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Pippin's person

Acres for a hobby farm

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I have 9 acres, dryland and around 20 ewes which are too many for my property. My pastures are 6.5 ac, 2 ac and a 100x75 ft nightpen/training pen....all the land is open and usable for training. I find that the property is fine for close at hand training, youngsters, etc....but don't generally like working the older dogs on my property due to draws and dogged sheep. Frankly, I don't care to work on my property at all right now due to foxtails.

 

Some things to consider in your property search are proximity to larger neighbors and public lands. When I found my property, I took note that I was surrounded by very large property neighbor with gorgeous irrigated hayfields....5 separate 30-80 acre fields accessible by gate from my property (300-700 yd outruns). I made a vow that that neighbor was "going to love me" and have endeavored to stay in their good graces so I can continue to use the fields to train. I have to work around the hay schedule and winter cattle grazing but I usually have a place to work dogs...plus leaving my place makes the sheep "fresh" again and eliminates draws. I guess if I hadn't been able to "make friends" it would have been pretty horrible....though there are other neighbors with hayfields nearby, but just a little more difficult to move sheep to without hauling.

 

I know many people in Idaho (and CO too), haul out to BLM/Forest Service land or live adjacent....another thought to leverage the possibilities for a smaller property.

 

I would agree with others that say more is better.....the livestock carrying capacity varies greatly around the US depending on soils, irrigation and many other factors. You will be challenged to keep fresh sheep and enough sheep (to keep fresh) on less than 10 acres. Having said that you have to consider how hard you want to work (it's alot of work) and how much support and extra equipment you need. I had an opportunity to acquire a tractor with the property (for a reasonable price) but held off....in my case, I have another neighbor who is very willing to do tractor work for me at very reasonable price (sometimes free...I think he likes opportunities to ride around on his tractor). I suppose if I had alot more property, I might impose too much and it would warrant owning my own.

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My parents have 10 acres (about 1.5 acres is house/barn/garden/barn yard) that has a year round creek running through it so we have a good source of water year round for the pastures, plus the fact that we are in the Pacific NW so have good rainfall. I have had up to 7 horses and been able to graze full time w/grain supplement from mid-April to late October, then supplment in hay the remaining portion of the year. I believe that good pasture management is the key to being successful w/ property that maybe isn't as big as you would like, or to getthe most out of the property that you have. To me this means fertilizing, cross-fencing so you can rotate pastures and givng the grass a break to break to grow back as well as keeping your stock properly vetted so they can get the most for the grazing they are doing, and depending on where you are irragating. I would talk to the local extension office as well as contactng some local hobby farmers to find out what your growing season is like and issues they have had.

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Liz that farm is dry land and probably eight or 10 hours from the Willamette Valley. Great sheep country, though, if you have irrigation to grow feed.

 

I wish we could find land priced at $4700/acre around here. Raw farmland (no buildings, fencing, utilities) starts at $8,000.

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I own 2.5 acres and a cabin in the woods and the only sheep that come here are sick ones and bottle lambs. All my sheep are on land that other people own. I use about 120 acres of pasture that is scattered over hill and dale. The largest single field is 14 acres, and some of them are as small as 1 acre. Most are 4 to 5 acres. This summer I am fencing up the 14 acre piece. Right now the sheep are in electronet all the time. Doesn't work too well in the winter.

 

Here's a map showing the fields where I graze. All are interconnected by trails and lightly-traveled public roads, so we can walk the sheep from one place to another. The distance from the southernmost point (Water Run Farm) to the northernmost (Partridge Brook Fields) is about seven miles. Elevation varies from about 350 feet above sea level along the Connecticut River to about 1400 feet at the top of Cass Hill, which is where the ewes and lambs are grazing now, catching a nice breeze during what would usually be the hottest part of the summer.

