Top 6 Structures to Build on Ranch Properties – Guest Blog

Ranching property is more than just a space for livestock or other large animals. So many land buyers recently realize that there’s so much more that they can do with their property, and they’re not wrong!

These are the best structures anyone can build onto their ranching property to make the most of it!

1. A Fun Barndominium

Barndominiums are trendy structures that create visual interest and appeal, giving you a space that renters can use for a couple of days or a couple of years. The best barndominium design ideas tend to stick to a rustic and minimal look on the exterior while allowing the interior to be spacious and more modern.

You can lean into the property’s theme for this; for instance, if you raise angora goats, you can use their wool in some furnishings. For a horse ranch, you can use a classic ranch design in your interior decorating. Consider what would make your listing stand out most on a rental site: and lean into it.

2. Fantastic Agricultural Buildings

Whether they’re silos or barns, agricultural buildings should be well built and safe for animals without impeding too much on the property itself. You can achieve this by researching how much steel buildings cost in your area and seeking a builder who’s capable of following your specifications. 

Steel lasts longer, is more resistant against the elements, and can be painted or coated to look however you want. Best of all, it will guard your livestock or harvests against whatever is happening outside.

3. Ranch Vehicle Garage

Your ranch vehicles are something that should be carefully maintained and watched over. If not, they can rust, break down, or be prone to damage. It’s a good idea to pay attention to where you store these vehicles; otherwise, you may lose money having to repair or replace them.

A good ranching vehicle garage should be well insulated, capable of handling different types of weather, and on higher ground so that any water or debris drains out. You can research how to insulate a garage so that you can build onto any current ones you have, but it’s a good idea to build one from scratch with the plan to insulate it as you go.

4. Small Rental Cabins

Smaller rental cabins can be a fantastic addition to any property. Although you’ll have to have electricity and water hooked up for modern people to be comfortable using them, you don’t necessarily have to worry about getting internet or cable out to them unless you want to offer ‘glamping’ as an option on your property.

These cabins are great for short-term rentals any time of the year, so make sure they’re well insulated and capable of being either warm or cool, depending on the season. A great investment for these small structures would be a fan that can reverse flow. This will push cool air around in the summer and warm air in the winter to stay at a steady temperature.

5. Root Cellar or Basement

This is a structure that you can build even if you don’t have a home on the property. Underground storage gives you a place to keep things at a cooler and more comfortable temperature constantly. For areas with more moderate weather, this can be a great space to store spirits or alcohol. In areas that tend to freeze, this could be a great space for anything you want to ferment or store throughout the winter.

Electricity would be a fantastic addition to a space like this. Still, it should be naturally refrigerative, so it’s not going to take up a ton of your power or increase your electricity bill by too much.

6. Storage Sheds for Rentals

Storage sheds can be an incredible way to build income without having to stress about someone else living on your land. In addition, a good storage shed will allow you to offer space for tenants to use for their items and then leave them trusting that you’ll keep an eye on them.

This setup will require code locks, electricity, a lot of building to ensure you have the best units put in, and security features so that people feel safe with their items out there with you.

Before taking this type of business on, it’s important to get to know the local laws. This means how long someone can leave their items without paying before it’s forfeited to you and what legal action you can take if someone tries to take residence in one of your storage facilities. 

Ranch Properties Can Do More Than You’d Expect

Although when people picture ranch properties, they think of large plots of land that cows graze on: you can make this property into anything you want. Get to know the local laws, decide what type of business works best for you: and create a property that will give you a great return.

Andrea Erickson is a contributor to Innovative Building Materials. She is a blogger and content writer for the real estate industry. Andrea is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that increase property value, maximize energy savings, and turn houses into homes. 


Property in CRP? An Overview

Property in CRP near Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Every now and then a property placed into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) comes for sale on the market. Buyers and agents alike ask what exactly is CRP? In a nutshell, a landowner enters into an agreement with the government to implement practices that conserve the landowner’s land. Most often in northwest Colorado, the landowner agrees to refrain from grazing the land. In exchange for this land-use restriction, the owner receives an annual payment. CRP contracts are 10 years in duration and the annual payment is fixed at the time of the contract.

