Tricks for Selling a Ranch in a Drought (or improving the one you keep)

As the drought continues, coupled with scorching heat, ranch sales continue. The uncertain stock market, record inflation, and the housing boom are all fueling ranch buyers with money to invest. If you are thinking of selling, water seems to be the biggest indicator of a “good” ranch. I recently represented the buyer on a ranch in Frio Co. and that buy was predicated on the successful demonstration of a big Carrizo well. The well came in a 700-900 gpm and the deal was struck.

The ranch had no surface water to speak of, but since it had a good, strong well, the new owner has plans to pipe it across the ranch to ponds large and small for wildlife. While he has no plans to re-sell or “flip” the place, this will add disproportionately to the value, i.e. he will get more than dollar for dollar if/when he sells.

Water has always been important in ranch sales, but with the rise in recreational use vice grazing, surface water has increased, both in size and number. Where a 640 acre ranch could be adequately watered with one windmill in the center and a trough, maybe a pila or cistern for insurance, now the same 640 acres will have five “stock” ponds and a five acre-plus “lake” at the house.

So you don’t have a big well, may not have big water under your ranch, and you can’t depend on a big storm to fill a new pond. What can you do to help market your ranch this year? Very small wildlife ponds, I call them “pothole” ponds, can be dug in a day and maintained with a 1 gpm windmill or solar well. These ponds, one dozer or two bobcats wide and 6-10 feet deep add a lot to the perceived value, particularly if kept full. When digging them, leave native vegetation on at least one long side to provide secure access for wildlife and sow bare ground with a wildlife mix or common bermuda. Below are pics of a pothole tank I dug near Pearsall. Top pics shows wildlife mix and the lower pics is how it looks today. This particular pothole pond is serviced by a windmill.

Certainly, any well can be adapted to fill a shallow pond nearby such as we did with the windmill shown below. Having these wet spots specifically for wildlife shows intent and an effort at management, big points with a prospective buyer.

Lastly, you don’t have a well you can adapt or pipe to remote areas, you don’t have the time or money to dig a new pond and most likely it won’t fill up anytime soon with this drought anyway, what can you do to enhance your place to sell? Enter the wildlife “guzzler”; easy to build and very effective at catching small amounts of rainfall. These structures can be built in the most remote parts of your ranch and will provide critical water to wildlife year around. The one pictured below is 10X12 and I eventually went to a black plastic tank because the 55 gallon barrel could not hold enough. Piped nearby to a clump of brush with a concrete trough, it soon became a focal point for all types of wildlife.

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