 

grazing.jpg

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Bill's $8,000/acre for farm land is a steal down here (within 2hrs of DC). There are three lots left next to us (old farm was split by the heirs mostly pasture): 25 acres (w/ perc) for $450,000, 25 acres (w/ perc and well) for $499,000, and 67 acres (w/ perc) for $599,000 (this is lower priced due to the shape of the lot).

 

Mark

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Bill's $8,000/acre for farm land is a steal down here (within 2hrs of DC)

 

And around here 8K will get you close to 6 acres w/o buildings! The place across the road from me is still for sale - 28 acres of rolling pasture some woods and a pond, 3200 sf brick house w/barn and all perimeter fenced for $179K. Now the house probably needs to be gutted but it's livable as it is too.

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Cleared farmland in pasture (or easily put in pasture) is going for about $10,000/acre here in NC (this is within an hour's commute of Durham, 45 min of Winston-Salem, and 1.25 hours of Raleigh). You can find some cheaper (~$3,500-$4,500/acre), but usually there's a reason (needs clearing, perc issues, land locked, out in the middle of nowhere, etc.). Most of the larger properties that are inexpensive are suitable for hunting or maybe tree farms....

 

J.

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Liz that farm is dry land and probably eight or 10 hours from the Willamette Valley. Great sheep country, though, if you have irrigation to grow feed.

 

It's not that far -- we were just over there road tripping last weekend. It's not in the Willamette Valley, but it's a gorgeous area. Probably doesn't rain as much as it does here, and it probably gets colder in the winter too (it doesn't snow or freeze where we live except on rare occasions). It would take about 3.5-4 hours to get there from here, pretty much all on highways, and it's only 1.5ish hours from Portland.

 

I wish we could find land priced at $4700/acre around here. Raw farmland (no buildings, fencing, utilities) starts at $8,000.

 

Come out here! It's great. It's beautiful and no one lives here, but the people who do live here aren't scary, unlike the people who live most places that nobody lives, if that makes any sense.

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I own 2.5 acres and a cabin in the woods and the only sheep that come here are sick ones and bottle lambs. All my sheep are on land that other people own. I use about 120 acres of pasture that is scattered over hill and dale. The largest single field is 14 acres, and some of them are as small as 1 acre. Most are 4 to 5 acres. This summer I am fencing up the 14 acre piece. Right now the sheep are in electronet all the time. Doesn't work too well in the winter.

 

Bill, how do you have things arranged to graze your sheep? Do you pay them? Do you have a mutually beneficial arrangement of some other sort not involving pay? Do they pay you for keeping the fields "mown"? Are you able to access the properties whenever you want to?

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I do much as Bill does. I live on abut 20 acres, but I don't really use the fields for sheep except for lambing. I use the barn a lot, though. My landlords' daughter uses the place for her sheep & dairy cows.

 

I have access to many more acres of pasture than I can graze with my small flock. I trade some people lamb for grazing (it's amazing- most folks are thrilled with a few pounds of ground lamb- by "lamb" I mean old ewe- which costs me way less than actual lamb to produce), I trade some folks eggs, and them most people just love having sheep out their window mowing their field. I do take the tractor over and mow after the sheep, if people want me to. I figure for free pasture, it's a small price to pay. I gave up 25 acres that I paid to graze last year because there was so much "free" land offered to me. I recently hung up a poster looking for more land to graze, and had an overwhelming response- hence I have so much pasture now! I move sheep in a trailer sometimes, but mostly we run down the road (one of the many perks of living on an island).

 

I love leasing/borrowing land. I always have different fields to work the dog, I can rotate pastures to help with parasites, etc.

 

All that said, my sister & BIL live on 15 acres, of which about 12 is in pasture (the rest is house & garden, then there's a big wetland at the bottom with its attendant buffer... Scott's a wetland scientist, so no pushing boundaries for us!). We have 5 goats and two horses there, and we only feed the two milking does for seven months of the year. The horses & goats stay plenty fat on the grass. We take great care to manage our pastures well- when they moved in, the place was a wreck. I could manage to have about 10 sheep here without the horses & goats if I wanted to not have to feed except for in the winter.

