A Resilient Affair

By J.T. Holt

Seventy-five years ago, the attitude of people in agriculture very much revolved around “beating” Mother Nature. As times have progressed, this attitude has softened as farmers and ranchers have discovered it is possible to work successfully with Mother Nature. Nevertheless, despite all our best efforts, Mother Nature does have a way of, as my father used to say, “making a Christian out of you.”

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The past twelve to eighteen months have proven this adage to be true.  The major natural disasters we have seen include hurricanes and earthquakes as well as the wildfires that swept across the southern plains and, subsequently, pretty much everywhere else west of the Mississippi. In addition, we have been affected by extreme weather that has caused everything from flooding and blizzards to extreme drought. As we battle this adversity, we hope that with each event we might gain knowledge to prepare for the next round. The following are not happy stories, but they describe how two families survived natural disasters and they are inspirational in many ways.

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The Holloway Cattle Story – Mooreland, Oklahoma

This operation has been impacted by fire three of the last four years.  Ranching 400± cows across more than 11,000± acres in northwest Oklahoma where conditions can be harsh is no easy task.  Mark Holloway stated, “In our operation, the goal is to add as much value to the cattle as we can.  Retaining ownership through the feedlot, in addition to selling bred heifers, is common practice.”  In 2017, fire impacted 4,500± acres causing Holloway to feed nearly 300 head of cattle for ninety days until the grass came on.  Mark indicated the NRCS had a program that would pay $8/acre for delaying grazing on these acres for 120 days, which helped to offset some of the feed cost.  In addition, neighboring ranches shipped in eight loads of hay.  “We did not apply for any further assistance as so many were impacted much more than we were,” Mark added.  The majority of the cattle were moved before the fires swept across their ranch and they lost just ten head. Some of the surviving cattle, however, have lasting issues and will have to be sold this fall. We should also point out that Holloways lost 9,000± acres of grass to fire in 2016 and 1,000± acres in 2015, so fire has been truly devastating to this family.  The positive in all of this is most of the western red cedar that has overtaken a large part of this country has been destroyed, springs have opened back up and begun to run again, and pastures look better than ever.  New practices are being implemented including maintaining a firebreak where the grass will be kept short and cedars kept out of the fence rows. In addition, they will utilize controlled burns as Mother Nature allows.

The Haakma Bros. Dairy Story – Farwell, Texas

“The dairy looked like a war zone after the blizzard conditions,” according to Eric Haakma.  Their 3,600± cow dairy and 1,000± acre irrigated farming operation was significantly impacted by these conditions.  The area was reported to have received 20 inches of snow, but with 50 mph winds for 40-hours straight, who knows how much they received!  They made the best preparations they could with all the cots, food, sleeping bags, and water that could be purchased before the storm hit.  By Saturday afternoon they still had seen no precipitation at all, but Eric asked the employees to stay through the night as he knew they would need help based on the forecast.  By 1:00 a.m. Sunday, it was nearly whiteout conditions. The payloader was stuck in the transfer alley and they could not get it out using another loader.  Through the weekend they fed and milked all that they could, which at the time was about 65 percent of their herd.  They were finally able to get a tunnel dug through the snow so they could get the cows to the parlor to get them milked.  By Monday, three payloaders were working to remove the snow, which took all day.  They have lost 400± head of excellent-quality dairy cows.  Eric stated, “You want to talk about something that makes a guy want to hit his knees and cry.” When asked what he would do differently in preparing, he mentioned they may have tried to move cattle around more, but they would have been guessing on where the snow would accumulate.  They had all seen good snow storms, but not with this kind of wind on top of it.  Some pens had six feet of snow, while others were as dry as if it had never snowed at all.  Eric recalled, “Without our employees, we would have never made it.  They stuck with us throughout and worked right alongside us when they could have easily called it quits.”

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These are just two examples out of so many. As we said before, Mother Nature does have a way of humbling us. Our collective hearts here at Hall and Hall go out to our many friends and clients throughout our region who have suffered through natural disasters of which there seem to be so many these days. These stories will pale in comparison to the stories that will come out after  Maria, Irma, and Harvey. We have nothing but admiration and respect for the manner in which people like the Haakmas and the Holloways have managed to persevere.

