Question for Villard Ranch
Submitter Question: Greetings. You talk about fencing being part of your typical workday. Excuse the silly question but once you put up a fence doesnt it stay put? Or is there more to this fencing? Thanks for the answer.
Answer: Thanks for the question..not at all silly, by the way!
Fences do require maintenance and repairs. Some fences can be damaged by falling trees and migrating deer and elk herds. When the animals jump a fence they can snag and break wires and sections of fences. Some fences are damaged in natural land slide areas as well. We use cross fencing in many of our pastures to break up larger pastures and make better use of pasture rotation. In the higher elevations (6400-8400ft) we use a lot of lay-down fencing. When we move to the higher pastures all of the fence needs to be put up and when we are moving down, we go around those areas putting the fence down again. This helps to minimize wild game damage from the deer and elk herds migrating through, as well as the damage from the large amounts of snow in the high country that can push a fence down. Sometimes the fence is just old and needs to be replaced. With a lot of fencing on the whole place it is a never ending process since you can never possibly get to all of the fence each year to replace old sections etc.
"Just, Meyer, please."
You also have temporary fence. We put a single strand of electric around our corn stalks in the fall so that we can run the cows on it in winter. The cows eat the leaves, stalks, and the ears that the combine dropped. It cleans up the field a bit, prevents a lot of "volunteer" corn, and we have to feed less hay. If we were to build a permanent fence it would take more time to maintain it and keep the weeds out than it does to put it up and take it down each year.
Question for Villard Ranch
QUESTION: What does (education and financially) it take to start a ranch? -- Kyle H.
ANSWER: Thanks for the interest Kyle...the US could use more farms & ranches!
The main hurdle in starting a ranch is the overheads involved. There are so many variables in a ranching operation...from what type of animals you would raise, for what purpose and where!
Things you may need to have are:
Land - the land could be purchased which in most cases make the debt associated too high to service with the income from the enterprise. You could also lease the land...the payment is still there for land but would be considerably less initial investment and there are some pretty creative ways to leverage the acreage that you may need to get into a ranching business.
Livestock - since you asked about ranching we'll assume you are interested in raising livestock! (Farming = raising crops v.s. Ranching = raising livestock.....um, does raising crops and livestock make you a Francher or a Rarmer...I digress
To start from scratch in the business you would need to purchase the livestock (again leasing or custom grazing is an option). You would want to determine what type of livestock you would want and why? Is it the current price of a certain type? Is it what the land would best accommodate? Is it a mix of those? What are you raising them for? (Fiber/Meat/Breeding Stock/Weed mitigation..etc). There are many other variables there too. You may come across a sweet deal on land in which your livestock operation is a benefit to the land owner in a leased situation at which time you would need to consider those needs when making a sustainable business plan.
Equipment - at the minimum with any kind of livestock, transportation will be a consideration...a good truck and trailer is a must. You can get by by contracting out the majority of your transportation but there are those times when you need to get a sick animal to a vet...a horse to the location that you are moving stock (especially if you are on a rotational grazing system and are moving a mob of animals frequently!). Other equipment could be corral panels, squeeze chutes, loading chutes, fencing, water troughs, feed tubs, vet supplies, and there can be many other items depending on how specialized you get with what you are raising and why.
If you are going to plant and harvest any crops, even if it only hay for your own use, you will get into equipment expenses for tractors, swathers, balers, stackers, or even more specialized and very expensive equiptment...and then the repairs and maintenance add up too.
Education - As far as the education requirements to start a ranch...there aren't any real standards for that...but I would suggest a good business course, accounting, and an animal husbandry class that covers whatever you decide to raise. You could save yourself a lot of maintenance costs if you take some specialized classes to assist you in taking on more of the duties too. Such as a farrier course if you plan to have a lot of horses around, shearing courses if you are raising for fiber, butchering courses if you plan to do your own harvest & processing, animal sciences courses, welding, mechanics, and so on.... Of course, years of practical experience around an operation will give you a "Jack of all trades, Master of None" education in almost every aspect of the business.
Keep in mind it never hurts to have a good friend you can call for advice, a trusty steed and a great dog!
Just to give you a very general idea of what the dollars involved could look like...say you had an opportunity to purchase a 3,000 acre grass ranch with a high desert climate (good water throughout...I'll save you some money right away on hauling water!) raising sheep primarily for meat, you wanted to start with pregnant running age ewes tomorrow that would lamb in May. Say you had a good truck, could borrow the neighbors trailer, horse and corrals and you were not going to put up any hay (ugh..add winter feed costs to your overhead). If you figured one acre would feed 5 sheep a day and you plan to sell all of the lambs...you would need to graze the ewes year round (winter pastures could be another cost involved in a year round operation depending on climate) and account for doubling your herd for about four months until you sell your lamb crop you could probably get away with 4-500 head of ewes. Keep in mind this is a super simple example just to give you an idea how hard it is to pay the initial overheads to get into the business...this is not counting incidentals, feed and veterinary expenses, etc...which all add up...way up!
3,000 acre ranch at market prices of $600/acre = $1,8000,000.00 (ps...if I could find it as cheap as $600/acre I would buy more )
500 head pregnant ewes at $450/hd = $225,000.00
Your initial investment would be $2,025,000.00
Say you have a great year...your death loss is only 5% ewes (now 475!) and you average 135% lamb crop (642..it was a good year..I rounded UP!)
Good wool Crop 475 ewes at 8#/fleece at $1.60/lb = $6,080 less $2.35/hd machine hire to shear = $1,116.25 TOTAL IN $4963.75 for 3,800lbs of wool
Good lamb crop 642 averaging 93# at shipping for $2.00/lb =$119,412.00 less machine hire for 2 semis to haul them to market =$2,400 (using our average for freight!) TOTAL IN $117,012.00 for 59,706lbs of lamb (again..simple example..not counting checkoff expenses and others)
Your total income for the year would be $121,975.75 not counting ANY other expenses...vet medicine, fuel, feed, repairs, etc. (Overheads = Land, Labor, Equipment & associated costs)
If you didn't pay anything else and there was no interest on your loan it would only take you nearly 17 years at that rate to pay off the initial debt. IF the market stayed the same, you had no death loss, no predator loss, NO extra expenses, you know all of the IMPOSSIBLE things that would have to happen to keep you at that level for the 17 years!
Oh..and I forgot...the reason you got into the business in the first place...to make a living!!! Figure in your wages and it all goes downhill from there...no wonder there is a saying that behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town!
That is not to say it can't be done...there are some really creative ways to accomplish what it takes some ranchers a lifetime...or several lifetimes in a multi generational operation...to accomplish. But the reality is...finding and acquiring land to start a ranching operation is very difficult and costly.
If you have your eye on a place or are serious about getting started we would be more than happy to visit with you more a little more one on one to drill down your specific situation and creative opportunities that you may not have thought of to get you into a business that we really could use more operators in!
Thanks again for the interest!
Melody Villard - Villard Ranch