 

If I had my way, I'd have 20 acres, plus some borrowed grazing land.

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Bill's $8,000/acre for farm land is a steal down here (within 2hrs of DC). There are three lots left next to us (old farm was split by the heirs mostly pasture): 25 acres (w/ perc) for $450,000, 25 acres (w/ perc and well) for $499,000, and 67 acres (w/ perc) for $599,000 (this is lower priced due to the shape of the lot).

 

Wow! Try $100,000-160,000 Canadian per acre. In my area(Langley, BC) there are just under 60 properties for sale from 1 acre(brand new house) to about 15 acres. Only half a dozen or so would be suitable for training dogs. Starting at $800,000 and up to 1,200.000+. Most are 4-5 acre hobby farms between $850,000-900,000. With house, outbuildings, barns, fenced etc. & many cross-fenced for horses. There are lots more for sale for over $1,25,000 from 2-40 acres.

We are 2 1/2 hours north of Seattle in Canada. One hour east of Vancouver, BC. If one moved another 30-60mins. further east from the city, the costs would be the same but one could get 7-8 acres for the price of 5 plus maybe a little nicer house.

Prices were a bit higher until last fall when the housing market crashed. Some properties from then are still on the market but not a lot cheaper. Where I live in a suburb of 1/2 acre lots, prices were over $500,000 3 yrs. ago and are now $450,000-525,000.

cheers Lani

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Come out here! It's great. It's beautiful and no one lives here, but the people who do live here aren't scary, unlike the people who live most places that nobody lives, if that makes any sense.

 

Melanie

 

Since you asked, I'll admit your statement doesn't make any sense to me that "no one lives here".

 

I moved to the region and have met may great people....some famous, some talented and some just plain nice. Maybe you're just new around here or have higher expectations or are shy? I keep looking forward to your attendance to a trial so I can introduce you to some people. How about this weekend? Almost in your own backyard... We missed you at the trial last weekend.

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Pippin's person,

 

I don't pay a nickel in cash rent. In the past, I have been paid to graze land, but generally I am not doing that anymore as most of the land I can get paid to graze is too far from home and/or too rough to use for production and the only hope I have of making money with my sheep is to have them all in production during the short growing season.

 

The specifics of the arrangements varies with the landowners. Most are simply happy to have their fields kept open initially, and then are delighted when they see that good grazing practice can improve the fields and add organic matter back to the soil. In some cases, I might offer them a few packages of lamb in the fall, or a good deal on a half lamb or something along those lines. Most insist on paying for the meat, to the point where I have found an envelope of cash on the dashboard of my truck when I tried to give someone a leg of lamb for a family dinner.

 

In most cases, I can be on the land anytime I want. There was one landowner who used his land for hunting and wanted me off between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1 every year. That was easy enough to accommodate. Simply put, I have enough land that if there are too many restrictions I just politely decline the offer.

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Melanie,

 

Much as I love the idea of year-round grazing, I would miss the four distinct seasons and wooded hills of New Hampshire. I even missed them 50 miles south of here in Massachusetts. I guess I trade off living in big sheep country for living in a place where it's unusual to be able to see what you're neighbor's up to, even if he's only 150 yards away.

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It's great. It's beautiful and no one lives here, but the people who do live here aren't scary, unlike the people who live most places that nobody lives, if that makes any sense.

 

Yep, it makes total sense to me. Many of the people around these parts, where nobody lives, are scary...quite scary. There used to be a lot of survivalist, militia types, conspiracy theorists living off the grid. Every once in a while the sheriff's office or marshals would swoop in and confiscate their stockpiles of dynamite and such. Occasionally the dynamite explodes before this happens. Now that the farther out areas are being developed I suspect some have chosen to relocate to the farther reaches of places nobody lives.

