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Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

Looking to establish a cattle ranch.  I am not looking to do anything to huge but would like to be self sustaining.  Anyone have any recommendations on a location/state?  Any particular areas to stay away from or gravitate too?  Thank you in advance.

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10 Replies
Senior Advisor

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

I would look for a location that annually receives 35"+ precipitation.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

With grass being a function of rainfall, that is excellent advice. I would add, well-drained land, not lowland.

Temperate regions have a longer growing season, so less need for stored hay, which mrans lower input costs.

We are in NC and VA, and have the benefits of both warm and cool season grasses. Your best grass season is going to drive the decision of whether to calve in spring or fall.
Just south of our NC location, most rely on Bermuda grass, which gives heavy summer tonnage, so they calve in spring almost exclusively. In our VA location, fescue is the mainstay, and stockpiling is common. That is a near - total fall calving area.

Right now, we have calves getting nice and slick on annual ryegrass stands in NC. We will have to cut and bale what they can't keep up with, and ditto on the fescue under the cows, which have moved to VA.

You need to look at choice of breeds if you locate in the Southeast, as not all can take the heat...which I think is where the interest in Balancer stock has developed.

Additionally, if cost of land is an issue, forget regions with great crop potential, as the $$$ to establish yourself will be prohibitive. I think anywhere from the central Virginia hills, Kentucky, and similar areas, you will find winters not too long and botter, land maybe still affordable, and some excellent sources of cows and bulls nearby. Alternative feed sources like peanut vines aren't a bad thing to have, too.

Good luck. You will be buying in at record high prices, for animals, land and equipment.
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Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

Thank you so much for the information, this was a great help.  I'm looking at a 2 year plan to get started so hopefully by then I will have a rockin' business plan and the prices for start up might be more reasonable.  I'm not looking to start a giant ranch or anything, but just enough to sustain my family and I without me having to work full time even though I have a great career as a back up.  Just wanting to live a dream Smiley Happy Thank you again!!!

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Senior Advisor

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

What do you mean by sustain your family?  Do you want to be able to afford to send your kidsd to college?  Will other family members contirbute to the supporting the ranch?

Depending on what area of the country you look at, land grant universities have considerable useful information about raising cattle.

There are many kinds of ranching.  One way is New Zealand style rotational grazing, which requires a reliable supply of grass.  At the other extreme is the 40 acres per cow of the high desert.  

Cattle ranching tends to be a hyghly cyclical, somewhat boom and bust business.

 

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Senior Advisor

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

Good luck to you, it's always nice to be able to fulfill one's dreams.  Use these next couple of years to carefully plan your approach.  If you are well prepared hopefully your dream won't become a nightmare.  

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Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

Well, first and foremost I am looking for a home in a location to which I can retire someday.  I currently live in Washington state but not wanting to stay there.  Second off, I have no children or anyone to really support other than myself so I'm not looking for a cash cow no pun intended, but I would like to be able to support my day to day living with doing something I know I would love.  I am a Registered Nurse and so I would always have a back up if the need arises, but I'm sure like other people the daily grind has taken it's toll on me and I want to do something different.  I worked on a ranch the last 7 years or so and have a good working knowledge of what all that entails and am looking to make a go of it if possible.

Senior Advisor

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

I would highly recommend trying to find a local ranch or dairy in your location and see if you could work part time, or even volunteer some of your time to see if you truly will enjoy it.  A little wasted time/effort now is a whole lot cheaper than discovering you don't like something only after you've invested several thousand dollars.

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Highlighted

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

Actually have done that the last 7 years.....so I have a good idea as to what I would be in for Smiley Happy

 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Looking at establishing a cattle ranch, anyone have recommendations on location?

Vthe great thing about being an RN, compared to a lot of professions, is that you can tend to pick up as many or as few shifts as you want in home healthcare, or relief in hospitals, in most markets. I have a good friend and a new acquaintance, both in their seventies, who either just retired, or are in working retirement, for the extras.

We, too, are newly back in beef cattle. Our strength is mostly what Jim mentioned...having a good number of acres in well-established grass. That can be hard to afford, and you honestly need a couple of years to get stands established, before theycan take much grazing pressure.

Then, there is the infrastructure of fencing and watering stations. We had maybe 2/3 of our pastures ( not hayfields, which are additional acres) fenced with underground pipe and freezeproof stations built. Still have another 22 acres of new fall fescue we want to contain and plumb.

We bought a good portable corral system, so we can transport it from farm to farm. Already had adequate trucks and trailers, tractors for moving bales. You can probably buy hay when needed cheaper than you can make your own.

Cows are what old farmers do around our Virginia home farms...keeping their land clean, their hand in. They enjoy the haying and have paid-for equipment, so the costs aren't prohibitive.

The pastures are generally land that is marginal, due to being highly erodible, so not competing for prime crop production. There are enough biosolids management companies doing business out of highly populated cities nearby, to keep soil amendment costs negligible. There is still enough cropping around to keep custom applicators in business, so you can get a pass done for weed control when necessary.

I would not get into a position where I had to rely on grain for feed at all. Mike buys a couple bags of sweet feed once in a while, for baiting this herd, not all of which are trained to rotational grazing yet. The lagging few are catching on, to the open gate being fresh grass.

You may decide to go AI, to tighten up your calving season, and aboid having to work with a bull on your own...you know the drill, I sm sure. There are many decisions to be made, including marketing.
If you have any notions of going the value-added or direct sales routes, you will also want a location not too far from the slaughterhouses that would harvest and package your meat. Some states have a slew of them ( like NC) while others ( like VA) have very few and far between.

Count every mile to market point as $1 you have to sacrifice. If for selling processed meat, double the miles for processing and retrieving, then there are the miles / hours to sales points.

It is a whole pocture, with many parts. We are fortunate that many of them were already in place for us, so we basically added cows and the corral. I don't know how many years and how many $$$ it woukd take to get up to speed from scratch. I'd add that you could try to buy into an operating cattle farm, which would essentially make it a turnkey thing, but $$$$!!!!!!!

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