When property that is subject to a CRP contract changes hands, the buyer usually assumes the contract. If a buyer does not assume the contract or fails to honor it, the seller is responsible for the penalties. These penalties can be steep and depend on the time of breach in the contract and the nature of the violation. So it is in the seller’s best interest to ensure that buyers are willing to assume and uphold the contract early in the negotiations. The buyer usually benefits from the annual income for the remainder of the term. The Conservation Reserve Program has been a successful partnership between private landowners and public agencies to maintain soil health, improve water quality and enhance habitat for wildlife.


2020 – A Memorable Year

A tree lined lane with mountain views sold in 2020 - A memorable year for real estate!

2020 was a memorable year for ranch and resort real estate sales. Despite uncertainty fueled by a deadly pandemic and a tumultuous presidential election cycle, the market roared on.  Properties flew off of the shelves as buyers scrambled for a change in scenery.  COVID-19 prompted many to appreciate the freedom of the outdoors. There was no shortage of buyers who wanted to grab a piece of the west – permanently! Every segment of the market, in Colorado anyway, morphed into a seller’s market.  Condos and townhouses, single-family homes and vacant lots, and ranches large and small offered buyers a recreation launch point and a safe place from which to work or raise a family. 

Luxury homes with high-speed internet and near good schools sold in record time; title companies could not keep up. Vacant building lots with access to public land were in high demand. Ranches of all kinds, acreages, and prices appealed to buyers in 2020 more than ever. Recreation ranches fetched the highest prices, especially those with some type of “wow” factor (spectacular scenery, thick forests loaded with wildlife, live water, public land boundary).  Cattle ranches were high on buyers lists as well, particularly those with a well-rounded livestock operation that offered good working facilities, employee housing, and irrigated hay meadows.  The level of interest does not seem to be slowing down and 2021 may repeat 2020 as another memorable year.


Colorado Adventure for an Educated Populace

Colorado snow capped peaks scream adventure

Colorado ranks among the top of the states in our nation for education and income. When it comes to elbow room and opportunities for adventure, Colorado is tough to top. With plenty of room to roam and recreate, it’s no wonder people are flocking to this scenic state! Here are some interesting Centennial-State stats:

37th state for density with 52 people per square mile

8th largest state in area totaling 104,093 square miles

#1 for number of fourteeners (53)

9th state for public land acreage with 26,458,890 acres

2nd highest percentage of residents holding a bachelors degree

5th richest state with a median income of $74,172 (vs. $61,000 overall U.S. income) and a poverty rate of 8.7%

Colorado residents are well-educated and healthy, and they provide an attractive pool of employees. With its central location in the United States and mountain time zone, Colorado is also convenient for adventure travel and business. Last but not least, the state is loaded with public land, an important amenity for physical and mental health when a pandemic rears it’s ugly head!


Surveys: A Seller Benefit

Surveys are a complex subject. Casually assumed as a buyer benefit, they are just as important to a seller. At the most basic level, a survey shows where a property is located on the planet. The level of detail shown on a survey can vary and it is often a negotiation between the parties. Surveys show a varying degree of information that is useful to the buyer but a survey also protects a seller. A survey can be a disclosure of sorts; items shown on a survey notify the buyer of issues that may affect a piece of property. Access (to the property and/or by others on the property), easements, fence lines, ditches, building locations, and setbacks can be shown on a survey.

Title companies almost always require a detailed survey when issuing title policies. Because property conveyance deeds normally include a seller warranty, it is in the seller’s interest to provide a strong title insurance policy to the buyer. The survey provides important information to the buyer and title insurance company, which allows a seller to provide a stronger title policy to the buyer and ultimately protect the seller in the long run.


A Pandemic-Driven Market?

