Charlie Russel Painting

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?  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?

Bear Paw Bulls

             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 wildlife. 

             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 purpose.

Bear Paw Yearlings

              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. 

Charlie Russel Sketch


 If you want more info on the management of your ranch, Contact Robert.

Related Links 

 Grass Farmer

Ranching For Profit

Holistic Management