Mega ranches back in vogue among mega rich

Billionaires buying ranches for income, long-term investment

Waggoner Ranch in Texas
Waggoner Ranch in Texas

Billionaire executives are buying ranches for cattle operations, hunting game and to entertain clients and guests.

The recession and droughts slowed demand for wide swaths of ranch land in recent years. Dry conditions forced ranchers to sell off their herds, which drove down cattle prices. Now, with easing drought conditions across much of the country and cattle prices coming back up, the market for large ranches is rebounding.

“It’s the perfect storm,” says Sam Middleton, a Lubbock, Texas-based ranch agent who is representing Waggoner Ranch, told the Wall Street Journal. With 510,000 acres across six counties in Texas, Waggoner Ranch is one of the largest ranches ever to go on the market. The heirs of Texas cattle baron W.T. Waggoner listed it just a few weeks ago for $725 million.

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Middleton and Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International broker Bernie Uechtritz say “hundreds” of prospective buyers have called asking about the property.

Demand for mega ranches — those with more than 25,000 deeded acres and often more than 100,000 total acres listed in the $10 million to $175 million range — is particularly strong. These properties typically have cattle operations, as well as recreational assets such as hunting, fishing or hiking.

Jeff Buerger, a Denver-based partner with ranch real estate agency Hall & Hall, said that buyers of mega ranches are looking for income, such as a profitable livestock operation or fees from allowing wildlife hunting. They’re also looking for a safe, long-term investment. The value of U.S. pasture land normally grazed by livestock rose 11% in the fiscal year 2014 from a year earlier, after averaging about 5% yearly increases for the two years before that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [WSJ] —TRD