Infrastructure Costs on Different Ranches – Wide Open Spaces and Little Bitty Places

As a young man growing up in the narrow green valleys of western Oregon, I was routinely given the following advice: “If you want to be a rancher, you better move east, because that’s where all the real ranches are.” The “east” all those folks were speaking of is the huge sea of sagebrush that runs from the foot of the Cascade Mountains all the way to the Rockies. And of course, they were right about one thing: the ranches that cover the high desert are tremendous, vast, huge. Typically, those ranches are measured not in acres but in one-mile squares called sections, while cows are counted by the thousand. Beyond its sheer scale, the high desert is a stark and stunning country that my grandfather noted was “hard on horses and women."   My own situation is strikingly different. The country where I ranch is a low elevation valley, somewhere between a marine and Mediterranean climate. Most of our grazing land is tillable or nearly so. Through managed grazing we are able to run about one cow unit per five acres (annually), with an expectation of grazing for eight or nine months. A 100-cow ranc

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