two weeks after it is grazed. Using this system, allows the most recovery time.
- Water. Watering is easier in some places than others, but some things are constant. It is rarely the best practice to allow cattle in the pond as it destroys water quality and can be dangerous for the young and weak members of the herd. Ideally, it is good to have tanks or troughs that are spread throughout the property to allow for our rotational grazing system. To do this, the initial cost is higher but the investment is usually recouped in a few years; not to mention the convenience of being able to just move to a different tank if there is a problem with another tank which makes it easier to schedule repairs without forcing us to fix it as an emergency.
- Goats. Consider investing in goats the first year you acquire a property that has been neglected. They will eat the Russian thistles and some other weeds first while allowing the grass a season for recovery. They are also very helpful in clearing brushy areas that are too overgrown to get a rotary cutter into. Usually, all that is needed is one growing season but with their very mild manure there is no risk of nitrogen burn so it will reduce the need for purchasing nitrogen pellets or liquid. Then, the area will be in much better condition before we introduce cattle or horses to a new range.
6. Trees. The other technique that I have seen used for long-term wealth building is hardwood trees. In a system called alley cropping, we establish rows of hardwood trees every 80 feet; walnut and red oak trees make a good example. A simple hot wire can protect them when they are young saplings. Soil scientist tell me that having the trees will not reduce the hay production until year eight to ten when they end up being tall enough that their shade and size will begin to reduce the hay production on the range. There is an offset in most cases, if we follow this plan, the timber value at 30 years is greater than the purchase price of the land. This can be an especially lucrative harvest if its timing aligns with the farm owner’s retirement.
This post is part of the 2019 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.
About the Author: Tim Hadley, ALC, is an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Gladstone, MO. He joined the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2017 and is currently a member of their Future Leaders Committee.
About the Author: Kasey Mock is the Director of KW LAND Division at Keller Williams Realty International. Mock is a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute now serving on their Future Leaders Committee. Make sure to check out his break out session diving further into this topic at the 2018 National Land Conference in Nashville, TN, in March.