Rainbow over South Valley

The ranch and resort market delivered quite a surprise this summer.  The initial shutdown of everything real-estate-sales-related was ominous and fraught with uncertainty.  As the restrictions were lifted and as the pandemic spread, interest in scenic and lightly populated areas grew. When unrest in densely populated areas dominated the headlines, the interest grew into a frenzy.  The resort areas around the nation have experienced unprecedented real estate sales and northwest Colorado is no exception.  Properties in every segment of the market are flying off of the shelves. Ranches have tremendous appeal right now: they are the original social distancing venue! Wide-open spaces, private recreation, solitude and safety have always been hallmarks of ranch properties.  The cultural shift brought on by COVID-19 have pushed those amenities to the front burner for many buyers.  A strong stock market plus historically low interest rates are tipping the scales in the favor of sellers. LJ Ranch, north of Hayden, Colorado sold for full asking price after just a year on the market.  Steamboat Equestrian Estate sold after only a few months on the market with Ranch & Resort Realty and had multiple offers. Lack of inventory has been a challenge in the resort market for at least a year; pandemic-driven events have shoved ranches into the same category…..certainly an unexpected surprise. 


10 Signs Telling Me it’s Calving Season:

Black calf with white ear tag

  1. The number of warm days outnumbers the cold days
  2. Powdered colostrum and milk, medicine and vaccines creep into my cabinets, fridge and freezer
  3. Very pregnant cows take on an uncomfortable stance as they vigorously switch their tails
  4. Our bulls fight hard and bellow long, low groans
  5. 2:00 in the morning is as familiar as 2:00 in the afternoon
  6. The crock-pot works full time, providing meals ’round-the-clock
  7. Days-old calves run through the fields, their upright tails flying like little flags
  8. Shallow lakes form in meadows so migrating ducks and geese can take a break
  9. Neighbors call for help and neighbors come to help
  10. My hairdryer, great for warming up a cold calf, is converted to a barn appliance


Why are 35 and 40 acre lots Common in Colorado?

Buck and Rail fence along a mountain meadow

If you’ve grown accustomed to social distancing and are searching for your cabin site in the woods, you may have noticed that country properties in Colorado are frequently offered in increments of 35 or 40 acres.  There are reasons behind this.  Explaining 40 acre lots goes back to the original government surveys, most of which happened in the 1800’s.  Surveyors broke down sections of land into 6-mile square townships.  Each township has 36 numbered sections.  Each section is one square mile consisting of 640 acres.  Those sections are further broken down into quarters.  Each of those quarters are broken down again into quarters.  A quarter section is 160 acres and a quarter-quarter is 40 acres.  When you see a 40, 80, 160, etc. acre parcel, the legal description will often be described using this Public Land Survey System (PLSS).  35 acre lots are common because of a 1972 law in Colorado that restricted a landowner’s ability to simply split off anything less than 35 acres.  Commonly known as Senate Bill 35, it required landowners to go through a subdivision approval process for parcels smaller than 35 acres.  Parceling land into lots greater than 35 acres does not require approval (although some counties in Colorado have a higher acreage requirement), which is why we often see parcels offered in 35-acre increments. 


CRP Land – Benefits Landowners & Natural Resources

Rainbow and green pastures

Although much less common in and around Steamboat Springs, much of the land in Moffat County to the west is enrolled in the program.  CRP is the USDA’s acronym for Conservation Reserve Program.  It was established in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan to prevent soil erosion, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat by establishing and maintaining land cover.  The program is completely voluntary and has grown to be one of the largest private land conservation programs in the nation.  The program is administered by the Farm Service Agency.  Participation generally requires removal of environmentally sensitive lands from agricultural production, so landowners are compensated annually for the loss of production on those lands.  Typical contracts last 10 to 15 years and are usually transferred upon sale of the land.  In order to qualify for the program, several factors are taken into consideration: wildlife, water and soil erosion benefits mentioned above as well as air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion and overall cost.  The program has been successful in reducing water runoff and sedimentation which improves the health of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.  More than 20,000,000 acres of topsoil is protected and has a direct impact on our nation’s natural resources. 


