Our blog will help keep you informed about news and information related to the farm, ranch and rural real estate markets. If you share our desire for wide open spaces and investment in the land, we hope you will subscribe, read and discuss the stories we find and develop here. More than just an investment, ranch, farm and rural real estate evokes a type of lifestyle that was born over a century ago and still provides a certain romance and passion for those who embrace the pioneering spirit from those days gone by.

The Booming Industry of Grass-Fed Beef

From West Coast to East Coast and Texas to Minnesota, the local food movement is growing by leaps and bounds every year. One of the rapidly expanding segments of that movement is pasture-raised meats including chickens, pork, lamb, and America’s favorite: BEEF.

Ten years ago the only one talking about grass-fed beef was your weird cousin from Portland. You know, the one who was also raving about craft beer from the local microbrewery. From the lunatic fringe to cutting edge cuisine, grass-fed beef was a $2.5 billion dollar business in 2014 according to Dr. Allen Williams, president of Livestock Management Consultants LLC. While that is still small potatoes compared to the overall US beef industry, grass-fed beef is quickly becoming more than just a small niche market. In most parts of the country, demand currently outstrips the available supply of quality beef coming from America’s millions of acres of pasture and rangeland.

With growing markets come growing opportunities for farmers and ranchers wanting to do something a little different on their place. While grass-fed beef seems to be the general catchall phrase, there are actually different levels of beef quality being produced from pasture and rangeland. The top end product is more accurately referred to as pasture-finished beef. This beef should meet a minimum of USDA High Select grade with the majority of carcasses extending into the Choice grade.


One thing we need be clear on up front.  True pasture-finished beef has received no grain or grain by products whatsoever.

The marbling and fattening is all accomplished with high quality forage. There are some producers who say their beef is ‘finished on pasture’ meaning the cattle are out in a pasture but may be receiving a full feed of grain. From a fat composition and nutritional standpoint, these are two very different products.

Many grass-fed outfits promote their product as being leaner than feedlot beef. If that is the case, the USDA quality grade is likely to be mid-Select or lower. If you have heard that grass-fed beef needs to be cooked differently from conventional beef, this is the product they are talking about. If the beef from pasture grades high Select or better, there is no need to cook pasture-finished beef any differently from grain-finished beef.


What does it take to be able to consistently produce Choice grade beef entirely from pasture? We have three areas we need to focus on regardless of where our ranch is located in the US. The first is having an abundance of high quality forage in our pastures for as long a period of time as possible. Second is having the appropriate type of cattle for your particular forage environment. Third is developing our grazing management practices to consistently achieve high rate of gain.

If you think you can produce the type of beef the market is clamoring for, its time to decide what your business model will be. The business model needs to cover everything from breeding the cow to delivering the meat to the end consumer.

One common approach is the conception-to-consumer model. In this model, you raise the livestock from birth to harvest. The big advantages with this approach are you control the animal genetics, all of the health care aspects of raising the animal, and you know just what it has been fed every day of its life. This is what a lot of consumers trying to reconnect with their food supply really want to know. If you can give them the full story on the life of this piece of beef going to their plate or freezer, that is worth an additional level of premium price.

The downside of this model is cows eat a lot of grass. On a typical conception-to-consumer ranch, over 60% of the forage raised is consumed by the cow herd. When you add in the replacement heifers and the bulls, usually less than 20% of the forage production is actually going into feeding the cattle you are finishing as your value-added product.

If your ranch is large and you are running several hundred or thousands of cows, this in not a big deal. But if your ranch is small and the carrying capacity is only 30 or 50 cows, then the amount of finished beef you can generate is relatively small. There may not be enough income to cover all of your expenses.

Meade Creek Ranch

Another approach is to not own any cows, but buy heavy feeders at the beginning of your high quality pasture season for finishing. This model has some distinct advantages. Number one is all of your forage goes to producing the directly salable finished product. You can generally count on at least three times as much finished beef produced per acre with this finish-only model compared to the conception-to-consumer model. The second big advantage is you don’t have to carry any animals through the winter so there is a huge cost savings there. Lastly, you can buy animals on the commodity market and sell them on the premium market, thus adding value to every pound of your initial purchase. That is something that rarely ever happens in the beef commodity market.

