Pasture Rental Rates

cattle grazing pasture

Pasture Rental Rates March 16, 2017

What should it cost to rent pasture this year? Preliminary results from the Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey (Tables 1 and 2) released this week list average pasture rental rates by district and quality level as well as rates for cow-calf pairs.

Pasture rent varies for many reasons. Quality of the grassland, location of the pasture, fence, water, and management responsibilities, as well as tradition, individual relationships, and local demand all influence individual pasture rental rates.

According to this year’s survey, the average monthly rent being paid to graze a cow-calf pair this grazing season is lowest in the West District, the Panhandle, at just over $35 per month. The highest average rate is in the Northern District is a little more than $61 a month. All other districts are around $50 per pair per month, plus or minus $5. Projecting these rates over a five-month grazing period, it will cost an average of $175-$300 to graze a cow-calf pair for the summer.

Please note these are only averages. Some Nebraska pastures are being rented for as little as $20 per pair per month, maybe even less. Other pastures cost up to $90.

Overall, a month's pasture rent per cow-calf pair dropped 5%-10% compared to last year. This is similar to the drop in cropland rental rates and reflects the decline in row crop and cattle prices the past couple years.

Pastures are a major resource for the ranching and cattle industry in Nebraska and pasture rent is a critical factor in the financial well-being of both landlords and tenants. Knowing what other pastures are renting for can help you negotiate a fair rate for yours.

Table 1. Pasture cash rental rates. (Source: 2017 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey Preliminary Report)
Northwest DistrictNorth DistrictNortheast DistrictCentral DistrictEast DistrictSouthwest DistrictSouth DistrictSoutheast District
Average Pasture Rental Rate $11 $25 $62 $34 $53 $22 $35 $49
Percent Change -8 -4 -17 -6 -14 -8 -5 -10
High Third Quality $21 $38 $75 $48 $73 $32 $46 $68
Low Third Quality $7 $16 $41 $30 $38 $19 $23 $33

Table 2. Cow-calf pair monthly rental rates.a (Source: 2017 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey Preliminary Report)
Northwest DistrictNorth DistrictNortheast DistrictCentral DistrictEast DistrictSouthwest DistrictSouth DistrictSoutheast District
Average Rate $35.15 $61.20 $53.15 $55.15 $51.20 $53.70 $47.30 $48.78
Percent Change -3 -4 -11 -5 -9 -6 -4 -6
High Third Quality $47.95 $75.90 $68.30 $67.65 $70.45 $61.80 $58.35 $65.45
Low Third Quality $25.65 $47.50 $42.80 $42.25 $44.55 $41.65 $39.15 $41.45
a A cow-calf pair is typically considered to be 1.25 to 1.30 animal units (animal unit being 1,000 lb animal) for a five-month grazing season. However, this can very depending on weight of cow and age of calf.