What Is Needed to Start Up a Cattle Ranch?

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Raising cows is a dream for many Americans.
Raising cows is a dream for many Americans. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Running your own cattle ranch provides the opportunity for you to work in the great outdoors and be your own boss. However, cattle ranching is a business and starting a ranch takes planning. Determine if and how you can address each element of your plan before you start your ranch, as well as how you will manage your ranch once it is operational. While many factors must be considered in starting your ranch, some basic considerations are essential to every prospective cattle rancher’s plan.

Land

Land is a vital factor in starting your cattle ranch. When selecting land for your ranch, you will need land that has grass for grazing, water in the form of a pond or lake so that your cattle can drink and fenced in locations on the land where you can collect your cattle together. Good land must also have shaded areas where your cattle can be protected from excessive sun, as well as a barn where you can store feed and other necessary supplies to care for your cattle.

Security

You must create a secure environment for your cattle. Fencing on your ranch is essential for ensuring that your herd stays on your property and prevents your cows from wondering off into another person’s pasture or straying onto a busy road. You may also want to invest in one or more dogs that will serve as watchdogs for the cattle and your property. This is important if, for example, your area is prone to wild hogs, coyotes or other creatures that could potentially injure or kill your cattle. Additionally, you will need horses to aid you in maintaining security on your ranch. Horses are needed to herd your cows, gather strays and travel to locations that cannot otherwise be reached with a vehicle on your property.

Cattle

You must determine what type of cattle you want to raise. For example, determine if you will be selling your cattle for food, or if you want to operate a dairy farm. Beef cattle alone are produced for a variety of purposes, such as seedstock, feedlot, meat packing and commercial cattle. Therefore, in addition to determining the type of cattle ranch you want to operate, you must also consider what the cattle will be produced for and the costs associated with that type of operation. The costs connected to the type of cattle raised will vary, depending on your particular operation and the number of cattle that you have. In general, raising beef cattle is less costly than raising dairy cows if you have a large operation. However, feed costs, animal illness and local markets may alter your particular reality.

Equipment

Many types of equipment are needed to start a cattle ranch. For example, a tractor is necessary to haul feed and hay, while a baler may be necessary if you plan to harvest your own hay crops to feed your cows. Branding irons to mark your cattle, ropes to catch your cattle, feed troughs to provide grain for your cattle and watering troughs to provide man-made watering areas for your cows are common types of equipment that you may need.

Cash

Operating a cattle ranch requires money. This does not only mean money to purchase the essential elements needed for your ranch, such as land and cows. It also means that money is a constant necessity for the day-to-day operation of your ranch. On any given day, you, as the rancher, may need to call a veterinarian if a cow has a health issue, or perhaps purchase a special tool to conduct repairs on your property. Because unforeseen issues are consistently part of the operation of a cattle ranch, cash is one start up must-have to ensure continued operation. The amount of cash that you will need on hand depends on the size of your herd and your particular operation as well as how long it will be until you are due to make a profit from your operation. No less than a few thousand dollars a month should be part of your operational cash.

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