Ranching in Oklahoma  

Longing for a beautiful, workable ranch of your own? If you have had enough of the city life and want to settle down on a ranch, Oklahoma offers some appealing opportunities. There are many considerations to make before you just up and leave a city setting for the wide open spaces of Oklahoma, so be sure to complete your research first.

Remember the television show “Green Acres”? Eddie Albert played a New York City lawyer who convinced his high maintenance wife, played by Eva Gabor, to leave their posh lifestyle behind and settle down as farmers in fictional, rural Hootersville. Hi-jinx ensued due to her adjustment to farm life. To illustrate the point, make sure you know just what you are getting into before you decide you want to uproot your current life and settle down on a ranch. You may want to make the purchase long before you make the move. This will give you time to visit the property and spend time there before committing to the move. Some friends of ours bought some horse property out in Norman, Oklahoma and hired a property management company in Norman OK to care for the property until they were ready to make the move. For some, it is an immense adjustment to go from city living to ranch living; for others, it is an easy transition. If you long for nature and enjoy living off the land in its many forms, then ranch living might be right for you and the adjustment will be an easy one.

For folks who don’t already live in Oklahoma and are looking to make the move, it is important to know how diverse the state really is. Oklahoma is broken up into seven different geographical regions ranging from arid plains to heavily wooded acres, so the type of terrain you would like to purchase greatly depends on where in Oklahoma you want to live. You will also want to consider the type of ranch you are interested in running—does a huge cattle ranch appeal to you or a small plot of land that houses just crops? While corn, wheat and hay are some of the agricultural items grown on Oklahoma soil, cattle ranches, while generally larger, are the “cash cow” and can earn more than other ranches, if run correctly.

There are many factors to consider when purchasing a ranch and you will need the guidance of an expert to ensure you are prepared for the upkeep of the property. Most ranches have a home, land and additional buildings, like a barn, and equipment to maintain the ranch. If you are starting your ranch from scratch, you will need to consider the start-up costs of building on the property and the machinery you will need to work the land. This, coupled with the cost of the property itself, can be very expensive initially, but there’s also potential to make money. Plus, farms and ranches can receive special subsidies and tax write-offs from the government to make them more profitable. You can obtain a low interest, low down payment loan through an organization like the USDA and even qualify for 100% financing; you will want to consult your real estate expert for more information. Purchasing an existing ranch is an easier route, but you will still want to do your research, even if you are buying an established, profitable ranch.

It’s important to know if there are existing easements between your property and your neighbors’ as well as any land restrictions or zoning laws. The property’s drainage will be important; if it floods, you may lose all of your crops if you are an agricultural grower, and, since it is Oklahoma, you will want to be prepared for tornadoes. Oklahoma ranches are appealing, especially to people from up north looking for milder winters. For farmers, the growing season is longer and Oklahoma receives more rainfall than many other states. You will also want to check the soil and water to ensure it does not have any contamination of any kind. You will want to know your rights to the water on the land; if you are sharing the water with others, you want to make sure they cannot make any changes to the amount of water you receive. You also want to know what is under your land. If you don’t have surface rights, someone can decide to drill for oil on your property or try to extract the minerals from your land. Is the property located near local hunting and fishing ground and will people use your property as a thoroughfare a hunting ground? There are combination ranches that feature cattle and hunting; there are also small hobby farms. Determining what you want and what you can afford are the most important measures you can take when starting out.

Ask around; your potential neighbors can be a wealth of knowledge. Also, get to know these neighbors; they can make your life easier if there is ever a potential problem. They may be able to help you or direct you to the best place to get help. Knowing your resources can greatly assist you. The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service provides specific information vital to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers by enlisting the services of county educators and state specialists who develop educational programs to assist farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma.  Also helpful is the Noble Research Institute, headquartered in Southern Oklahoma but also maintaining offices throughout the state. They focus squarely on agricultural issues and programs to assist with crop yields, land issues, and even parasite eradication. Both entities offer their services free of charge and have informational videos online at their respective websites.

Be prepared for a lot of hard work until you figure out your plan. Many new farmers and cattle owners underestimate the amount of work involved in keeping a ranch up and running. A ranch is a business, and it takes business acumen and knowledge of growing and harvesting crops and/or managing the health and nutrition of the cattle, depending upon the kind of ranch you buy.  To manage the business end, consult with an experience agricultural tax professional before you make your final purchase and learn all you can about ranching. Plan ahead, take your time and grow your networks; this will help you get acclimated to the ranching lifestyle and not present a culture shock. Ranching can be an exciting and fulfilling way of life!