Thanksgiving Day and Legacy Ranches

By: Jim Taylor

According to Merriam Webster, the operative definition of the word “legacy” is,  “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”  I was struck by this meaning of the term as I stood to give a toast at our family Thanksgiving celebration.I looked down the table, which for the first time in my 70 plus year lifetime extended the entire length of the room, to see nearly 30 members of our family plus friends spanning 3 generations.

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My parents, gone now for nearly a dozen years, were very much there in spirit as it was the house they built/remodeled when they bought the ranch 70 years ago. I remembered well the many Thanksgivings that we had celebrated with them over the years. I was unfortunately reduced to tears by those memories and was unable to complete what I intended to be an inspirational toast!

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That’s when it really came home to me that legacies are really created by people and passed on to other people. Land and houses often serve as the vehicle in which they are carried and celebrated. It made me realize that the term “legacy ranch” might well be a misnomer because the legacy is really created and passed on by the people who lived there.

When I stood to make the toast I was overwhelmed by the memories of my parents and my siblings and the many Thanksgivings we had shared over the years. It seems to me that we need to think carefully before so loosely using the term “legacy ranch” to describe a property.  Perhaps we simply need to consider more carefully what the legacy of the ranch is or perhaps we should recognize that every ranch has a legacy and that legacy relates to the people who have lived there.

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Farm and Ranch Brokers Get Stuck

By: Bill McDavid

As a farm and ranch broker, it’s inevitable you’re gonna get the truck stuck on occasion. It just goes with the territory. When I first started in the business, I got five flats over the course of three weeks and since it’s been nothing but 10-ply tires for me. Our rigs take a lot of abuse showing remote properties.

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Fifteen years ago, I ended headlong in an irrigation ditch on an uninhabited ranch in Western Montana. It was a long walk to the old barn but I found a rusty “come-along winch” and used a nearby tree to drag it out with a few new battle scars. Last spring I was in California photographing a new listing, Las Piletas Ranch, about three hours north of Los Angeles. I was using the rancher’s side-by-side and was on the far side of the 13,000+ acre ranch where there’s no cell service when it died on me. Dusk was approaching along with a cold, horizontal rain as I realized I had a 10 mile walk out ahead of me.

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Without a doubt, the worst case for me was in the early 2000s when I was in heavy snow, showing the old Wallace Ranch out by Drummond. I ended up axle-deep in a bottomless drift. Fortunately, I had cell service and was able to call a tow truck. Of course, nobody counted on the tow truck getting stuck. But that is exactly what happened. So, the tow truck called another larger tow truck. I have tried to forget how much that episode cost me but I considered myself lucky to avoid frostbite.

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Wildlife Photography on Colorado Ranches

By: Cody Lujan

One of the most attractive attributes of any ranch is its wildlife. From songbirds and quail to white-tailed deer, elk and moose, a diversity of animal life inhabit ranches throughout the country. While experiencing dramatic landscapes and peaceful settings are certainly integral aspects of ranch ownership, photographing the wildlife that resides on one’s own property is truly rewarding.

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Some of the most knowledgeable landowners I’ve met seem to have an impeccable understanding of the wildlife residing on their properties. They know what animals will be where and when they will be there – regardless of the season. Through patient observation and diligent photographic documentation, these individuals have patterned both their resident wild denizens as well the itinerant migrators who may pass through, only utilizing their land for a day or a few weeks. In short, many landowners will agree that wildlife photography is not only an enjoyable aspect of ranch ownership but also an important stewardship tool that enhances the overall understanding of their land and its wild inhabitants.

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My favorite time to photograph wildlife on Colorado ranches for sale comes during a three-week window in the fall. This window of opportunity opens immediately after Colorado’s archery elk and deer season and closes the day before the 1st rifle season. A combination of peak leaf color on aspen trees, cool temperatures, a lack of human activity, and the peak of the elk rut provide the perfect setting for days spent in the pursuit of wildlife photography.

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One of the best days our Colorado ranch broker team recently experienced was at the Ghost Ranch. We were surrounded by bugling elk for nearly an hour before the sun broke over Mount Werner and the Steamboat Ski Resort to our east. With the golden hour of morning light in our laps, we began to call and the elk participated in earnest, with bulls running literally right up to our cameras. After close encounters with a number of elk herds and bugling bulls, we headed back down the mountain to the ranch’s stretch of Yampa River – capping the day with an afternoon of shooting still and drone imagery of fly fishing for trophy trout.

