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The Modern Ranch Industry


Since the latter days of the 20th century, the global economy has changed monumentally. Economic dominance is now driven by the collection, storage and interpretation of information instead of mechanization. Agriculture is no exception; the Ford Model F tractor may have pulled U.S. agriculture into the 20th century, but Microsoft opened the door for the 21 st. The fruits of this technological labor include precision-ag, advanced hybrids and remote sensing technology. The ranching industry has undergone a similar transformation. Breeding programs, livestock nutrition and animal husbandry have all become calculated and increasingly precise. In short, frontier-defining technology in the ranching industry has moved from barbed wire and lassos to satellite technologies and computers. This is particularly true in the ranch sales/ management side of the industry. In many instances, western ranches have evolved from family enterprises to dynastic chess pieces, operated for the benefit of a complex financial portfolio. Unlike other portfolio pieces, ranches are, by definition, a geospatial asset. Therefore, geospatial databasing has become the spear’s tip in ranch management, sales and expertise.

You cannot manage what you do not know. To that end, no question is more foundational than “Where?” Where are the head gates? Where are the wells? Where are the springs? Where are the power lines? Where is the irrigation infrastructure? Where are the boundaries of the grazing permits? Without this basic information, transitioning management is all but impossible.The data summary becomes critical when each passing minute is crucial. Taking a few days to find a head gate for spring irrigation is frustrating, but not fatal. In the face of a raging wildfire, the opposite is true. During a wildfire, the ability to quickly display roads, firebreaks, water sources and prioritized infrastructure has major financial and safety ramifications.As climate and weather patterns shift, the ability to supply emergency services with accurate and readable data becomes increasingly critical in the fire-prone West. Just last year, we provided data as mentioned above to emergency services as a devastating wildfire tore through public and private land near our office.

Advanced mapping techniques reach far beyond day-to-day or emergency management. Without technology, planning capital improvements becomes arduous at best. Communicating complex improvement/ easement plans (buildings, irrigation systems, vegetation management, water management, subdivision, conservation easements, etc.) to multiple people, ranging from attorneys to equipment operators, can become fraught with miscommunication. Again, success hinges on the ability to build, adjust and distribute plans to everyone involved in the process.The same databases necessary to effectively manage and improve a ranch provide a distinct advantage when it comes time to list a property. If ranch attributes cannot be efficiently communicated among the original parties, how can they be quickly communicated to a buyer? Full returns on investment will only be achieved when the dream, progress and potential of a property can be efficiently transferred to an interested party. Investment-grade ranch properties require investment-grade data, and investment-grade data requires geospatial databasing.

“Like the general economy, ranch management and sales have entered the Information Age.”

For example, our office was tasked with bringing a 3,526-acre ranch to market. The enterprise had been operated over five generations by a single family. The ranch is spectacular, well located and incredibly complex. The property’s 885 irrigated acres are gravity fed from a 1,200-acre-foot reservoir. Across a 1,000-foot elevation differential, irrigation water is transported through a spiderweb of supply lines that service over 200 big-gun sprinklers, four center pivots and 37 automatic stock waters. Generational knowledge concerning the system had been, and was being, lost. Lack of information made the water system, the listing’s crown gem, an enigma. No public data existed. The ranch’s patriarch had passed. Potential buyers needed confidence in their purchase. Ultimately, providing answers is our job and technology is the answer. (See Porter Ranch – Eagleland.com)

Like the general economy, ranch management and sales have entered the Information Age. As with the Industrial Revolution, the ability to effectively participate in the current economic medium will determine a venture’s success or failure.Increasingly, ranch sales are happening off market instead of through a multiple listing service. Without databasing capabilities, these comparable sales will be overlooked by unspecialized brokerages, even when they are necessary to estimate a reasonable market value. From comparable transactions to ranch defining features, the ability to process information is critical.From geo-referenced title exceptions to sprinklers, information is the undeniable force behind the ranch industry. Marketing may draw buyers in, but the confidence required to close comes from data; data sells ranches.

On this basis, Eagle Land Brokerage provides “ranch services from an owner’s perspective. ” Successful ownership requires one thing— honest, concise and accurate data. We provide that data. Buy land!