FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How big are ranches in New Mexico?
First, let me distinguish between a lot, parcel, ranchette and ranch. That depends on the experience of the person answering, so let me answer from a ranchers viewpoint.
A rule of thumb among many farm and ranch brokers is that a lot is typically 1/4th to 10 acres; a parcel is typically 10 20 acres; a ranchette is typically 20 to 1,600 acres; and a ranch 1,600 acres or more. That said, in recent years we are seeing a change in common name and size because of so much influence from outside the agricultural industry.
Those not familiar with agriculture dont understand that i\In New Mexico the average acreage required to support one cow is approximately 42 acres and it takes about 300 cows to support a family and at that, one of the spouses typically works off the ranch half to full time. Figure 300 cows times 42 acres/cow is 12,600 acres. Of course, the productivity varies considerably throughout the Southwest, with New Mexico having 6 of the 7 climate zones found on the continental U.S.
To increase productivity on a given acreage is typically with irrigation, which is considered farmland.
Where is the most productive ranchland in the State?
In my opinion it is an oval with Corona in the approximate center. That area has consistently had the heaviest average weight of calves at weaning and they have average the best prices when sold.
What makes ranchland more productive?
Typically, a variety of grasses, beneficial weeds and browse typically high in protein; a variety of soils in the mid-range of clay types and sandy types; somewhat varied topography for protection from winter storms; and elevation and area consistent for moisture.
Pure grassland is great when its good, but in drought, feed costs soar and occasionally the livestock have to be sold. Some people love the pine and aspen forests, but fail to realize they are not productive and not economically efficient, unless there is sufficient game for a source of income. For example, some ranches with the best hunting success ratio for elk do not have a single pine tree on it, but out-of-state hunters doubt it until after experiencing a low hunting success in higher, greener and more scenic areas and seeing elk in town in a pickup gassing up for the trip home and talking to the successful hunter. Keep in mind, weather varies year-to-year and at times of an open fall, a higher elevation may be successful and an early fall colder than average pushes game to lower elevations.
What is the best breed of cattle for New Mexico?
As a cattle buyer I was exposed to all breeds and observed more differences within breeds than I did between breeds, with hybrid vigor evident in first generation crossbreds. And, a little skin meaning no more than 1/4 brahma blood can be advantageous for mother cows below 7,000.
Why is there so much open rangeland in New Mexico?
New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the U.S. The federal government owns 41.8% of land in New Mexico because of the Enabling Act to become a State. The State of New Mexico owns 17.2%; other government agencies about 2.8%, leaving 38.2% private ownership. Of note, about 11% - 12% of the State is ranches larger than 200,000 acres, with Ted Turner not in the top 20 largest landowners.
What about mineral rights?
Much, but not all privately owned land has the mineral rights, the right to excavate, mine and/or remove minerals. Occasionally private mineral rights are sold rather than leased. Most of the mineral rights on federal lands is owned by the federal government, which leases varied subsurface zones. The State owns more mineral rights than it owns land due mostly to surface ownership sales and trades from Statehood through the 1950s.
What about water rights?
Thats a pretty deep subject, eh! There are two sources of water, surface water through acequias (ditches) and subsurface with wells.
Most rural residences have the right to use water for domestic purpose only from wells. Domestic water right is for household and a garden for the owners use only, although there are exceptions that restrict the amount of water to a lower level. Most restrictions are by court order or court approved regulation/law.
When those in agriculture or that deal in water rights use the term water right(s) they mean water for agriculture or commercial use. The history of New Mexico water rights dates to custom used by Pueblos prior to the coming of Spanish settlers, who adopted by codifying into their customs maintained today. The saying is, First in time, first in right. As opposed to riparian rights, which rights are determined by the property location. Another distinction of New Mexico water rights is beneficial use, meaning that if not used, one loses the right to the water. And, with a very few exceptions, water cannot be transferred out of the originating basin. Irrigated farmland is just over 1% of land in the State.
Keep in mind, New Mexico has below average moisture. Some not familiar with the Southwest complain about it not having enough moisture, but love the low humidity and vastly fewer insects and rodents.
What are New Mexicos climate statistics?
Climate is the least asked topic I receive, but I include because of its importance and unexpected surprises to people. With an elevation range of 2,817 at Red Bluff below Carlsbad, to Wheeler Peak northeast of Taos at 13,161, elevation is the most significant influence on our climate, from moisture to temperature and everything else.
Statistically the average annual moisture based on 71 years recorded at almost 400 weather stations throughout the State is 13.9. Annual moisture varies considerably with Carlsbad ranging from 2.59 to 33.39. Many of us have been surprised to learn that through pollen and tree rings scientists have discovered the dustbowl drought from 1930 into 1936 had 10 times more moisture and temperatures since the 1500s, the annual median temperature is 12°F cooler than the mid- 1100s. Chaco Canyon and cliff dwellings from Mesa Verde to the Gila Cliff Dwelling were abandoned by movement to the Rio Grande Valley and proximity. Most moisture comes in the State come in the July mid-September monsoon season. Most irrigation water from the Rio Grande, Pecos, Chama, San Juan, Animas & Gila Rivers and tributary streams are from melting mountain snowpack.
Mean annual temperatures range from 64°F in the extreme southeast to 40°F or lower in high mountains and valleys, with elevation a greater factor than latitude. Summer daytime temperatures often exceed 100°F below 5,000, with June being prior to the monsoon is often the warmest month. The hottest on record is 116°F at Orogrande, July 14, 1934, and Artesia June 29, 1918.
The coldest records are 50°F at Gavilan, about 7,300 and 6.6 miles north of Lindrith, on February 1, 1951. January is the coldest month with annual median temperatures of mid-30°Fs in the mountains to mid-50°Fs at the lower elevations. Frost free days vary from 200 to 80 days due primarily to elevation.
I believe the record drop in temperature was in the late 1940s at a weather reporting station 4 miles east of my home town of Artesia, with a late fall cold front taking the lives of several dove hunters from Roswells Walker Army Air Field that were unprepared when it dropped from 62°F to - 34°F in 5 hours. It was the most extreme cold front in written history, back to the Conquistadors.
See the Glossary of Agricultural Terms for more information