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Is it still possible to get into ranching?

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CSB

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Hello all,

I've been thinking a lot about ranching recently, and being someone who enjoys lots of work and solitude, I feel it would be an ideal occupation for me in time. However, I don't come from a wealthy family and though I have a couple streams of income than can produce $70,000+ per year, I fear that I'll never have an opportunity to make ranching a full time profession with land prices the way they are. With that being said, I have some questions for you.

I know some ranchers lease land from BLM. It's none of my business so I don't ask them what is costs, but does anyone here know how much it would cost to lease land for a year? Obviously it varies based on many factors, but a ballpark figure would be nice.

Excluding land costs, approximately how much would it cost to start a five head operation? I don't have a truck, trailer, or horse but I already have a cost figured on those and I also own two ATV's. Essentially I'd like to start off small and as my skills and income increase I would progress towards a full-time operation.

Can I spend my weekends working my operation and still work my day job during the week? Right now I live and work in a metropolitan area and it just wouldn't be possible to tend to the cattle more than a couple of days per week. Obviously I'd be sure they have adequate feed and water, what else would I have to do to ensure their well-being when I'm not there?

Are there any good books, magazines, etc. on ranching? I know there is material out there but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the good stuff and the not so good.

What are the most important skills that I'd need to survive my first year? I'm not planning on getting involved yet, but I would like to digest as much information as possible.

If any of these questions are unclear or just too vague please let me know. Thank you for your time and sorry if these questions have been asked before
 

leanin' H

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Welcome CSB! :D Yes, it's possible but it's not really easy. If you are starting from scratch experience wise you are really behind the 8 ball. I'd suggest working on a ranch to get your feet wet before jumping in on your own. Or find somebody in your area who'll let you help for free. You'll get to see ranching up close and personal without the risk of writing a check. They'll get some willing extra labor! :wink: But while ranching isn't brain surgery, it is very, very work intensive at times and can be dangerous to you and the livestock. I am living proof you can run cows and have a full time job or possibly three! :wink: But you will have to set aside time to brand, doctor, calve, feed, water, ship and various other projects. Even when the day job has ya exhausted. PM me if you don't understand any of the stuff i've said as most of the time i usually cinfuse myself! :D Again, WELCOME to ranchers and what part of the "west" do ya hail from?
 

Sundancer

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Let's see.....five head, buying land, and $70,000 outside income.....Hmmm........Oh yeah, it won't work. I suggest you do some more reading and research. Whatever you do, don't let that 70,000 get away from you.
 

Justin

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for the most part, i agree with H. go out and get your feet wet, i mean really wet :wink: and then decide. and like Sundancer said, keep a hold, i mean a good hold :wink: of the 70k job(s) H said ranching isn't brain surgery, true.....but at the same time, you best have your sh!t together and a good head on your shoulders to start from scratch and expect to make it. i'm not sure whether to tell you to go for it or forget it :? :???:
 

Clarencen

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I have been in this business for 55 years. I have ran up to 400 brood cows , some years I kept their calves and ran them to yearlings. I have never had $70,000 annual net income, not ever.

Five cows, What the heck, give it a try. Even with little experience you might have a 80% calf crop. 4 head. If you can sell them for $700, that's $2800 gross. Do you think it will work? What you will learn might be worth it.
 

gcreekrch

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Clarencen said:
I have been in this business for 55 years. I have ran up to 400 brood cows , some years I kept their calves and ran them to yearlings. I have never had $70,000 annual net income, not ever.

Five cows, What the heck, give it a try. Even with little experience you might have a 80% calf crop. 4 head. If you can sell them for $700, that's $2800 gross. Do you think it will work? What you will learn might be worth it.

Well said Clarencen, we started from scratch 30 years ago and we're still scratchin'. :wink:
Both of us were raised in the beef sector though. Don't know if that is better than having a 70K income to learn with or not. :D
 

HAY MAKER

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Possible,but not probable unless you are willing to trade your 70k per anum for 7K.
good luck
 

Justin

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awhile back someone made the comment that they started out with nothing and still have most of it... it wasn't my quote, but it does apply :?
 
A

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I have to agree with the rest of them- a lot of operations now are operating on "old money"- income made by them- or their parents back in the days when agriculture/cattle/wheat actually was profitable--or if they expanded enough to keep it profitable- investor money that could disappear at any time/and has been.........