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Factors such as weather, lighting, and the wary nature of wildlife can dictate the level of success one experiences when out on a large ranch with a camera. Colorado partner Jeff Buerger and I spent several days photographing wildlife on the Piedra Valley Ranch during the last week of September. Conditions ranged from warm and sunny to cool and overcast. While we were able to photograph raptors, waterfowl, turkey, and deer throughout the day, our best results were predictably achieved during the first and last hour of each day.

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These “golden hours” typically provide the optimal shooting light for cameras, as well as the best opportunity to locate animals as they transition between bedding zones and feeding, watering, or rutting areas. In addition to capturing excellent photography of the ranch’s abundant animal life, we gained an in-depth knowledge of herd size, feeding and watering habits, roosting and bedding areas, and located areas of the ranch we might have otherwise not discovered, all of which are important details that will be shared with every potential new ranch owner.

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The Role of a Ranch Management Company

By: Justin Bryan

Historically, the most reliable predictor of a successful farm, ranch, or recreational operation is a competent, honest, and qualified management team. This team should have the owner’s interests at heart and possess the attributes necessary to effectively manage the property. In the end, their oversight of the property and relationship with the owner will have profound long-term implications toward the success of the property and ultimately influence those who may desire to purchase it in the future.

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The real pleasure a landowner receives from ownership is obtained when he/she is confident that the property is being properly supervised.  When this occurs, the owner, family, and friends will be able to enjoy it as intended both from the operational and the recreational point of view. The enjoyment of ownership is what we term the “psychic return” and is a significant part of the “return on investment” derived by the landowner. Each landowner has his or her own unique needs – large and small – and matching those with the correct management system is the key to successful property management.

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For the on-site landowner who is consistently present and knowledgeable regarding rural property management, the ability to guide the daily tasks and develop valuable relationships with the staff creates a healthy environment to thrive upon.

In contrast, many rural properties are owned by on-site individuals who lack a real understanding of the unique aspects of rural property management. This can often result in poor overall performance of staff at which point ownership ceases to be enjoyable. A common example of this would be a situation in which the principal managing family member passes away and an inexperienced family member is required to fulfill the duties. Then there are the true absentee landowners. This inherently creates the most challenging situation for staff and owners to communicate clearly. Often the managing director of an absentee-owned property is an estate executor or a successful business person who, although accomplished in their chosen field, lacks knowledge in real-world rural property management. Procuring the right people in place who “ride for the brand” and perform their job as expected can come in a variety of forms to meet the requirements of each type of landowner.

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In terms of management, each type of landowner is afforded a few options regarding administration and on-the-ground labor. Their requirements might involve simply livestock and/or agriculture, or they might involve a mix of livestock, wildlife/fisheries and the maintenance/restoration of buildings. These choices include traditional staffing, farm and ranch team consultants, or a hybrid mix of traditional on-site staff with consultant oversite. Each of these staff options have pros and cons and must be evaluated by landowners whose needs are unique unto themselves. The selection of the system that best fits the owner provides the opportunity for the “return on investment” – either psychic or financial – that is desired.

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Traditional Staffing

It is a unique individual who chooses to be a beneficial source of labor and knowledge on a rural property. Ranch employment is not your average everyday eight-to-five job and, therefore, necessitates a high-level of personal commitment.  Be it a livestock guy or gal, wildlife biologist, or all-around ranch hand, reliable and competent employees are a must. To alleviate poor hiring choices, those individuals who are well-vetted by someone who truly understands what is required on the property and knows the owner’s expectations often have the best opportunity to succeed. These individuals provide a stable platform upon which a property can thrive. The relationships that can be built between an owner and long-term staff are rewarding as both entities work in conjunction to develop the property and see it flourish over time. Staff turnover, when it occurs, can, unfortunately, be the most expensive, stressful, and time-consuming issue in farm and/or ranch ownership causing the enjoyment of ownership to begin to wane.  If and when employees leave, they take with them the comprehension of what is actually required to permit a property to operate efficiently and effectively – from water systems to haying, livestock to bill paying, to hunting operations. Their knowledge of the property derived from a long tenure can be challenging to replace.

