According to a recent study comparing all 50 states, the top states to own a ranch are Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Texas and Montana.
There are many key factors that weigh into the ranking of best places to own a ranch: cost of land, property taxes, climate, infrastructure and even mineral production. Below we break down each area so you can decide where the best place is for you to own and operate your cattle ranch, hunting ranch, recreational ranch or luxury ranch.
Farm and Ranch Land Prices
The national average cost per acre for farm and ranch land in the United States is $4,442. It has risen 4.5 percent over the past 20 years. The lowest land prices are in Montana ($808), Oklahoma ($1,180), South Dakota ($1,186) and Wyoming ($1,215). On the flip side, the highest cost per acre lies in the states of New Jersey ($12,900), California ($9,340) and Arizona ($8,026). Other popular ranch states like Missouri, Texas and Colorado all fall well below the national average.
Property Tax Rates
Just like land prices, property tax rates have climbed rapidly, particularly over the past five to 10 years. California, by far, has the highest property taxes in the nation at more than $17,000 per farm on average. Nebraska has seen the biggest spike in property tax rates, increasing more than 30 percent since 2012. The average rate per farm in the state is $16,151. Although South Dakota has some of the lowest cost of land in the country, they come in third for highest property tax rates at $9,568 per farm.
The lowest property taxes are in the states of Texas and Nevada, which don’t have state property tax.
Mineral Rights and Production
In the last five years, five states have led the country in mineral production, accounting for nearly one-third of the total mineral production value for the U.S. Those states are Nevada, Arizona, Texas, California and Minnesota. You can view all mineral rights by state on the Mineral Rights Forum.
Overall Rankings for Best Places to Own a Ranch
LawnStarter recently conducted a survey comparing all 50 states across 44 key metrics to rank the best states to own a farm or ranch. Some of the metrics included infrastructure, cost, environmental factors and potential returns.
The study concluded that the top 10 states for owning a ranch were as follows:
Coming in close behind these states were Missouri, Tennessee and Wyoming.
We asked some of our ranch land experts from across the country at UC Ranch Properties and United Country Real Estate to tell us which state they believe is the best to own and operate a ranch. Here are some of their responses:
“With our water resources, the National Forest and state land leases for grazing, you don’t have to buy or own a large piece of land to operate a ranch. The trout fishing is legendry and world class. Then, add the incredible hunting we have for deer, elk, bear and mountain lions on top of that for more adventure or for additional lease income from your ranch property. Our skiing is always close by any ranch property for winter recreation as well. We have I-70 running east to west and I-25 bisecting the state north to south, so accessing your ranch is pretty convenient.”
Michael Krieg, United Country | Real Colorado Properties.
“Northern Idaho! We have the Selway, Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers. Amazing fishing for starters, great elk, other big game and deer hunting, lots of pheasant, grouse and turkey hunting. Idaho has productive cattle ranches and state land to graze on, including plentiful hay fields. .”
Candice Crosby-Short, United Country | Steelhead Realty.
“In Southeast Oklahoma, we have the best of it all. We have several rivers, grasses, hayfields, woods and a lot of ranches here. This is cattle country at its best!”
Kam Harden, United Country | AltaTerra Realty and Auction.
“In Southern Oklahoma, there is easy access to the rodeo circuit. Very low property taxes, less expensive property and world renowned horse trainers and breeders. The Noble Foundation also has a massive amount of resources developed for farmers and ranches investing nine figures into research and development.”
Marcus Cunningham, United Country | Southern Oklahoma Realty.
“We have ample water, plentiful grass and favorable private property rights. We can run one cow/calf pair per three acres, combined with some of the lowest land prices in the Midwest and Southeast. We have plenty of ground water and rain and, while we have all for seasons, none are extreme. We graze 12 months a year. Very low property taxes too. And, as an added bonus, our rolling hills give us more grazing per acre.”
Liz Citron, United Country | Ozarks Realty and Auction Group.
“Texas is cattle country. We have them everywhere with pastures dotted with oil wells. In this area south of Houston we have a lot of wide open land. Easy access to major cities and excellent transportation infrastructure.”
Chuck Redman, United Country | Texas Landmark Properties.
“Texas is known as “The Lone Star State.” There are many benefits of owning a ranch that has potential of making money here. A ranch you choose could be for raising cattle, growing crops, equine boarding business, an event center and more. Land can be leased, which allows others to use it for their business, said Wendy Johnson, owner/broker for United Country | Texas Landmark Properties. “You can make a profit by owing a ranch in Texas no matter what size it is. There are also tax advantages; whether it is a homestead residence exemption, wildlife/conservation tax exemption, agricultural or timber exemptions. A working farm is also entitled to deductions like depreciation, equipment, operating losses, utilities and salaries.”
Overall, ranches are available in every state in the U.S. and you can find luxury ranches, prime hunting, fishing and recreational ranches, cattle ranches and other ranch properties for sale in nearly every state if you’re looking for your dream ranch or to expand your ranching operations. Even Hawaii has beautiful ranch land. If you’re looking to buy or sell your ranch land, contact one of our ranch experts at United Country and UC Ranch Properties. Find an agent near you or search all available ranch property listings at www.UnitedCountry.com.