Owning and managing rangeland

By Tim Hadley Alc & Kasey Mock Director Keller Williams Land

There are a few different ways to make money owning and managing ranchland we have included a few of the best practices for both absentee owners and managers.


1. Start with a soil test. You will not be able to apply the correct amount of inputs unless you start with a baseline. To much fertilizer is a waste of money and the wrong ph in the soil will reduce you bale tonnage by a great amount. All my leases require the renter to apply fertilizer and lime as recommended by the county extension.


2. Keep records of how many bales you get per field that will let you go back and see if your production is improving or declining. You won’t know that you have a problem without records. This is especially important if you have a tenant this will help you verify best practices are being used because a decline in production raises questions.


3. Paddocks can improve the animal carrying capacity of the land by a great deal. If animals are just turned out on open range the eat the best forage and ignore the less palatable plants. At the same time, they trample areas that often lead to erosion or soil compaction. With a system of paddocks, we can control how long our animals are on a particulate are ensuring even grazing while allowing the rest of the land to grow without pressure from animals. This method will ensure the maximum grass growth because growth is stunted for 2 weeks after it is grazed. This allows the most recover time.


4. Water this is easier in some places than others, but some things are constant. It is rarely the best practice to allow cattle in the pond it destroys water quality and can be dangerous for the young and week members of the herd. Ideally, we will have tanks or troughs that are spread throughout the property to allow for our rotational grazing system. The initial cost is higher, but the investment is usually recouped in a few years not to mention the convenience of being able to just move to a different tank if there is a problem with one allowing us to schedule repairs not force us to fix it as a emergency.


5. Consider goats the first year you acquire a property that has been neglected. They will eat the Russian thistles and some other weeds first while allowing the grass a season for recovery. They are also very helpful in clearing brushy areas that are too overgrown to get a rotary cutter into. Usually all that is needed is one growing season but with there very mild manure there is no risk of nitrogen burn and it will reduce the need for purchasing nitrogen pellets or liquid. Then the area will be in much better condition before we introduce cattle or horses to a new range.



6. The other technique that I have seen used for long term wealth building is hardwood trees. In a system called alley cropping we establish rows of hardwood trees every 80 feet walnut and red oak is a good example.  A simple hot wire protects them when they are young saplings. Soil scientist tell me that having the trees will not reduce the hay production until year 8 to 10 then they will be tall enough that the shade and there size will begin to reduce the hay production on the range. There is a offset in most cases if we follow this plan the timber value at 30 years is greater than the purchase price of the land. This can be a especially lucrative harvest if it is times with the farm owners retirement.