For Sale

Lone Tree Cattle Ranch

$7,900,000 Big Sandy, MT 11,286± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

The Lone Tree Cattle Ranch is huge, productive, scenic, wild and secluded. It’s tens of thousands of acres of native range are accompanied by thousands in productive cropland on flat bench tops. Joining these, the Missouri River Breaks cascade down to join 280 miles and 1.2 million acres of the upper Missouri River in a contiguous complex of designated National Wild and Scenic River, Monument and Wildlife Refuges. This ranch holds a big key to access to adjoining public lands. Together they represent a spectacular array of wildlife, unique geological features, endless recreational opportunities and significant historical values. Included are elk, deer, antelope, sharp-tailed grouse, turkey and Bighorn sheep. Remoteness, peace and solitude are here, one and one-half hour drive to the nearest town.

Just the Facts

  • 35 miles south of Lloyd, 55 miles east of Big Sandy
  • 28,700± total acres, 11,286± deeded
  • 3,775± acres dryland crop mostly in wheat; with some in tame grasses and alfalfa
  • 16,335± acres BLM and 1,080± acres of state grazing leases (1,203 AUM’s)
  • Excellent stock water
  • 10 miles of BLM leased lands fronting along the Missouri River
  • Two small houses, corrals, shops, barns, grain bins, telephone and electricity
  • Elk, mule deer, antelope, sharp-tailed grouse, turkey, Bighorn sheep
  • River fishing


General Description

Generally speaking, the deeded lands are on flat-topped and broad ridges known as benchlands, with some intermixed hills and coulees. Much of the surrounding leased lands are river breaks (ravines and ridges) cascading south and east to the Missouri River. The private deeded lands control access to a good portion of the adjoining BLM lands. 

The majority of the deeded benchlands are located principally on two benches, the Lone Tree and Ragland benches. A large portion of these are in cropland. These are used to produce small grains, primarily wheat, but also improved pasture or hay production in an alfalfa-grass mixture. Their soils are made up of the productive Work clay loam and the Ethridge silty clay loam. The rangeland vegetation is a mixture of native grasses, forbs, sagebrush and Yucca plants with areas of scattered to thick stands of pine trees.

History is alive in this undeveloped part of the world. Portions of the ranch, its different operating units, are still locally known and referenced by the names of the families who homesteaded them. The northern-most unit, located on the Lone Tree Bench, is called the McCracken; the eastern is on Barnard Ridge and is referred to as the Barnard place; the southern is located on the Ragland Bench -- the Ragland unit; and the middle section, overlooking and connecting to the Black Coulee and its BLM allotment, is the Thompson place. 

Broker's Comments

This large and productive Montana ranch is quietly impressive. It is a classic highly diversified Missouri River Breaks ranch that offers a solid livestock operation, good crop production, and amazing wildlife. It adjoins and has relatively private access to a vast complex of wildlife rich public lands in addition to the over 34,000 acres that lie within the ranch boundaries. Ranches like this rarely come up for sale as this is tightly held traditional Montana ranching country. 

Learn about the locale

Location

The ranch is located 35 miles south of the post office at Lloyd. The closest town is 55 miles west at Big Sandy. It is an hour and a half drive on mostly gravel county roads. There is a grass backcountry airstrip nearby the ranch in addition to level fields, straight gravel county roads, and open pastures on the ranch for short-field aircraft. Big Sandy lies 80 miles northeast of Great Falls and 35 miles southwest of Havre on U.S. Highway 87. The nearest regional commercial air service is located in Havre, a two-hour drive from the ranch, and has two daily flights from Billings. Expanded commercial air service is a three-hour drive in Great Falls, which is serviced by Delta, Alaska and United Airlines with multiple daily flights. Private aircraft can also use the Big Sandy public airstrip. It offers a paved and lighted runway of 3,570 feet. 

Locale

The Lone Tree Cattle Ranch is located in north-central Montana between the southern end of the Bear Paw Mountains and the Missouri River. This is pure farming and ranching country dominated by good-sized family operations. The landscape consists of rugged uplands cascading to the river forming fertile flat benchland tops interspersed with partially timbered hillsides, coulees, and steep valleys known as “breaks.” Much of this landscape is federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management interspersed with private and state lands. Most ranches in this area rely on state and federal lands that create a mosaic of ownerships. 

The ranch adjoins a 283-mile, 1.2 million-acre complex of these mixed-ownership breaks. The major portion of the federal lands are designated as being a part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument or the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR).

The BLM lands leased by the ranch lie within the monument. The BLM manages them according to guidelines that include continued livestock grazing – in much the same way as it was managed prior to the “monument” designation. The monument includes public lands adjoining the river for 149 miles. Along the way downriver and eastward, these public lands include the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River, with its fabled White Cliffs section of Lewis and Clark fame, as well as the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge. Continuing eastward it flows into the second largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states – the 900,000-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The CMR basically envelopes Fort Peck Reservoir for the next 134 miles. Fort Peck is the 5th largest manmade lake in the US, with 1,500 miles of shoreline. Recreational opportunity abounds for hunting, hiking, riding, fishing, floating, boating these vast lands and extensive river.