If this is such a good deal, why isn’t everyone doing it? There are some significant challenges to making this model work. The first logistical challenge is being able to buy the right weight of cattle at the time of year you need them. You can overcome this challenge by contract purchasing cattle months in advance of the delivery date. This comes with inherent market risk as with any forward contracting. On the marketing side, you lose your ‘story’. You no longer can claim full-life cycle control of the animal. You can no longer offer your personal guarantee of what the animal has been fed and what medications it has not received. With that loss, a premium level for your product has dropped a notch.

IX_PN Hunt33

Marketing models include everything from just selling quarters, halves, and wholes to individual consumers to providing an entire supermarket chain with your branded product. With each further level of processing and packaging, storage and transportation, and building a branded label there are additional costs added to the enterprise.

Many grass-fed beef outfits have brought their cattle to the packing plant with a profit in hand, but lost everything on the product and marketing side of the business. Others have been able to carry an increasing level of profitability through each added layer of the product chain. It is doubtful that any outfit ever brought their cattle already in the red to the packing plant and turned it into a profitable retail product.

The key to having a successful grass-fed or pasture-finished beef program on your ranch is developing a business model that will work on paper. If it works out on paper, there is a good probability you can develop it into a profitable business. The demand is out there. The opportunities are great. Just be sure you have a solid business plan before you embark on your journey towards creating the best steak in America.

Article by:

Jim Gerrish is an independent grazing lands consultant providing service across the US and internationally. He is an author of two books on ranch management and is a regular columnist for the Stockman Grass-Farmer magazine. Originally from Missouri, he currently lives in the Pahsimeroi Valley in central Idaho but has spoken and taught all over the world. http://www.americangrazinglands.com/


9,000+ Acres of Kansas and Oklahoma Ranchland Head to Auction

Hall and Hall will be auctioning 9,078+/- deeded acres of ranchland in six counties along the Southern Border of Kansas and Northern Border of Oklahoma in four auctions on October 21-22, 2015.  The properties are very diverse, ranging from outstanding grazing land in Meade and Clark counties Kansas, to well-managed recreational land and farmland in Oklahoma.   The four auctions will offer seven tracts and combinations varying in size up to 4,229 acres.  The auctions present an exceptional investment potential. Excellent deer and game bird hunting is also prevalent on many of the tracts. 

“This large Kansas and Oklahoma offering is a perfect combination of  grazing land and hunting land and should attract several types of buyers,” said John Wildin the Kansas/Oklahoma broker for Hall and Hall. “There is something for everyone.”

Inspections dates are set for September 22nd and October 7th.  For more information, contact Hall and Hall Auctions at 800-829-8747 or visit http://hallhall.com/ranches-for-sale/properties/9078-acres.


Cattle Producers Thrive at Superior Livestock Auction “Big Horn Classic” 2015

Hall and Hall Affiliate Superior Livestock Auction held its “Big Horn Classic” video beef cattle sale in Sheridan, Wyoming August 17-20, 2015. Hall and Hall property managers and brokers in attendance included, Mike Fraley (Buffalo, WY), Randy Shelton and Jerome Chvilicek (Billings, MT) and Dave Johnson (Bozeman, MT).

“Prices were slightly off from last year, but sellers, especially feeder calf producers, are still reaping the benefits from an overall strong cattle market,” said Fraley

Over 168,000 head of calves, feeder cattle and breeding stock were offered. Broadcast live from the Sheridan Holiday Inn, the auction had producers from 30 states consign 31% steer calves 0-595 lbs.; 18% heifer calves 375-595 lbs.; 33% feeder steers 525-1050 lbs.; 13% feeder heifers 525-960 lbs. and 5% breeding stock. Cattle sold on contract to deliver immediately through the end of March 2016.

“This sale is most likely the second best payday these producers have ever had,” said Superior Livestock representative, Tony Schiffer.


