Working Ranches

Having dreams about being a cowboy and having your own, working cattle ranch?  

Many of us growing up wanted to be a policeman, fireman or cowboy when we grew up.  Now that we are too old for the first two, maybe it’s time to fulfill the last goal.
What is a working cattle ranch?  Generally speaking, a working cattle ranch has large enough acreage to support a productive heard of cattle, including multiple cross fenced pastures, adequate water to each pasture, improvements that may include a home or two, corrals, loading chutes, calving facilities, water rights,etc.  Some of the more desirable Colorado ranches for sale also have some level of hay production, ideally with good water rights to maximize production with irrigation.

When looking for a Colorado cattle ranch for sale it can be an overwhelming proposition.  What are some of the first considerations?

Location:  So, where do you want your Colorado ranch to be located?  Colorado cattle ranches for sale are in every corner and of the State and at every elevation, up to around 10,000 feet of elevation.   Each part of Colorado possesses its own unique ecosystem for cattle production and, typically, the price per acre is higher for the more scenic mountainous areas.   When considering location, you need to determine if that location will support a herd year around or will you need to move your herd to a winter pasture.  If you keep the herd year around, then you most likely will need to factor in the cost of feeding them hay through the winter.   Or, as mentioned above, grow your own hay for winter feed.

Size:  Some parts of Colorado need 40 acres or more for one AMU (Cow/ calf pair).  So, if you thought 100  head cow/calf operation would be ideal for your plans, in this scenario, you will need at least a 4000 acre ranch.    Many of the of the Colorado ranches for sale have previously acquired grazing leases with the State of Colorado, Bureau of Land Management, or the US Forest Service.  There is a cost for these leases, but it is fairly minimal and greatly adds to the productivity of the operation by increasing the amount of grazing land available by up to several thousand acres in some cases.

Cost: Keep in mind that there are two cost components to buying a Colorado cattle ranch.  First, you have the cost of the ranch itself.  Secondly, you have the cost of the cattle.  These are generally separately priced and when you are negotiating the price of the ranch, you may want to negotiate the cost of the cattle at the same time. .
With the price per acre ranging from $250 per acre in some parts of eastern Colorado to in excess of $5,000 per acre in other parts of the state it can get confusing when trying to evaluate a property.  One method to use is to translate the price to a cost per animal unit.  For example, in the scenario above, a ranch needing 40 acres per AMU (animal unit), at a price of $500 per acre would cost you $20,000 per AMU.  Presently, somewhere in the $10k to $15k per AMU range is considered acceptable.

Operations:  There are a number of different methods used in Colorado to manage a cattle ranch.  
One popular option is to lease the ranch and facilities out to a local rancher looking for additional grazing land to grow his herd.  This option is the least risky and the least profitable.  Generally, you are paid on a per head/ per month basis.
Hiring a ranch manager works well, especially if your ranch is large enough to support 100 + AMUs.   
Depending on the location of the ranch, types of grasses, growing season, and typical winters, you may want to consider having no winter activity or a permanent herd.  By having a yearling operation, you bring the yearlings on in the spring and sell them off in the fall.  You need fewer resources to manage the operation and you eliminate the challenges of spring calving and winter feeding.

The purpose of this article is to introduce our buyers to a few of the many considerations when looking for a Colorado ranch for sale.

Please Contact Us to learn more about buying a cattle ranch in Colorado.