Climate

The ranch lies from 3,200 to 3,600 feet above sea level. Annual precipitation has averaged between 12 and 13 inches over the last 40 years. The growing season is estimated at 120 days. The Western Regional Climate Center published the following statistics for the 1921 to 2005 period for Big Sandy which would be considered to be similar but somewhat milder than that of the ranch. The average daytime high temperature in the hottest month of July is 88 degrees and for the coldest month of December is 28. The average snow depths are under two inches for the snowiest months of winter. 

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

The leased acreage is all rangeland, so the following breakdown is of the deeded acreage only:

  • Dry Cropland - 3,346±
  • Alfalfa Hay - 193±
  • Improved Pasture - 236±
  • Native Rangeland - 7,472±
  • Building Sites - 37±
  • Total - 11,286±

Deeded Acres: 11,286±
Total Acres: 11,286±

Improvements

There are three primary building areas on the ranch. Two have currently habitable houses; two have shops and corrals, and one has a calving barn. All three are supplied with electricity, telephone and well or spring water. Some have taps into a natural gas pipeline. There is even high-speed fiber optic internet service at the Lloyd Road. 

The McCracken house was originally built in 1935 but has since been remodeled. It consists of 1,440± square feet in one-story. It has three bedrooms and one bathroom, Masonite siding, a metal roof and is in fair condition. It is heated by two wood-burning stoves and supplied by well water. The McCracken place also has a shop/machine shed, built in 1977 that is 40’X72’, slant walled and with cement floor. 

The Barnard house was originally built in 1917 but recently and extensively remodeled. It is 1,044± square feet in one-story plus a partial basement. It has hardwood floors, new wooden cabinetry in the kitchen, tile backsplashes and new appliances. Earlier knotty pine wall paneling has been incorporated as accent walls between recently sheet-rocked and painted walls. It is heated by a propane fueled forced-air central heating system and has excellent spring water. It too has a metal roof. Located here too is a cement block shop, insulated, with concrete floor and heated by a wood-burning stove. Also included here is new set of steel and heavy wooden plank corrals. The posts are drill stem with continuous steel panels and gates.

The Ragland place has a shop built in 1991. It is 36’X40’, has a cement floor, and is insulated. There is a Quonset building located here and constructed in 1975. It is 40’X60’ with a cement floor. The metal calving barn was also built in 1991. It is 40’X50’ and has a connected set of wooden pole corrals.

Located mostly at the Ragland, but also in several places on the ranch, are a total 13 metal grain bins. They total 62,000-bu. capacity and have cement floors and some have aerators. 

Water Resources

The domestic water is supplied by wells, with the exception of the McCracken, which has a good spring. The ranch is exceptionally well-watered for livestock. There are wells, springs -- both developed with reservoirs and undeveloped– and direct from the Missouri River, where it is accessible in the less steep areas. There are pipelines with tanks from excellent springs. Several flow 20-30 gpm. One is piped from the Lloyd Road for seven miles to the east, to its seven troughs. This same spring is piped for two miles to the west to serve two troughs. 

Mineral Rights

The ranch owners believe they do not own the majority of the mineral estate underlying the ranch lands. However, 100% of whatever minerals they may own will transfer to the buyer upon sale.

Taxes

Recent real estate taxes on the ranch’s deeded lands were $18,776.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Wildlife Resources

The Lone Tree Cattle Ranch is a wildlife haven. With so much country full of feed, water and protection and with so few people moving around in it, the elk, deer, antelope, upland birds, turkey, lions, black bear and bighorn sheep thrive. Hunting on the ranch has been leased to outfitters and individuals; the hunting is that good. One of the bighorn on the ranch was the ninth largest in the Boone & Crockett record books when harvested.

Deer tags in this hunting district are available over-the-counter. The elk tags are on a drawing basis, with applicable landowner preference. Although not currently planted with trout, the fishing in ranch ponds has been historically impressive. And fishing in the adjoining Missouri River is good for warm-water species, including walleye, sauger, small mouth bass, catfish, and paddlefish. An important asset of the ranch is that much of the massive adjoining BLM land is only accessible through the private deeded lands.  

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

The ranch is currently operated for both cattle grazing and small grain production. Some of the dry cropland is dedicated to raise hay crops. The cropping procedure has utilized chemical summer fallowing on one-half of the grain ground in each year. Yields are generally slightly less than 45 bu/ac winter wheat. In the fall the crop aftermath is grazed. 

One hundred ninety-three acres on the Barnard was planted to an alfalfa-grass mix in 2017. It is used for either hay or as improved pasture depending upon the owner’s choice. On the eastern end of it an additional 253 acres was seeded 15 years ago and still is in improved pasture. The Thompson unit has another 43 acres in improved pasture, also seeded 15 years ago. As currently operated, the grazing of the crop aftermath, improved pasture and native rangeland occurs during summer through early winter. The ranch has historically grazed 400 AU for seven months. This would include cow-calf pairs plus heifers and bulls. The calves are weaned and sold on the ranch. 

As an alternative operating model emphasizing cattle the author estimates that conversion of all of the cropland to additional hay and tame pasture could result in a year-round carrying capacity of upwards of 800 AUs. Contact Hall and Hall for details. 

Leases and Permits

State Leases - 1,080± acres

  • #2546: 49 AUM’s  
  • #8397: 54 AUM’s  
  • 10-year leases with renewal dates of 2028 and 2020 
  • 2019 base rate is $13.10/AUM 

BLM Grazing Leases - 21,976± acres

  • 10 of them totaling 1,478 AUM’s 
  • Lease cost at the 2019 rate of $1.35/AU

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