Rog (egosumquisum) wrote in farmers,

Livestock Options for Absentee Landowner

Just last year I purchased 23 acres of unimproved rural land in southern Caldwell County Texas (just southeast of Austin). I am now in the process of getting a well dug on the property in order to water livestock and will eventually be building my homestead there in a year or two (dependent on whether I can sell my current home in Austin for enough to finance the construction of the house out there). The place currently has no agricultural tax exemption and I want to be able to start raising SOME sort of critter out there to qualify for an agricultural exemption.

Since we have no income tax in Texas, property taxes are quite high. I pay nearly $1100 in yearly taxes for the 23 acres with no improvements at all apart from an electric power pole for the new well. If I get an ag exemption, those yearly taxes would drop to as low as $25/year. Unfortunately, its a 5-year process to get an ag exemption and you have to prove that your land has been under agricultural use for 5 years before you can apply for an exemption. There is such a thing as a "wildlife exemption" that offers a similar tax break that seeks to maintain wildlife on the property, but for some insane reason, its necessary to have an ag exemption BEFORE you can get a wildlife exemption! So I need to get started putting the property to agricultural use. The main problem is I only get out there about 2-3 times per month and would not be able to look after high maintenance animals that might require daily feeding of some kind.

As I said, Im going to have a well finished soon that can provide water to a metal tank with a float switch. Theres also a stock pond on the property but its quite small and can dry up in the long hot summers. The property is mostly post oaks and mesquite with a few cleared areas. The fences are in pretty decent shape but they are mostly just 4 or 5 strand barbed wire on cedar posts. I need to find some kind of critter I can put out there that satisfies the minimum requirements for agricultural use in Caldwell county. According to the appraisal district, the minimums are: "4 cows that produce 3 calves a year, or 8 stocker calves, or 4 breeding mares producing 2 foals a year, or 20 nanny goats producing 20 kids a year, or 20 ewes producing 20 lambs a year, or reaping 1.5 tons of hay per year."

From what I understand cows require a lot of maintenance and require pasture that is actually sown with pasture grass seed. The plus is that most cattle don't require anything more than a standard 5-strand barbed wire fence. From what Ive been told by some goats, especially spanish meat goats, can survive without any fancy supplement on brush and scrub indefinitely, but they require very expensive goat fencing to be installed over the top of the barbed wire so they don't escape. My land is host to a lot of feral hogs which I enjoy hunting. If I install goat fencing the hogs will either destroy my goat fence or the goat fence will keep them out, making my hog hunting go away as well. Theres the issue of predators too. Large cattle need not fear feral dogs or coyotes, but goats and sheep apparently do and I am dubious that something like a guard donkey or two can actually prevent significant losses from predators. Guard dogs work, I hear, but my land is too small to keep an unattended guard dog on the property that might wander off-property and harm neighbors livestock, etc.

I have hear that one can lease out their property to someone else willing to run cattle on the place and willing to look after the animals, but I am wary of letting some stranger have the run of my property and since I enjoy hunting, target shooting, and ATVing on my property I dont think someone would want their cattle to be exposed to all that noise and potential danger, especially with it being only 23 acres. The final option I suppose would be sowing some hay out there but I currently dont own a tractor and I dont know how much hay one can expect to harvest from what little I have cleared in open areas. I don't want to cut down and clear any of the lovely oaks on my place just to make pasture land for hay production, nor do I want to pay someone with a dozer thousands of dollars just to clear it all out for hay production. What is the minimum number of cleared acres one would need to reasonably expect to harvest 1.5 tons of hay per year from? If I only have about 2-3 acres cleared as open pasture, is it realistic to find someone willing to lease it out for hay production?

What would you all recommend?

Thanks in advance
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