If you're a young guy starting from scratch the best way is to go out and find a rich wife and/or as I tell the local young guys a wife who is a tribal member who can get the cheap tribal leases..... :wink:
 

rancherfred

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There are so many variables to address that it is hard to know what to suggest to pursue first. I think the post was right suggesting you get some experience actually working on a ranch. The nostalgic romance of the solitary life of the rancher is something that obscures a lot of hard, back breaking labor. It is a life that most of us here have chosen for ourselves, but I think a big portion of the folks that post here were also raised in agriculture so they went into it with eyes wide open.

We just weaned calves two weeks ago. Three days ago I was rousted out of bed before the sun came up with a call from the county communications center (911) that we had calves on the road and one of them had been hit. Turns out that I hadn't had a calf hit, he was just lame. But nevertheless I was out early enough I couldn't hardly see the calves trying to gather things back up before one did get hit. Something spooked them during the night and they all hit the fence at the same time. This is just one small example of the things we deal with on a daily basis.

You will have to learn range management, financial management, herd health management, nutritional management, sire selection, etc., etc....I guess what I am trying to get at is that this isn't something that you can learn by reading a website, magazine, or book. You have to have an awful lot of on the job training.

As to just hard numbers, it all depends on the area that you are running in. Our area has rent for pairs somewhere around $20/month. That could run for as much as six months, and then it really starts getting expensive if you have to buy feed and other supplements. If you have crop stover available to graze after the calves are weaned your wintering costs can be significantly lower. Last year we payed around $12/ac for corn stalks. That significantly cheapens our winter feed costs. If you have to supplement protein or mineral you are adding even more costs. For a complete calf vaccination program you will be looking at somewhere around $7/hd depending on which brands you use. Then you need to look at bull costs. If you AI you can lower your bull costs, but you will have to pay closer attention to the cows during breeding season. Now here is the kicker, after pouring all of that money into the calves, this fall you could have sold them for somewhere between $5-600/hd for a 5wt calf. On five head of cows your costs are going to be substantially higher because you will be purchasing all of your input costs in such small quantities that you will be hammered on price.

I guess I am trying to discourage you from leaping. Step away from the edge....Keep your job and try to find a ranch that you can work spring calving on. If you can handle February or March calving that will begin to give you an idea if you can possibly handle making a living at ranching. Don't get me wrong, we love our job or we wouldn't be doing it, but for someone with little or no experience in this lifestyle it is nearly impossible to comprehend what our days are actually like.
 

Broke Cowboy

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From scratch?

Away from the place for the majority of the time?

Only $70,000 income?

Let me see:

The banks will not touch you - if they do your money will not carry the load unless you are renting / leasing.

Do not know anything so the risk is too high.

Work for someone? Yup - if you can find someone who will let you work on your schedule so you can keep your real income from your real job.

All in all - the answer from a pure business perspective - and it is a business - is no.

So - find a rich widow who owns a ranch, marry a pretty girl who will inherit or sell dope on the side (sarcaasm)

Hate to tell you this - despite the dreamy thoughts of many - you are priced out of the market as anything but a hobby guy - and that means it will cost you money for the most part when you have your five cows on that little lot of land.

I have no problem with someone spending money on a hobby - but would you willingly invest in a losing operation that you would not likely recover the intial cost in your life time?

Now-a-days there is not a lot of opportunity for those who are willing to work their way towards ownership - unfortunately it is all based upon money - if you can find a work to ownership situation grab it immediately.

The books have been listed and there are many more that a simple search will give you - to invest and walk away is a bit foolish - I do not believe it is wise to invest money in something physical that can be removed, damaged or needs supervision when you cannot keep an eye on it for more than a day or two a week.

Personally I say - "Keep your cash in your jeans."

Old money and long term families is where it is at. They have you beat out. Thos old folks in rusted out trucks are millionaires if they sell - no more $70K ranches.

Any business case will show you all the above. And if you sit down to actually produce one you will see what I am talking about.

So buy the lottery tickets and keep on dreaming.

Regards

BC
 

little bow rancher

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5 cows is a start , there's alot of people that start with that , you could work for someone else and learn from all there mistakes , I guess if like making a small income and paying alot of bills and you could read lots and I mean lots till your eyes hurt and find out that it won't work for you , it boils down to heart lots and lots of heart , have the pride to stand through the thick of it and still smile after its all done , keep it simple, find the good in everything and always remember the fastest way to work a cow is at a walk. good luck
 

TWOROPES

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I have seen peaple in your situation get into the cattle biz by partnering with one or more others who are already in the biz or who are knwlegeable about it. I know of a successfull operation in west texas owned by three guys, all of which have outside jobs. They split all costs and profits three ways, all work on there days off holidays etc. Two of the three were knowlegeable about cattle before the partnership-investment began. In a deal like this there has to be alot of trust among the partners or it wont work. This operation is run 100 percent on leased land, they run mexican steers (no mama cows) and take hunters in the winter. Remember there are alot of other avenues in ranching besides the cow-calf deal. I have a buddy that makes ALOT more profit from a 300 acre (leased) preconditioning yard than alot of multi thousand acre cow outfits in our area. Invest in a cattle deal, what you can afford, with someone you trust, put in the hours you can to learn the ins and outs. If you dont like long hours, sweating, freezing,bleeding, do something else. Just my opinion.
 

