If you have searched the term ranches for sale in Montana, you, like millions of others, may view Montana as the last best place. If you are fortunate to have the financial resources to look at ranches for sale in Montana and purchase one, you are blessed. A big chunk of our business at Venture West Ranches is finding the finest ranches for sale in Montana, for clients that have entrusted us to find the right property. Montana is a very large state and just throwing out the term ranches in Montana encompasses all kinds of types of properties, topography, wildlife, rainfall and numerous other factors. This article is going to try and help those that think Montana looks like every other state, to understand the many types of land we possess here in Montana.
The first type of ranch for sale in Montana to discuss is cattle ranches. This is a working cattle ranch and realistically can be located anywhere in the state. Cattle ranches are for raising cows and calves, calves, bull operation or any type of mix. The end result is the sale of the animal. Whether it is for meat production, adding to a herd or gene pool, or straight out reproduction by adding a bull, it is there to raise cattle. Anything else is a by-product. Characteristics of a ranch for sale in Montana can vary. It can be lush and may require as few as 20 acres per head to feed or it could be sparse and require 100 acres per head. The ranch could have rivers, stock tanks or ponds, creeks or could be water from wells. Cattle ranches for sale in Montana could also be a year-round operation or, draw to the weather, be a situation where calves are fed for several months, sold, and the ranch starts all over next year. Snow forces that issue of finding another place for winter range. Surprisingly, some of Montana is able to graze year round and snow is a limited factor.
The second type of ranch for sale in Montana is irrigated land. Irrigated land encompasses many types of ways of irrigating. Water rights are generally needed in order to irrigate effectively and most importantly, legally. Through water rights, water can be pulled from rivers, reservoirs, creeks, wells, canals, springs, etc… Irrigated land will be some of the most valuable land for ranches for sale in Montana. The land can be irrigated with a pivot sprinklers, line sprinklers, sub-irrigated, or flood irrigated. It might be irrigated from a canal that carries water for miles. There could be partial ownership of the canal and the water coming through the canal. The irrigated land can produce seed crops such as corn or wheat for selling to market or as feedstock or hay.
The other type of potential cropland is dryland crop. Many ranches for sale in Montana without a ready source of water and water rights, will use a dryland crop system. Dryland is planting the seed and trusting that Mother Nature will take care of the watering. It is not quite as scary as it sounds. Much of America’s crops are planted this way. The seasonal rains are predictable enough that you can count on most years being able to raise a crop. You will have a drought that will not allow you to raise a crop every once in a while. However, you will pay much less for dryland cropland than irrigated land.
Ranch with Water
One of the most coveted types of ranches for sale in Montana is a ranch with water assets. This can come in the form of a reservoir or lake but mostly I am referring to rivers or large creek systems. They are valuable due to their abundant source of water for livestock and irrigation use. Water is life. It enables you to have more of a guarantee of crop or forage success or a guarantee of water for livestock. You review whether the source has ever gone dry, what your water rights are (Junior vs Senior) and the quantity that will be available to you. This will be fairly high on the value chart. Especially, if the ranch for sale in Montana holds trout. In Eastern Montana, you may have water but it might be a warm water fishery versus trout. You still have the water value just not the premium value of trout waters.
Another type of ranch for sale in Montana that has become popular is the hunting property. Ranches for sale in Montana can have many types of hunting and values can range based on the number of species and what species. Elk are the most coveted but Montana holds a multitude of great hunting opportunities. Bear, Mule Deer, Antelope, Whitetail, Mountain Lion, Pheasant, Grouse, Waterfowl all are abundant. Private land gives you the opportunity to enhance the numbers through active management. This makes these ranches for sale in Montana quite attractive to big city buyers trying to get some quiet and solitude. These types of properties might have a very small cabin to stay in and might not have water or septic. A true roughing it experience where you are there during the hunting season. Values can be on the lower end of the spectrum unless it has water. This land might have beautiful views but a great deal of the time will not have water. What is funny about this type of land can be how the Montana farmers and ranchers view a number of these species as nuisances. Take Whitetail Deer, for instance, they are viewed as pests here in Montana, while they are very coveted and there is a great deal of money to be earned from hunting Whitetail in other states. Additional reading on Montana hunting ranches can be found in the following articles: Why Hunting Property is a Great Investment, Maximizing the Potential of any Hunting Property, 6 Types of Hunting Ranches, and our Montana Ranches Wildlife Series found in our Articles
The recreational ranch is just that, bought for recreation. Hunting, fishing, hiking with great views become important. This land might or might not be productive from a crop or livestock angle but it is pretty and is in close proximity to giving the owner a number of recreational things to do. This type is the growing trend in ranches for sale in Montana. This type of ranch for sale in Montana also includes the showpiece property that will include a large home or lodge. When you get into the showpiece property, many times it will be used for business and usually involves one of the other types of ranches for sale in Montana.
Ranch Adjacent to Public Land
Another type of ranch for sale in Montana is a ranch that is adjacent to public land. Sometimes you can purchase a ranch in Montana that has landlocked a piece of public property so it becomes very limited public use. The advantage is you get use of the land without having to pay for it. The government is trying to minimize this but if you find a property like this it can be an advantage. You will possibly have to deal with part of the public that wants access and/or increased trespass or poaching. There are more pros than cons but there are a few headaches. One example of a great property that allows owners to access over one million acres of public land is the Missouri Breaks Retreat Trophy Hunting Property
The final type of ranches for sale in Montana includes strictly grassland. There might be mountains in the background but these types of properties are just strictly native flat or rolling land that is used for haying or could be left alone and put in CRP(Conservation Reserve Program). You get paid to keep land in CRP by the government. Although you are not going to get rich off CRP payments it can provide a nice income.
Ranches for sale in Montana have a variety of different types of land. Most ranches for sale will fall within one type but some will have attributes of many different types of ranches. So you might have irrigated cropland mixed with a cattle ranch with wildlife and river frontage thrown in. This is why, when we get one of the many calls we get a year of clients looking for ranches, it hopefully leads to a detailed discussion of the type of ranch they are looking for. We also would like several days for a serious buyer so that we can travel Montana and show them the mixture of ranches for sale in Montana. It can lead to a clearer picture of the value of owning a Montana ranch and which ranches are a good deal, and which aren’t.
If you liked this article and are interested in the Montana Elk rut you might like this excellent guide. If you are starting the search for a Montana ranch you might like this article on Buying Montana Ranch, 13 Things to Ponder or 8 Critical Elements in Ranch Profitability.
If you are at the point that you are ready to start looking for your Montana Dream Ranch or are ready to market your Montana Ranch or Farm please give me a call to discuss your situation. Contact me.
About the Author
Partner at Venture West Ranches
Buzz Tatom, a partner at Venture West Ranches, is a ranch owner and has built, run and sold numerous businesses in his career. This gives him a unique background in helping Montana farmers and ranchers navigate the life decisions that we all have to face. Whether it is passing a ranch on to the next generation or planning for eventual sale, his talents and contacts help save clients money and navigate complicated transactions.