Farm and Ranch Market Review Summer 2015

Here is a view from the ground in each of our different market regions, delivered by the individuals that are actually doing business there and who are often not impressed by statistics – or at least can give you the real story behind them. They also give you a sense of the mood of the market and where it is headed this year. A lot going on since our last report.


Northern Rockies – Jim Taylor
There has been a marked pick-up in activity and interest in the ranch retreat sector with a number of larger properties with strong recreational amenities in the $10 million to $20 million price range going into contract and/or selling. Essentially additional demand has materialized and prices have moved down creating something of a flexion point where deals are happening. Mid-range retreat properties from $2.5M to $7.5M continue to see increased demand. Buyers are still driving hard bargains and there remains a fair amount of inventory on the market so there has not been any significant price appreciation at this point. Working ranches are in limited supply and remain in demand. We expect prices to continue to strengthen in this sector for all the obvious reasons – high cattle prices and very low inventory.   Possibly as a result of limited sales activity, farmland prices continue to hold up despite weakness in commodities prices. We are anticipating some softness in this area should any significant inventory become available.

Northwest – Roger Dryden
The Northwest Region along with most of California is in the midst of a second or third year of low snow pack and little water. The effect on the market will be to escalate the value of well watered production ranches and farm ground. The down side effect is pressure on the ranches and properties that rely on rain and  or run off to supply water for livestock and late season grass growth. Recreation ranch properties remain in a holding pattern, with sellers looking to adjust prices down to meet the market. Inventory of production ranches is still low and should remain low through the summer and into the fall. Next year will be interesting, as we expect to see sellers evaluate the market with an eye toward the next couple of years with the prospect of a continuing drought. Hunting properties are still in demand when they are in prime Elk and Mule Deer areas with some sort of surface water sources. Investors will continue to find the region a good investment for long term buy and hold strategies in this area should any significant inventory become available.

Southern Rockies – Brian Smith
An exceptionally wet May has lead to a collective sigh of relief and even some longing for a little sunshine.  It was only a few months ago that we were all concerned our light snowpack was melting fast.  We know too well that situation can change quickly.  The Southern Rockies farm and ranch market has been changing much more slowly.  The good news is that it continues to change for the better.  Although the winter months are naturally the slowest time of the year for showings and sales, the activity was higher than we have experienced in quite some time, and has been increasing this spring.  Summer is always the big test, but we feel that improving buyer activity, some very interesting new listings and existing listings with price reductions will lead to a busy selling season.  An outstanding question has been whether we will see much of a decline in buyers from oil producing areas – and the answer so far is no.

The Great Plains – John Wildin
Just in the last 30 days an extraordinary active weather pattern has resulted in a moisture event spread across the central and southern plains that topped out around Memorial Day weekend that all but put a dagger in the four year drought that covered a lot of this area.  In fact Oklahoma recorded the most rainfall ever received in the month of May.  Not only are the rivers and streams revived and many lakes are at peak levels, but the soil moisture has taken a substantial jump.  Lower commodity prices are putting pressure on crop land sales, but with the beef market still near record highs ranch land is in short supply.  With the recent rains helping to green up pastures over a large area it bodes well for a more normal cycle on rebuilding the cow herds.  With our Fed policy maintaining the zero percent interest rates, strong investor pressure on land purchases continues to be felt in the land market, especially for high quality land, whether it is crop land or ranch land.

Southeast – Elliott Davenport
In general, the market is experiencing a modest level of increased activity and it is moderately more vibrant today than six months ago. With that said, the level of increased activity varies widely among more defined markets and property types. Buyers have a very good handle on what they want and properties with unique attributes and lifestyles are garnering the lion share of buyer’s interests – and there is a very respectable amount of demand for these high quality properties. Buyers are still price sensitive and are being thorough in researching market comps and holding close to these price points. Income producing agricultural land has cooled off to a degree. Plenty of buyers still exist for these properties, but at valuations that are more reflective of today’s lower commodity prices.