Top Selling horse – $225,000

Christy Belton at Cowgirl Cadillacs booth

Wickenburg, Arizona was the epicenter for fancy horses this past weekend.  The Cowgirl Cadillacs horse auction (only in its 2nd year) was a success with the top horse fetching $225,000 (nope, not a typo)!  The auction dubbed “horses from ladies, for ladies” and is a tip of the hat to remarkable women who defied societal norms in America’s early western history.  Every horse offered at the auction was offered by a woman who lives up to the example set by those early female trailblazers.  It seemed only fitting for the female ranch brokers of Ranch & Resort Realty and Mason & Morse Ranch Company to partner-up and sponsor the event.  Several of my horse-friendly ranches were on display and we had a constant stream of horse owners and bidders come by the booth to talk ranch real estate.  Steamboat Sandblasting provided us with Cowgirl Cadillacs etched glass ware.  Despite the unusual Arizona downpour, the event was well attended and exciting.  People from all over the west, particularly the snowy west, attended the auction. It was held at the Rancho de los Caballeros guest ranch and golf club in the High Sonoran Desert near Phoenix.  The top selling horse was Blue Chip Investment, a 9-year-old blue roan gelding.  A registered Friesian/quarter horse cross, “Chip” was 16.1 hands and extremely well trained.  The average price for the 50-horse auction was just under $30,000.     


Property Taxes in Colorado Simplified – Part 2

Old fire truck in front of pond

As mentioned in part 1, Colorado has some of the lowest residential property taxes in the U.S., making home ownership attractive. Taxes on vacant land with the agriculture tax classification are also extremely low.  Following is a study on how property taxes are determined in Colorado.

The assessor establishes the value of properties based on comparable properties that have sold in a 2-year period prior to the appraisal date. Taxing authorities that provide services establish their mill levies (a mill is 1/10th of a penny or $1 revenue per $1,000 of assessed value) based on the total of all property value in the service area. Property tax is calculated by multiplying the market value by the tax rate (7.15% in 2019 for residential and 29% for non-residential) and the mill levy. For example, a residence valued at $1,000,000 multiplied by the 7.15% tax rate would result in an assessed value of $71,500. Various entities have taxing authority such as the county, the school district, the community college, water district, fire services, library, museum, social services, etc. In this example, the total mills levied by all of the public service providers for area of the home is 58.079.  This number multiplied by the assessed value and divided by 1,000 results in the tax due of $4,152.65.  Another way to calculate would be to apply $1 per $1,000 in value.  In this example, it would be $71.50 x 58.079 total mills for $4,152.65.

Non-residential properties are calculated with the same formula, but the tax rate is 29%. A $1,000,000 commercial property or non-ag vacant land parcel in the same service area as the residential property above would be multiplied by 29%. Assessed value would be $290,000 and the 58.079 mill levy multiplier would result in a tax due of $16,842.91. When a residence is constructed on a non-ag parcel of land, the tax rate of the total assessed value decreases from 29% to 7.15% and it is not uncommon to see the tax bill decrease.  

Land with ag status is valued based on the agricultural earning capability of the land.  Market values do not come into play on these types of properties and the savings on non-residential parcels with ag status can be significant.  A vacant parcel of ag land that would sell for $1,000,000 may only be taxed at a couple hundred dollars a year.  Once a residence is put on the land, the residential tax rate (7.15%) is applied to the total assessed value of the land (ag or non-ag) and improvements. 

Property taxes collected in each county stay in the county and do not fund state services. 


Property Taxes in Colorado Simplified – Part 1

Sidney Peak Ranch Bunkhouse

I was recently asked about property taxes in Colorado. Property tax is calculated by multiplying the market value by the tax rate and the mill levy.  Mill levies are set by each authority providing tax supported services. For residential properties, Colorado’s taxes are among the lowest in the nation. Colorado has one of the more complicated tax structures resulting from three major amendments and how they interact. The end result is a unique set of limits on taxation and spending by Colorado’s lawmakers. 

