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The relationship between ranchland and its landowner is one of America’s oldest love stories, complete with romance, reward, heartache, hard work and unending commitment to living a life on the land. Ranch ownership offers plenty of allure, but before you purchase your own ranch property, it’s imperative to create a comprehensive ranch management plan to ensure healthy land, profitable seasons and longevity.
Start by specifically defining the Ranch’s land use and general purpose. Do you dream of raising commercial cattle? Or is your ranch intended for your family’s sustainable living only, offering a collective means of living off the land?
Before you purchase your dream ranch property, it’s important to clarify what you want to do with it. This guiding philosophy provides a road (or trail) map for ranch operations, management, marketing, upkeep and profitability.
These can be the land itself. From pastures to quality soil and natural water sources – your livestock and other animals, and the people who manage the property.
It’s important to understand the unique aspects of your ranch and enhance them over time with special attention paid to natural resource management, proper equipment maintenance and providing a fun, engaging work environment for ranch managers.
Treating your ranch like a business is important to its long-term viability & sustainability.
Determine your goals and objectives. Establish key performance indicators you can track from season to season. Then revisit the plan frequently throughout the year.
Understand your soils, water sources, forages and potential for erosion to ensure your pastures remain productive and your cattle are happy.
Ranches are most productive when every element of them work in harmony – and this is certainly the case with cattle and the land.
Things to consider are which types of cows are best for your land, how you will keep them healthy and well nourished, and how they’ve been bred or if you will breed them.
Toss the shoebox full of old receipts and invest in proper bookkeeping software. You’ll want to keep track of revenue streams, spending, employee wages, invoicing and profits and losses. Being diligent about your bookkeeping throughout the year is an important way to ensure you’re working toward your ranch’s mission statement and it will save you time, energy and headaches come tax season. It’s also worth noting that profitable ranches are much more likely to be passed down from one generation to the next, ensuring their legacy in your family’s history.
Is it family-owned and operated? Do you focus on raising organic cattle or does your ranch support speciality breeds? Establishing your ranch’s unique aspects and competitive advantages is elemental to a successful marketing plan. From there, consider how you want to communicate that message. These days, effective marketing can range from sponsorship opportunities at your local livestock auction to highly targeted social media advertising.
Happy employees stick around. It’s important to create a fun and inviting work environment for your ranch management team.
Ultimately, ranches are complex living entities at the cross-section of humans, animals and nature. It’s important to learn your ranch inside and out. Continually look for ways to improve soil and water sources. Stay up-to-date on emerging ranch and farm technologies and equipment. Tap into local scientists and land managers to better understand the environment around you. Then apply your learnings to your ranch management plan.
Owning your own ranch can be a dream realized. It offers an incredible amount of freedom and responsibility, independence and teamwork and an undeniable connection to the land.