No Risk Ranching – A Book Review

In Book Reviews, Land & Money, LEASING LAND, Stockman Grass Farmer by James5 Comments

I first discovered Greg Judy a couple months ago on a great website that is dedicated to pasture or grass farming called On Pasture. There was a short article accompanied by three youtube videos. Of course I watched the videos first (I’m a visual learner..) and what I saw grabbed my attention right away. It was Greg Judy standing in a thick sward of beautiful tall green Eastern Gamma grass surrounded by cows chomping away contently. Each video was about 3 minutes long and it was just Greg talking about his South Pole cows and his pastures. After watching the video I knew right away that I wanted to hear more of want Mr. Judy had to say. I quickly found out he’s written two books and this review is on the first book in his series. “No Risk Ranching: Custom Grazing On Leased Land.” It turned out to be a great read, as it touched on a topic I have not yet encountered in such scope – the idea of ranching or farming on leased land. I knew leasing land is something a lot of people did, but I didn’t really understand the details. This book lays it out beautifully. And aside from the practicality which is the book’s strong point, Greg includes plenty of inspirational stories and words of wisdom.

What’s in the Book?

The book is sectioned into 26 chapters. 1. Forming a Correct Personal Attitude. 2. Setting Goals 3. Advantages of Leasing Versus Owning Land 4. Tips for Finding Idle Land to Lease 5. Show Them What You Got 6. Calculating the Land Lease Contract 7. My First Wonderful Lease 8. Writing the Lease Proposal 9. Developing Good Water 10. Fencing Techniques 11. Improving Your Existing Forages 12. Utilizing Every Green Growing Leaf 13. Controlling Costs and Saving Money 14. Resisting the New Truck Syndrome 15. The Economics of Leasing Pasture 16. Low Risk Custom Grazing 17. Custom Grazing through Winter 18. Handling New Arrivals Gently 19. MiG Promotes Wildlife 20. Timber Stand Improvement 21. Using Cost/Share Programs 22. Managing Your Time Effectively 23. Have Fun, Enjoy the Journey 24. Leasing and Grazing Stimulates Local Economy 25. Keeping Accurate Grazing Records 26. Never Stop Learning! Lastly Judy includes a Grazier’s Glossary defining common terms graziers need to know.

As you can see Greg covers a lot of ground. However everything is in the context of leased land. Unlike other books I’ve read which have focused on what you can do on your own farm, the beauty of this book is it shows how you can enjoy farming on leased land which is much more economically viable, especially for new and young farmers.

Some Highlights

The chapter entitled “Advantages of Leasing Versus Owning Land” really opened my eyes as to where to focus when first starting out. Every young wannabe farmer or rancher start out with the dream of land ownership. I know I certainly did, and I think there’s good reason for it aside from the romance involved in the idea, but most (including me) don’t understand the danger in starting off with ownership, and the huge advantages by starting out leasing land. The first thing that struck me was the economics. Greg introduces the economics involved in owning verses leasing by referencing one of his 40 acre leased farms. He’s paying $400 a year to lease that farm, or $10 per acre. On the open market that farm would demand $1500 per acre, so for $400 a year he’s controlling a $60,000 grass farm. In the example he goes on and breaks down a hypothetical scenario of purchasing the farm with a favorable interest rate and grazing it with the assumption that the year will yield the best grazing conditions possible. After the calculations he shows that at the end of the year even with the best possible grazing conditions, and not taking into account money that would be spent on maintenance repairs, living expenses, insurance, and property taxes he would still be $880 short on the bank payment. He then runs the same calculations with leasing the land it comes out to a $3040 profit. What more is there to say? Well there’s a lot more, but that alone should grab any new farmer’s attention.

This is of course not to say owning land is always going to be a losing proposition, but especially for young and up and coming farmers with low capital, who are still learning, the added stress of making these huge bank payments is very crippling. And of course when you’re actually making a profit you can save money toward eventually buying your own land. When Greg first bought his farm he was not doing management intensive grazing, and he didn’t know about the value of leasing farmland and custom grazing. When he discovered the MiG system and started exploring the idea of leasing land he was on the brink of losing his own farm. After he implemented custom grazing on leased land and wrote down his goals he ended up paying off his house loan in one year and paid off his farm in two years. You simply can’t argue with the economic advantage custom grazing on leased land brings to the table. And if you do your job right there’s a good possibility that the land owners will give you a lifetime lease (your lifetime) for their farm. That’s literally a lifetime of security with no risk.

Remember the goal is to make a living from the land, not to have it own you for your whole lifetime (with interest payments).

Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer 

This book truly is a must read for new farmers with no land who are trying to find their way into the world of grass farming. So many wannabe farmers are instantly discouraged once they see the price of land, and throw in the towel. I’ve said it on the blog many times before, and the fact still remains: the average age of the farmer is 60 years old, and there are millions of acres of idle land awaiting wannabe farmers. The opportunities are there. It’s how you approach the opportunities that is going to determine your success, and the map that Greg Judy has drawn out in this book is without a doubt in my mind the way to approach it. I’ve only highlighted a small part of what Judy brings to light in the book, a quick look at the table of contents listed above and you’ll see the depth he goes into. From sample contracts to record keeping samples, to practical advice Greg learned the hard way this book can save you a lot of headaches. Another thing I did after finishing this book was subscribe to The Stockman Grass Farmer. After reading about pasture farming for the past 9 months every book I read continually references this monthly trade magazine, and Greg referenced it repeatedly throughout the book. It makes sense, if you’re going to learn a trade, or participate in a trade, you need to be informed and keep up with the latest techniques. In conclusion, this book was an inspiring read, and it opened the door to the practical and economical possibilities of pursuing the lifestyle I’m interested in with the detail that no other book I’ve read to this point has done. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in taking on the journey of making a living from the land, because after all that is the point – if you’re not making a living, then it’s an unsustainable lifestyle, and you’ll eventually have to do something you’re likely not passionate about to survive.

Buy the book via Amazon by clicking HERE (It’s an affiliate link so I get a little kickback if you buy. Thanks!)

 

To learn more about Greg Judy and his farms go to: Green Pastures Farm

Below are the videos of Greg from the On Pasture youtube channel. Look at those slick hides!



Comments

  1. Addye Thole

    James, enjoyed this book review. Made me want to read the book & take a closer look at land leasing. Would never have thought the vast money differences even could play out that way. Interesting!!

    1. Author
      James

      Glad you enjoyed it! It’s pretty amazing the opportunities that leasing land creates, especially when your pitch to the land owner is the holistic management approach.

      1. Addye Thole

        True!! When they understand that taking care of the land in such a way so it continually heals itself…..well that’s a win win!!

        1. Greg Judy

          Thank-you for the great book review. Leasing idle land was they key figure that turned our life around. You simply cannot expand without going into major debt unless you get some leased land. We now have over 1000 acres under lease, our capital is used in purchasing livestock instead of land payments. Best of luck to you folks in your grazing future.

          Greg Judy

          1. Author
            James

            Greg, thanks so much for commenting. Your book was a real eye-opener. Thanks for sharing your experiences and being one of the pioneering mentors for the next generation of sustainable farmers. The more I think about custom grazing the more excited I get about the possibilities of the future. Thank you for writing a wonderful book.

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