Choosing Your Cattle Farm

  1. Fairfarmhand
    When you are just starting out farming, you probably have plenty of ideas of what you want your farm to look like. Images of picket fences, rolling green pastures, white frame houses, and red barns may be going through your mind. However, for most farmers starting out, those visuals will have to remain a fantasy for at least a few years. Most farmers starting out will need to look at the \"bones\" of the land rather than the pretty extras that can be added over time. Here\'s what you should look for when considering property that could be your new cattle farm.

    1. Water

    Water is one of the most important considerations on your farm. Your cows will go through gallons of water in the summer, and they will still need plenty in the winter. If the place you are considering has ponds, streams, creeks, or a spring, that is a big plus.

    City water is okay too, but you should keep in mind that if you plan on watering your livestock from the tap, it can increase your water bill dramatically.

    If there is a well, make sure that it has been tested to be free of pollution or disease. Neither your nor your cows can drink polluted or diseased water. Does the well pump operate correctly? How old is it? How deep is the well? If the well is shallow or the pump inoperable, be sure to keep that in mind as you negotiate. In fact, getting estimates from a well-driller will help you have a better idea of how to bargain with the current owner.

    You may also want to ask about whether the place uses sewer or a septic tank for waste disposal. Well-designed, well-maintained septic tanks are no big deal, but an older tank may need to be replaced.

    2. Pasture

    Cattle need grass. While they do love the comfortable shade of a wood lot in the heat of summer and seek out the shelter of trees in the winter, they need to eat the grasses that grow in open, sunny fields.

    If the property is mostly wooded, you will need to cut trees and bulldoze the ground before you sow grass seed. In other words, the property will need quite a bit of work before your cows can grow fat on the grass of your land.

    Keep in mind that not every green plant is edible and nutritious for cows. While cows will nibble at brambles and shrubs, they need nice grasses and legumes to do well. Additionally, worn-out farmland may grow green plants that have very little nutritional value for the cows. Cows can get very thin with lots of green stuff in their field.

    One way to overhaul the fields is to stock sheep or goats with your cattle. They\'ll eat the plants that your cows can\'t eat, allowing the grass to grow better.

    3. Fences

    A piece of property that is already fenced can be a blessing or a curse. If the fences are in great shape, you will be one step closer to cattle grazing in the fields. If the fences are overgrown and falling down, you will probably want to bulldoze the whole fence line and build a new, strong, straight fence to contain your cows. If the fences are in bad shape you can depend on it that the cows will find that single small hole, usually as you are headed out the door for work.

    4. Deed Restrictions

    In some areas, there may be deed restrictions that limit how many of what kind of animal can be put on a piece of property. Some places restrict you from putting hogs or chickens on your land but allow cattle. Check with the realtor to find out if any restrictions exist that would interfere with your farming dream.

    5. Housing

    Your dream house may stay a distant dream for several years. You may need to build it in stages, so plan accordingly. For instance, you could build a smaller home and add on to it as the family grows and finances allow. Or you could build a larger \"shell\" of a house and complete the unfinished spaces as you can afford it.

    Whatever you do, don\'t depend on your earnings from the farm to build your house right away. It takes many years to build a profitable farm. Because of the massive investment that equipment and animals will be, you will probably be pouring any farm proceeds back into the farm for several years. Plan on working for at least five years on your \"dream farm\" before you see any return on your money.

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