So you bought your
ranch, now what? On the surface ranching looks very
simple, when in fact, ranching is one of the more challenging and complex
businesses in the world. I believe
it is also one of the most rewarding and fascinating. The first decision you must make
is are you going to manage the land as a grass ranch or a cattle ranch? What?? Simply,
there are two general ways to look at ranch management.
One approach will have your main goal as
increasing the health of the grasses, water, and soils. For our purpose, we will call this
“Grass Ranching”. This is normally
done through the use of large herbivores such as cattle, sheep, buffalo or,
God forbid, goats to manipulate the land to increase the health of the
land. In this form of ranching, the
inputs and management are driven to the land with the herbivores being viewed as
more of a means to an end. What about
Wildlife will impact the land too, but we can’t control their movements, so
we end up using domestic livestock to move to a landscape that is beneficial to
The general line of thought is that animals and plants all evolved
together. An endless cycle, that
has evolved over the millennia, of the plants supporting animals and in return
the animals supporting the plants gives us the landscape that is Montana If this were not true, then both
the plants and animals would have become extinct long ago.
Grass Ranching does not mean you will not manage for animal health or
performance, it just means the focus is on the land. These types of operations usually have
less improvements and less overhead.
The cattle are managed to fit the land and once the cattle have used the
production of the land and keep the land healthy they have served their
The other method,“Cattle Ranching”, has the focus on the cattle part of the
operation. These operations are
also concerned with the land but the focus is more on the cattle end. These types of operations will have more
investment in improvements and a higher overhead because they are calving
earlier in the year and feeding more to get better gain on the cattle. In a way, the land is seen as a
requirement to have cattle.
What if you don’t want livestock
on your land? The landscape of
Montana has evolved over thousands of years with some sort of cloven-hoofed
animals on the landscape. Good luck
trying to change that. If your
goals are more along the lines of a Recreational or Retreat type ranch and do
not include livestock, I can help manage your property with a livestock rancher
or explore other means to achieve your land goals.
It is best to
know before you get into it than after.
If you want more info on the management
of your ranch, Contact