Cattle Leases

November, 2016
Lindsey Wiggins, Hendry County Cooperative Extension Service, LaBelle

One of the most frequently asked questions at my extension office is: Do you know where I can find some land to lease for cattle? That same question is usually followed by others; such as, How much are leases going for?, How long are the contracts?, Is there funding available to cover the cost of all of this fencing?, etc…  This article will address some of these issues and hopefully make your future leasing endeavors simple.

There is a lot of opportunity for cattle leases on federal and state land. The managing entities of these properties include: Water Management Districts, Florida Forest Service, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, and County Governments – just to name a few.  Contact your region’s or county’s field office to discuss lease availability. Also, contact real estate agents to alert them of your interest in this type of land because they are oftentimes contacted by large, land-developers interested in a tax break; such as the agricultural exemption that comes with grazing cattle. Your county property appraiser is also a great resource when looking for potential leases. Most county property appraiser webpages are very user friendly and will help you to identify land owners; such as the government entities listed above.

How much are these leases going for? According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, the 2015 average rent price for pasture in Florida was $13 per acre. This price is negotiated based on the quality of pasture, allowed stocking rate, amount of inputs required by the lease holder, hunting rights, etc… Some leases require a lot of input; such as, fencing, wells, weed control, soil fertility maintenance, land clearing, etc... Leases requiring high inputs may not require a cash exchange for “rent”. If weed control or cross-fencing is your responsibility on your lease, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Each county has an NRCS office, which was formerly referred to as the Soil & Water Office. Contact them to see what you may be eligible for on leased or privately owned land.

As with any contract, pasture lease contracts need to be very detailed. A few things to keep in mind when developing a contract include: price; duration of the lease (often 5 years or more); determine which party is responsible for weed control and soil fertility; stipulate whether or not hunting, trapping, and/or egg harvesting is allowed on the property (including predator control); identify the owner of fencing, pumps, working facilities, etc. should the contract expire; stocking rate; prescription burn rights; liability policy; and hay, sod, or seed production rights. Each lease agreement will differ and may include much more detail, but this will be a great starting point for a new lease holder. Your UF/IFAS County Extension Agent will be happy to help you with this process; should you have any questions. Good luck on the lease hunting trail!

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