Ranch vs Farm: What Is the Difference and Why Is It Important

ranch vs farm with catles on field at a bright shiny day

Both farms and ranches are big lots of land used to grow crops and raise livestock. So often, these terms are used interchangeably. However, several main factors distinguish them. If you want to determine which one is right for you and your goals, here are the main points of ranch vs farm you should consider.  

What is a Farm?

A farm is a large plot of land-primarily focused on producing agriculture. In its essence, a farm is a place where people grow crops or raise livestock to collect the resources that come from them. Moreover, USDA defines a farm as an operation that can produce at least $1,000 in agriculture products per year. 

In terms of land type, farms generally require flat land with good soil and a decent water supply. The average farmland is 444 acres, but there are other smaller farms of up to 100 acres. They only produce goods for the household as opposed to those that are industrialized. If done right, even small farms can generate a high ROI. Many farms operate a secondary business on the land to create extra revenue such as a Bed and Breakfast option or they’ve opened up their property for weddings and photoshoots. 

Main Types of Farms

Crop Farm 

A crop farm is a farm that grows vegetables, fruits, and grains. The types of crops grown will largely depend on the environmental conditions. Some farms are dedicated to one specific crop that they sell in prominent qualities, whereas others opt to grow a diverse range of products. Moreover, small-scale specialty farms produce a single crop, such as mushrooms, microgreens, or lavender. 

Dairy Farm

Dairy farmers raise animals to obtain milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt. Beyond cows, dairy farms can include sheep and goats as well. Farmers are responsible for caring for the animals that supply milk and oversee milk harvesting.  

Poultry Farm

Poultry farming involves raising birds, primarily for obtaining meat and eggs and feathers. Chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese are most common on these farms. Farmers take care of the farm species, including distributing feed and administering medications as well as keeping the facilities in good working order.

Meat Farms

Meat farms hold a variety of animals, typically cows, chickens, pigs, and turkeys. The goal is to produce meat, milk, and eggs. The farmers’ duties include feeding the animals, maintaining facilities, assisting with calves, and more.  

What Is a Ranch?

A ranch is a type of farm that usually holds cattle or sheep and focuses on providing optimal care of the animals and breeding them for sale.

A ranch can be located on a mountainous ground or in the flatlands. They typically require a greater land size than farms. Also, a successful ranch needs a good source of grass, which would require good soil management and regular watering. Additionally, there should be a source of water for proper hydration of the livestock. 

Ranchers mainly spend their time riding around and tending to the livestock. Typical responsibilities involve caring for and feeding the livestock, keeping the land of the ranch hospitable, and monitoring for any potential illnesses. Ranchers also keep the property in good condition and they are ultimately responsible for negotiating the price and selling the livestock. 

Larger ranches with extra space can be used for gaining extra income. For example, many ranchers have built tourist facilities for holidaying and offer certain activities like horseback riding or fly fishing.

Should You Invest in a Farm or a Ranch?

Farms and ranches aren’t passive investments — they require a lot of hard work to maintain. Farmland is typically more expensive by acre than ranchland. However, you’ll likely need more land for a ranch if you want to make a profit. 

To decide what type of land would work best for you, you need to evaluate your goals while keeping the various differences between farms and ranchers in mind. Beyond comparing ranch vs farm as establishments, you should consider the daily engagements on both farms and ranches.

For example, farmers might harvest their products daily and send them off to markets, stores, or restaurants. On the other hand, ranchers can only sell their livestock once a year. Moreover, farmers usually spend a good amount of money on providing quality food for their animals. Conversely, ranchers largely rely on the natural vegetation on the land. Finally, ranchers have greater flexibility in their schedules compared to farmers who have strict routines. 

What to Consider Before Buying a Farm or Ranch

When you’re deciding on buying ranch vs farm, there are some important things to consider. You should visit the land in order to get a better idea of the terrain. Zoning is also an important factor to consider — in order to use land for raising crops and livestock it should have agricultural zoning. Also, ensure that the soil is suitable for the crops and livestock you’re going to grow. You might want to get a survey done to know where your lot begins and ends and inform yourself about the history of the land and what it was previously used for. It’s also good to learn as much as you can about the property’s water rights. 

Where to Buy a Farm or Ranch?

Generally speaking, the top five farmland states include Central Wisconsin, West-Central Texas, Northern Missouri, South-Central Florida, and Eastern Ohio. Of course, the choice will depend on the type of farming you want to do and your long-term goals. 

On the other hand, if you decide to purchase raw land for a ranch it’s best to look at Texas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Montana, and Oklahoma. When deciding on the best lot, factor in the size of the ranch you’ll need, as well as the climate and rainfall in your selected location.  

Partying Thoughts

Investing in a ranch or farm is expensive but can be very profitable in the long term. The best thing is, the rewards go beyond the financial — you’ll be able to make healthier lifestyle changes and create a legacy for future generations. Here at Discount Lots we have land for any use, so don’t hesitate to contact us!

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