California – Bill McDavid
The desperately needed rains never arrived with any consistency in California and the state has plunged further into the depths of what is arguably the worst drought in its history. Reduced water availability has severely affected plantings of annual crops and grass is in short supply for cattle operators. This has spawned some hotly contested attempts at regulatory measures. Needless to say, none of this has helped the rural real estate market but it hasn’t killed it either. Demand for true operating ranches cannot be met by a supply that remains sparse. Inversely, buyers of recreational retreats are walking the aisles but don’t seem overly eager to check out. Meanwhile, the residential markets in selected urban areas are white hot.

Texas – Tyler Jacobs
While there is excitement in much of Texas over the recent moisture, much of our region is still suffering from long-term drought. The reality of the new normal in oil prices is evidently bringing minerals to the table to get properties moved.  Perhaps this might be a strategic shift in how properties are marketed for a while. Generally, we consider this market to be limited by supply of quality offerings. Overall, there is some anecdotal evidence that prices might be softening in the southern and rolling plains of Texas, likely stable in the heart of the state and continually stronger in the DFW, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio influenced markets. As is often said, there are 26 million reasons why people buy land in Texas!

Auctions – Scott Shuman
Inventory remains tightly held on quality ranches. If you hear a broker say they have a buyer, they probably aren’t kidding. Many buyers are currently looking. There are also many farmland buyers in the market, but most feel like they should get a good deal given the drop in commodity prices from a year ago.  Real estate auctions remain a very viable option to maximize value for a seller and to allow a buyer to know they have paid market value. Our auctions recently held in Texas (a 1,189 acre ranch and a 5,221 acre ranch) attracted strong interest.  We had over 535 requests for information between the two auctions.

Land Auctions Work – Auction Industry Alive & Well

The auction industry is alive and well. This past spring we witnessed the auction of a Van Gogh painting that was estimated to bring $150 Million; at auction it fetched $179 Million. The world is realizing that auctions work. A real estate property is much like a unique painting, it is one of a kind. Properties that have many potential buyers continue to be outstanding auction candidates.

In 2015, we helped to further showcase our two Texas offices with auctions on two Texas ranches for sale. We were also able to work with our newest auction affiliate (Thuerer Auction and Realty) on an auction project in east central Kansas. We are very positive for the remainder of 2015 with farm prices continuing to remain stable even considering the fall in commodity prices and ranch prices continue very strong.

For more information contact Hall and Hall Auctions. 800.829.8747

Hall & Hall Auctions from Hall and Hall on Vimeo.

Hall and Hall Auction Affiliates and Partner Make Splash at Annual Auction Conference

Hall and Hall Auction Affiliate Spanky Assiter of Assiter Auctioneers in Amarillo, TX was unanimously voted in as President of the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) after serving one year as Vice President.  He was joined by his good friend John Nicholls of Nicholls Auction Marketing in Fredericksburg, VA as he was elected to the office as the next Vice President.

Spanky Assiter

Spanky Assiter of Assiter Auctioneers

John Nicholls

John Nicholls of Nicholls Auction Marketing

Larry Theurer of Theurer Auction/Realty in Wellington, KS was elected to become the President of the National Auctioneers Foundation, the funding and charitable arm of the National Auctioneers Association.


Larry Theurer of Theurer Auction/Realty

In an expected move, Hall and Hall Auction Partner Scott Shuman who is currently serving his final year on the NAA’s Board, has announced that he will be running for Vice President in 2016.

“We have all been very blessed with individual success.  It’s time to give back to the organization that has been so instrumental in guiding us to where we are today,” said Shuman.  ”Hopefully we will be successful in passing on a little of what we have learned to the next generation of Auctioneers.”

The National Auctioneers Association (NAA) is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to professional auctioneers.  The association is dedicated to providing its members with educational programming and resources to help them advance themselves in the auction profession. Members of the NAA abide by a strict Code of Ethics and are connected with an extensive network of auction professionals. As a member of the NAA, auctioneers have access to several benefits developed specifically to help them grow professionally and advance their auction careers and businesses.