In 1982, Coloradans passed a constitutional amendment mandating that home values cannot make up more than 45% of the state property tax base.  That left a 55% contribution from non-residential property owners.  When home values have risen faster than business property, residential tax rates have actually dropped. When this amendment, called the Gallagher Amendment, was implemented, the rate was calculated at 21% of a home’s value; today it is 7.15%.  The non-residential (which includes vacant land without agricultural tax status) property tax rate is 29%.

In 1992, another constitutional amendment was approved that requires voter approval for all tax hikes or bond measures.  It also limits how much government can collect using a formula based on population growth and inflation. The amendment, known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights or TABOR, mandates that lawmakers list the total amount the increase will generate and how the proceeds will be spent. It prohibits special elections for tax hikes and bond measures and it prohibits a tiered income tax in the state. 

In 2000, Amendment 23 was approved.  This amendment required school funding to increase each year by the rate of inflation.  Because of the taxation constraints, lawmakers have been unable to fully adhere to this amendment and have pulled from other areas in the budget. Gallagher lowered taxes, TABOR limited state government and the services it is able to provide and Amendment 23 put more pressure on an already complicated taxation structure.  What has resulted is an uptick in local tax hikes and bond measures to fund local projects. Although local taxes in Colorado are higher than other municipalities in the U.S., state taxes in Colorado are among the lowest.   


Well, what about wells in Colorado?

Wellhead in snowy field near log home

One of the most important aspects of buying a rural residential property in Colorado is understanding the water supply. Most country homes not serviced by municipal water are supplied by a spring or a well. I’ll save springs for a future discussion and will focus on the two most common types of wells found in northwest Colorado.

Domestic wells are typically associated with rural residences. These kinds of wells allow normal, indoor use in one to three residences. The permit should outline number of residences allowed to be served by the well. A domestic well also usually allows for watering of a few head of livestock as well as irrigation of a lawn or garden. Irrigation is often limited and the permit will also outline this limitation. The permit will also include information about the depth of the well and the associated well test report often includes pumping rate.

With the increasing demand on Colorado’s water supply, much of the state has been designated as over appropriated. In these areas, it is common to find rural property wells that are household use only. This type of permit allows for typical indoor residential use but does not allow any outdoor use such as watering a horse or two, watering a flowerbed, washing a vehicle or even filling a hot tub. Household use only wells are also often found on parcels smaller than 35 acres.

Investigating the uses and limitations will help determine if a property is a good fit for your intended use. There are several types of wells and water sources that can be associated with a particular property. The permit and/or water right should describe the allowed uses. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has a great website with information on wells, water rights and water administration.


Can a Mountain Ranch be Profitable?

Feeding Cows at the Belton Ranch in winter

I received two calls this month from real estate agents with the same request:  A buyer looking for a Colorado ranch that will make a decent return. Assuming these buyers prefer to be closer to a bustling community or a powder-packed ski resort, I can almost always draw a line along the Continental Divide and split the state into two distinct areas.  The east slope has milder weather, typically receives less moisture in the form of snow, and often has a longer growing season enabling a farming component.  The buyer who is often attracted to a mountain community has to factor in higher land costs and significant feed costs. These two major components definitely affect the ranch’s ability to turn a profit. There are a hundred different ways to operate a ranch in Colorado’s mountains. My ranch has shifted from commercial cow/calf to a focus on yearlings and now back to a larger cow/calf operation. Some of my neighboring ranchers specialize in selling a portion of the animal prior to slaughter to avoid USDA regulations. Others provide local restaurants and stores with locally grown, grass-fed beef. Some operations are owner operated and others leverage their own time by outsourcing the labor. Some of us have hefty investments in hay production equipment and others purchase winter feed. We truck some of our cows to a milder climate; it is easier on our older and younger cattle and reduces our feed costs here in Steamboat. Yearly feed costs can vary wildly depending on the harvest and an early winter or late spring can shrink a profit margin. The cattle market falls into the wild-fluctuation category as well. On the flip side of that coin, some winters are shorter, hay harvest is excellent and cattle prices are high. Those are the years ranchers buy needed equipment, increase the quality of the herd, buy more land and put money in the bank for the lean years.  The long list of variables associated with a specific operation on a specific ranch requires a ranch buyer to put pen to paper.  Bracket the variables, customize the operation based on the needs or wants of the buyer (see my guest ranch blog) and study the land’s ability to support a specific operation. Planning and crunching numbers is a great way to start. It’s also an essential ongoing exercise…and it’s one of the fun parts of ranching: The challenge to always do better, to raise better animals, to enhance the health of the land and hopefully to make a little money in the process. Overall, it’s feasible to expect that a ranch can sustain itself.  If satisfaction could be measured in dollars, though, a mountain ranch would undoubtedly produce a stellar return year after year!