Farm and Ranch Team Consultants

Acquiring the services of a rural property management firm is an option available to landowners, especially absentee landowners or estate executors who desire to immediately have in place a proven team focused exclusively on their needs. This independent focus allows the firm to work with and typically mentor the on-site staff, and it allows them to always be part of the solution for the landowner and never part of the problem. A firm such as this can effectively manage the increasingly complex federal and state environmental regulations, changing national and world markets for livestock, crops and timber, critical water and mineral rights issues, and tax considerations on any given property. The firm’s experience with multiple successful operations gives them a high level of current knowledge and practical expertise for these details to be dealt with correctly and in a timely and professional manner. In this situation, the owner/executor is assured that the property is being taken care of properly. In addition, a history of professional management is, without a doubt, a major advantage if and when the decision is made to sell a property.

Hybrid Management

A hybrid management scenario occurs when a landowner desires to have competent staff on-site in combination with supervision expertise from a management firm. This allows for the management company, which has extensive exposure to a diverse array of operations, to provide operational oversight on a broad spectrum of ranching enterprises while the boots on the ground fulfill the daily tasks. A hybrid system is commonly utilized by all three types of landowners who desire to maximize profits and minimize potential headaches.

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Desirable Management Services

  • Budgeting, accounting and bill paying
  • Creation and execution of natural resource development and business plans
  • Asset evaluation including land, equipment, structures, herds, crops, fish, wildlife, and other tangibles such as the human resources available
  • Product sales and marketing services
  • Recruitment and hiring of management level personnel
  • Direct management and/or consultant services to staff
  • Periodic oversight of operations
  • Direct management of deeded properties, leases, and grazing allotments

Such services are most often chosen a la carte per the landowner’s needs. These can be as complex as the cost-benefit analysis of financing farm equipment, restoration of wetlands and/or native grasslands, or habitat mitigation credits. Or as simple as periodic oversight, bill paying and monthly reports or consultation with or mentoring of staff.

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Managing quality rural real estate properties, be it commercial farms or ranches or prime recreational retreats, can be a daunting challenge. This is particularly true for absentee owners, but even full-time resident owners can often benefit from the outside perspective of an experienced farm/ranch management firm. Ultimately such services should ensure that details of the property are being properly taken care of to allow the landowner to fully enjoy his/her property with family, friends, and business associates.

Hall and Hall is one of the few companies that provide management services and the recruitment of management level employees on behalf of landowners across a broad geography and property type. Please feel free to contact one of our offices if we can be of help. It is the stated purpose of our management group to make the ownership of rural land a positive and worry-free experience for our clients.

 

Elk Hunting on Montana Ranches

By: Keith Lenard

September is the cruelest month. The crisp autumn air hearkens nostalgically and golden aspens beckon us to the mountains during still-long days. For the first time this year, the light lengthens and falls softly across the broad Montana river valleys, setting off a riot of glinting sparkles across our pristine trout rivers. Snow dusts the tips of close peaks like whip cream on a sundae. Elk bugle in the high country and majestic herd bulls round up large harems of cows. And the wind just shifted and sent the whole lot running down the mountain.

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It’s not over, you tell yourself. There are plenty more elk in them there hills and you shoulder your pack and go searching for the next magic moment. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to hunt many of our listings during bow season. The Dempsey Creek Ranch and the Hoover Creek timber property are just a few that can be mentioned. In fact, I got my first archery elk on Dempsey Creek, courtesy of the gracious new owners that had just acquired the property to continue their family’s legacy of cattle raising.

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Montana ranches for sale in our current inventory offer a multitude of exceptional properties with abundant, private elk and deer hunting opportunities. In western Montana, the Sula Peak, Warren Peak, Miller Lake and Lone Cypress Ranches each offer exceptional solitude and scenery, not to mention large elk. In central Montana, properties such as the Bull Mountain Ranch, Lippert Gulch and Elk Basin fill the bill. The IX Ranch, a legacy offering that is also rich in cattle-raising history, provides some of the best elk hunting in the world, with a hunt area that offers some of the most coveted permits in Montana. Colorado and Wyoming ranches for sale offer an equally rich and diverse opportunity to purchase your own wildlife nirvana.

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Regardless of whether you’re a hunter or just a wildlife enthusiast that marvels at the seasonal ritual of jousting monster bulls, Rocky Mountain ranches for sale provide a smorgasbord of rural land investment opportunities that will provide you and your family endless memories of sapphire skies, snowy mornings and bugling elk.

I haven’t managed to get my elk so far this bow season. Although I’ve been within 50 yards of elk every single day that I’ve been out, I haven’t managed to close the gap into bowshot range. I guess the cruelty and wonder will continue.

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