WyomingRancher

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Maybe keep your $70k job, and use the cattle business as a tax write off. That seems to be the optimal situation to me :wink: :D .
 

Denny

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TWOROPES said:
I have seen peaple in your situation get into the cattle biz by partnering with one or more others who are already in the biz or who are knwlegeable about it. I know of a successfull operation in west texas owned by three guys, all of which have outside jobs. They split all costs and profits three ways, all work on there days off holidays etc. Two of the three were knowlegeable about cattle before the partnership-investment began. In a deal like this there has to be alot of trust among the partners or it wont work. This operation is run 100 percent on leased land, they run mexican steers (no mama cows) and take hunters in the winter. Remember there are alot of other avenues in ranching besides the cow-calf deal. I have a buddy that makes ALOT more profit from a 300 acre (leased) preconditioning yard than alot of multi thousand acre cow outfits in our area. Invest in a cattle deal, what you can afford, with someone you trust, put in the hours you can to learn the ins and outs. If you dont like long hours, sweating, freezing,bleeding, do something else. Just my opinion.



I like this post no negative feedback. I'm one who believes in a free country anything is possible. 5 cows or 500 your doing something 5 cows maybe all your really wanting or needing I'd give it a whirl. Of course being married to a nurse helps here. Good luck to you.

The stocker deal with an automatic waterer and some accuration maybe an avenue to look into also.
 

DejaVu

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What is the glamor that attracts people to ranching? The hat? A pickup with a dog in the back? A new aluminum trailer? Boots & jeans? A cool look?
It's such an insult. Is ranching considered such a menial occupation that anyone can do it by just buying cows and renting grass? I don't want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a nurse or whatever. I have respect for those professions and the intelligence to know what I can do and do not want to do. We have a local doctor who is close to retiring. Know what he wants to do?....become a cowboy.. for God's sake. Admiration is one thing, but to think you can just wake up one morning and want to be a rancher or a cowboy, how demeaning this is to those of us who are and have been our entire lives. Apparently, money can make you whatever you want to be.
Stepping down off one of my Pet Peeve soap boxes.
 

rancherfred

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DejaVu said:
What is the glamor that attracts people to ranching? The hat? A pickup with a dog in the back? A new aluminum trailer? Boots & jeans? A cool look?
It's such an insult. Is ranching considered such a menial occupation that anyone can do it by just buying cows and renting grass? I don't want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a nurse or whatever. I have respect for those professions and the intelligence to know what I can do and do not want to do. We have a local doctor who is close to retiring. Know what he wants to do?....become a cowboy.. for God's sake. Admiration is one thing, but to think you can just wake up one morning and want to be a rancher or a cowboy, how demeaning this is to those of us who are and have been our entire lives. Apparently, money can make you whatever you want to be.
Stepping down off one of my Pet Peeve soap boxes.

Amen! I am 31 years old and was raised on a farm and ranch, yet I am still learning how to handle cattle. Perhaps it ought to be a compliment to us that we make it look so easy that everyone thinks they can do it.
 

Hay Feeder

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Since I was a kid everyone told me there was no way I could get into Ranching. I am saying the same thing today.

Every effort for several of us our entire lives have been the cattle. Thats all I have in life is the cattle thats it ...a pickup. trailer, pannels, chute, feed bunks and fence strechers thats it.

The answer is you have to have the land, labor and capital.
LAND and a place to put them is the highest and first on the list if one does not have a reliable place and secure place to put them just as well raise rabbits.

The sad deal for many here. The people that rasie these cattle and hope to get the big price and weight and the few that have raised in their herds.
Is when that extras good calves get pulled out and put on a load of cattle of the same weight and those cattle are lost in the shuffel from then on. Then they are just cattle no more no less.

A few weeks ago a middle age family had to sell all of their cows were setting behind me. Everyone in the family came to the cow auction. When the herd was split out one two or three at a time I could hear one of them sigh sinff etc. Then their favorte ol horrney came in they all started crying. The auctioneer asked them to go down and get their check and everything would be ok. Those cows were those peoples life kinda like family to them. :cry:
 

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