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Oh, by "nobody lives here" I mean it isn't densely populated. I'm used to big urban areas, and I grew up in suburbia with a capital S. Here, I can walk five minutes from my house and see cows. I've always wanted to live somewhere that it would be feasible to have some space and animals, which is definitely not large urban areas or most suburbs. I wasn't referring to the size of the community of local sheepdog folks which, so far, has been quite awesome.

 

I've been traveling so much this summer that I haven't been able to make it to any trials -- and I don't have a dog to run right now as Fly is too rusty and Jett is not ready. I was on the east coast during Scio and the trial this weekend totally slipped my mind. Are you going to be there tomorrow still?

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We found the property of our dreams in the desert. It turned out to be 78+ acres but we only use about ten of those. Like Julie said it depends. My neighbor up the road has 40 acres and has lots of sheep too. She also has a Llama or two; burro or donkey; minature goats. They probably use only 5 of their acres. Since we don't farm we don't grow our own hay but there is plenty of water. I tend to agree with the people who said always get more than you think you will need. We like the separation between our neighbors (even though we have the best neighbors in the world).

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About two years ago (just as the real estate market was starting to nosedive) I paid $148,000 for a 13.68 acre (gross) fully cleared, tillable field, with a creek on one side (doesn't belong to me) and nice road frontage. This is about halfway between Gettysburg and Harrisburg, off Highway 15, in Pennsylvania. (USA) That was a good buy for useable land around here, and it's a property size that doesn't often come up on the market without strings attached. (Originally there were a few restrictions on the deed, but I made removing the ones relevant to sheep-keeping a condition of my offer.) I was thrilled to get my hands on it.

 

Apart from some surprise groundwater issues (that are manageable) it's a nice chunk. It runs up a gentle, southwest facing hill (not completely even) to the treeline which is the edge of my neighbors' property. There's working cropland on both sides and the woods behind. When I put up the house and barnette, I shoved them over to one side and kept as much open space as I could for hay field and dog work -- about half the land is one big field, probably a tad over 7 acres. There's a dog yard behind the house, and the narrower "half" of the property (with the buildings) is subdivided into smaller paddocks (150 x 300, 100 by 300, etc.) I fenced the entire perimeter at hideous expense with tall high tensile woven wire field fence, with the narrower openings toward the ground. Interior fencing is shorter (I think 4 feet) and only the dog yard has the narrower openings toward the bottom. (Darn it, for about 4 weeks the newborn lambs can and do squz through the 4-inch openings in the interior fences. Ain't they something? The punishment is that their mammas definitely can't follow. If I can see that they're OK (and the dogs aren't out) I generally let the wee Houdinis run back and forth and scream for while. The smarter ones quit squzing, and eventually all of them get too big to fit any more.)

 

The only thing about the land I might try to change would be to make the whole property slightly more rectangular, so I could get a longer outrun -- I think the maximum straight distance is about 950 feet as it stands. (You can set up diagonally to eke out a little bit more room but it's no real challenge for higher level dogs.)

 

The one additional large investment I need to make (but can't afford at present) is a decent sized tractor, with all-wheel drive, a three-point hitch, a front bucket and a bush hog. 13 acres is too much to handle with the equipment that worked okay back when I owned 10 acres, but only about a quarter of it (maximum) was useable.

 

Fortunately so far I've been able to work with my neighbors to take care of haying and mowing. (I'm paying them in a mix of hay, sheep, cash and cookies.) They're all great people, and seem to be happy to help me out. But I'm an independent cuss and I'd like to be able to do more upkeep on my own. Plus (speaking from limited experience) it's a total RUSH to ride around on a tractor. I want I want I want. Someday. :-)

 

It seems to be a pretty good setup for a middle aged single woman with no local family, who also works full time at an office job. I really don't think I could handle more. Even this small a property is a LOT of work.

 

Liz S at Hex Hill Farm

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