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.

Visit to Historic Encampment, Wyoming and Half Diamond Horseshoe Ranch

By: Mike Fraley

This summer my family rode along with me to Encampment, Wyoming on the slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains where the beautiful Half Diamond Horseshoe Ranch is located.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time spent in the Saratoga and Encampment area where we visited Saratoga’s Hot Springs, had several great meals and drove through beautiful country.  Being a family of history buffs, one of the best highlights was discovering the rich history of the town that was once known as “Grand Encampment”.

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This area was first discovered by French-Canadian trappers and traders who held rendezvous in the 1830’s at a place they named “Camp le Grand”.  Tribes of Ute, Shoshone, Crow, Arapaho, Cheyenne and Sioux Indians regularly traveled through and hunted the Sierra Madres.  Later, around the 1840’s, a portion of the Cherokee Trail was used by gold-seekers looking for fortune in California.  Lumbering, the Union Pacific Railroad and cattle ranching began bringing settlers to the town of Encampment in the 1860’s and 1870’s. Then thousand head of cattle were reported in the area by the mid-1880’s, utilizing the Cherokee Trail as they trailed into this part of the Wyoming Territory.

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It was copper discovered in the mountains above this quiet settlement that put Encampment on the map and showed promise that the town had the potential of becoming a western industrial stronghold.  Copper was first discovered by George Doane near Battle Lake in the Sierra Madres in the late 1880’s, and sheepherder Ed Haggarty found a vein in 1897 that created a decade-long boom in the area.  Later the Boston & Wyoming Smelter, Power and Light Company began mining in Encampment and created a 16-mile-long aerial tramway to transport ore from the mountains to the smelter.  This tramway was the longest in the world at the time and was considered an engineering marvel as it carried 840 buckets of ore that held as much as 700 pounds each.  In August of 1908, the Saratoga and Encampment Railway reached Encampment from the main Union Pacific line.  This would have been very advantageous as it was the “Only Line to the Great Wyoming Copper Mining District”; however it came too late as copper prices had taken a drastic hit and a series of fires at the smelter caused many of the reported 2,000 residents of Encampment to pack up and leave.  The boom that the mines brought to the area was large enough to “somewhat damage” the state’s entire economy when things went bust.

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In the decades that have followed the area has been sustained by agriculture, mainly cattle and hay production. The John E. Rouse Beef Improvement Center is run by Colorado State University as a research facility to study and improve genetics in cattle that are raised in high elevations.    Saratoga and Encampment are also known for beautiful guest ranches and excellent fishing along the Platte River.  Logging continues to have a strong presence in Encampment as well.  Two of the town’s sources of pride are the Grand Encampment Museum, which was named by Wyoming Travel and Tourism in 2011 as its “Attraction of the Year”, and the renovated Grand Encampment Opera House which has hosted over one hundred years of melodramas that are still enjoyed at least twice a year in Encampment.

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Discovering hidden treasures like the town of Encampment with its rich history and the beauty of the Sierra Madres is one of the many perks that I enjoy as I look at ranch property from one end of the state to the other.

Montana Ranch Owned by Former Metallica Bassist Goes Viral

Our Sula, Montana ranch listing owned by former Metallica bassist and heavy metal icon, Jason Newsted, has been making headlines across the globe for the past week. Cowboys & Indians, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and dozens of other outlets have done stories.

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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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Colorado Farm & Ranch Land Sells for $10.14 Million at Auction

The 8,735± acre Bowen Arrow Farm and Ranch sold at auction on October 19th, fetching a total of $10,140,000.  The property, spread throughout eastern Colorado with 4,470 acres located in Adams County, 1,025± acres in Weld County and 3,240± acres Washington County, was offered in 26 separate tracts. Competitive bidding took place with over 200 people in attendance and 73 registered bidders. Eight buyers purchased tracts for a total sale price of $10.14 million.

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The sale generated interest from 37 different states and six countries. Sale prices ranged from $616 per acre on Washington County grassland to $1,750/ac on Adams County dryland. Smaller 40-acre parcels fetched as high as $2,375/ac before becoming combined with larger offerings. Bidders stayed engaged and active throughout the auction with the largest combination consisting of 3,680± acres prevailing at $1,359/ac. Six of the eight winning bidders were single tract purchasers. Several farmers and ranchers were able to add to existing holdings.

Call Scott Shuman, Head of Hall and Hall Auctions, with questions – 800-829-8747

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Two Montana Ranches Profiled by The Wall Street Journal

A technology entrepreneur is putting his two central Montana cattle ranches on the market for $14.5 million and $14.95 million. The sellers are Bill Cruz and his wife, Patricia. Born in Havana, Mr. Cruz, 56, co-founded a software trading firm, later called TradeStation Group, with his younger brother. The company was sold to Monex Group for $411 million in 2011. Mr. Cruz said he bought an RV and searched the country before buying Eagle Creek Ranch in 2005. Read the full story here.

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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.