Water Rights Aren’t Complicated Enough?

Sweetwater Lake

Water rights in Colorado is a complicated enough subject on it’s own. Water rights that originate on public land add another layer of complexity to an already complex property right. Generally speaking, if a water right originates on or crosses over national forest land, permission of some kind is required. Some water rights pre-date the establishment of the national forest; these water rights may be exempt from permission (an attorney specializing in water would be able to opine). Water rights adjudicated after the creation of the public agency may be permitted through a special use permit or an easement. The conveyance of these permits or easements is not automatic and involves specific requirements. If a ranch has water rights and public land is nearby, investigating the location of the point-of-diversion, dam, or ditch location is a logical first step in the water rights due diligence.


6 Reasons Spring Creek Farm is THE ideal Steamboat Horse Property

Horse and Carriage at Spring Creek Farm

Ranch and Resort Realty’s newest listing, Spring Creek Farm, is a unique, beautiful and rare in-town horse property that strikes a perfect balance of ranch life privacy and proximity to mountain town amenities. Read on to learn the reasons it may just fit the location balance you have been looking for.

6 Reasons Spring Creek Farm is the Best Horse Property/In-Town Ranch Real Estate Option in Steamboat Springs:

1. Located on the edge of town, you can ride your horse to the Steamboat Ski Area, Romick Rodeo Arena or even the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, which may take a while, but it’s all about the ride, right?

2. Less than 2 miles from Downtown Steamboat Springs dining, shopping and coffee shops.

3. With 55 acres and trail access to the nearby National Forest, the property has riding trails throughout. You can ride all over your own land and hop on to Spring Creek Trail for unlimited riding on public land.

4. Less than 3.5 miles from local grocers City Market and Safeway.

5. You can almost reach out and touch the Steamboat Ski Area.

6. A barn with a stall plus hay storage, paddocks and an outdoor riding arena are nothing short of horse-heaven! And even the horses have a great view overlooking the city lights of Steamboat Springs!

Being away from it all has its advantages but so does being close to town. If ski town amenities and equestrian facilities rank equally high on your buying must-have list, Spring Creek Farm is certainly worth a look. If you have questions about this ranch or any other Northwest Colorado ranch and resort real estate, call Christy Belton, anytime, at 970-734-7885.


Stocking Rate?….A Loaded Question

Christy Belton on horseback with her cows

Buyers often ask about carrying capacity on various ranches. The answer is almost always the same…it depends. Although a ballpark number is easy to determine, the location of the ranch and even the micro-climates on the ranch itself can tip the scales. There are a few major considerations that sort to the top of the list when estimating the carrying capacity of a ranch: rainfall, slope, irrigation and type of livestock. A good rain year will (and on the flip side, a particularly dry year) will affect the average. A multi-year drought can severely hinder a ranch’s ability to support a reasonable number of animals. The topography and slope can affect how early livestock can be turned out to graze. A southwest facing slope will melt earlier and will also dry out earlier in the summer. North and east facing slope can provide later season grazing opportunities. Perhaps the biggest differential is whether the land is irrigated. The ability of a ranch to support more intense grazing is markedly increased when land is irrigated or sub-irrigated. The type of livestock a landowner runs is important: sheep eat different plants than cattle and horses. Smaller framed breeds mean fewer acres per head, although breed-specific productivity may offset the additional acres required for larger framed animals. Combining these factors to estimate a ranch’s ability to carry a herd from spring through fall provide just that—an estimate. Light stocking rates and trial-and-error on a particular property will help move that number over time, from an estimate to a appropriate number range.


