Internet tool connects landowners with land seekers for leasing optionsWritten by Christy Martinez
A new tool for livestock producers who are either in need of pasture or have pasture available was launched on Feb. 1.
“It’s pasture leasing made simple, a concept stemming from the worst drought in the history of Texas and declining cow numbers,” says PastureScout co-founder Jen Livsey.
The new website, pasturescout.com, connects a rancher in need of grass to a landowner who has grass available for lease.
“PastureScout provides leasing information in one easily accessible place,” says Livsey.
Developing a concept
Livsey is a fifth-generation rancher from eastern Colorado, where she works on her family’s commercial cow/calf operation, and she says there were two reasons why she started working on PastureScout.
“The idea originated with my business partner Ryan Rhoades,” says Livsey.
“The continual decline in cow numbers is a major industry challenge,” says Rhoades, a professor at the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management. “Without grazing pasture, cattlemen have been forced to sell their cattle. When the drought does end, cattle prices will likely be high, making it difficult for those ranchers to get back in the business.”
Rhoades realizes that, in the past, connections between ranchers in times of drought have been difficult to make.
“Somewhere in the country there is always a drought. At the same time, somewhere else in the country there is too much rain,” he says. “Those two people have never been able to connect to each other.”
Following her conversation with Rhoades, Livsey says she was speaking with her dad about shipping their cattle herd to cornstalks for the winter, because of being droughted out in their area.
“We live 60 miles from the Kansas border, but it took him 100 phone calls and a month to find a lease,” she explains. “I thought, ‘That’s absurd. We have internet. It shouldn’t be that hard.’”
Connections to an agricultural bank in south Texas also served as inspiration for Livsey.
“I sell drought insurance in the Rocky Mountain region, and in the course of a week I had three large-scale ranchers contact me, asking if I knew of any pasture. These were well-connected individuals in Texas, but they were looking for someone who might have contacts somewhere else,” she says. “When a drought has affected such a huge portion of the U.S., regional networks don’t serve as well. Then people need to know someone in Wyoming or Nebraska.”
Building a network
Following those experiences, Livsey says she got together with Rhoades to look further into the concept, and they started pulling together the business plan in November 2011. PastureScout started with the idea of finding grazing pasture for cattle, but the website can also be used as a network to expand an operation or to find grazing leases for other livestock such as goats, sheep, or horses, says Rhoades.
How it works
Although the site went live Feb. 1, Livsey says searches aren’t yet available, because the network is awaiting enough listings for pasture seekers to have a successful search.
“There are a couple key things about the site,” says Livsey. “If you register as a land seeker, you can look at the properties for free, and if you register as a landowner it’s $10 per month to list.”
The site also has the capability to host a bidding process, which gives landowners the option to put their lease up for auction.
“With the very great demand right now, there is a good chance that people are undervaluing their leases, so the auction helps individuals realize the market value of their property,” states Livsey. “The landowner has the choice to set a price or open it up for bids.”
“For a landowner, they get wide exposure and the ability to realize the market value,” she adds.
For the land seekers, Livsey says the site provides convenience, and customizable searches for a specific number of cattle during certain months in certain states.
Livsey and Rhoades continue to build the site, and they encourage landowners to check it out.
“It has to do with the sustainability of the industry because it helps the people in the industry,” says Livsey.
“There are large numbers of ranchers in the southern latitudes who are willing to go to Wyoming to find land,” she says. “This is a convenient and efficient system for people in Wyoming, with any pasture size.”
The PastureScout team also hopes the website will be a way to bridge the generation gap between ranchers ready to retire and young people eager to enter the industry.
“At a time when buying land may be out of reach as a young adult, leasing pasture is a viable option,” says Rhoades.