Fifty Shades of Green

Rolling fields below Sleeping Giant

Maybe a slight stretch, but just slight…as I drive around Northwest Colorado this time of the year, I notice so many variations of green. The first signs of spring emerged as receding snow gave way to green grass. Various shades of green are front and center this time of the year: the lime green leaves on aspen trees contrast with the black green needles on evergreen trees; the yellow green of the willow trees contrast with the blue green needles of the blue spruce trees; the silver green of the sagebrush contrasts with the emerald green of new pasture grass. Spring time in the Rockies is brilliant green. The hillsides, the meadows, the tree-lined river corridors are all varying shades of green — certainly a feast for the senses!


Another Day in Paradise

I hear this phrase quite often here-and it’s not the sarcastic version either…spring has had to wrestle rather hard this year to convince winter to loosen its hold. With spring starting to prevail, many of the reasons we love to be here are impossible to ignore. Here’s a snapshot of 24 of my hours this week: With the appearance of 50-degree weather that forced the snow in the lower lying meadows to all but disappear, the fences demand repair. So I responded and waded through calf deep snow interrupted by patches of standing water and patches of higher ground with the first shoots of lime green meadow grass. My presence in the middle of a giant field startled the sandhilll cranes but after a while their loud squawks of alarm subsided, and they settled back into their spring routine. Working while immersed in the changing season was good for the soul. With a little recharge under my belt, I turned my attention to my ranch brokerage and got in a little computer and client time. On the way in to town, I had to slow down while a cinnamon colored black bear (who had obviously made it through hibernation in great condition) lumbered across the county road and down to the river. At the grocery store I ran into several people I know. We exchanged talk about family, the weather, real estate and ranching—all the little things woven into the fabric of a good community. I often warn people when they move here that it’s perfectly acceptable to be a few minutes late; you never know when you will have to stop and get a few photos of a wayward bear or take some time to catch up with your neighbor in the grocery store. Steamboat is special in that way-there’s a laid-back vibe and it forces me to slow down and take the time to appreciate the days I am spending on this earth. On my way home, I had to stop numerous times for elk to move from the same road the bear had crossed earlier in the day. These are sure signs of spring: wildlife and humans both welcoming the change here in paradise.


Insuring Livestock – Decisions, Decisions

Insuring Livestock: Cattle on Reed Creek Permit

Belton Livestock recently did a self-audit on our farm & ranch insurance policy.  Part of the discussion with the agent was the pros and cons of insuring our livestock.  The wildfires in The West this past summer brought this issue front and center for us. The obvious drawback of insuring our cattle is the cost of the premium, especially given the fact that we are only on our Forest Service grazing permits for about three months out of the year. The agent deftly pointed out that those are the months that fires burn.  Okay, okay….she has a point. For many years we have had protocol established for steps we will take if a fire breaks out on one of our permits.  Colorado’s forests are naturally loaded with fuel and decades of red tape have impacted forest management decisions. Trees that, at one time in the not too distant past, would have been logged, are now arranged in messy piles all over the forest floor.  Animals are not able to move freely between pastures and water, fences are decimated and large areas of the National Forest are blocked from foot, horse, and vehicular access.  Livestock grazing on our permits reduces the fuel but may not be enough to address the glacial speed of federal land policy and the effects of prolonged drought.  Although we are in an area that receives abundant snowfall and afternoon summer rain showers, the risk of wildfire still exists and that premium is sounding better and better.