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Should I buy a farm?

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  • Should I buy a farm?

    I have a potential opportunity to purchase a farm but I am not sure of the time commitment. It is a large enough facility (28 stalls- not sure I would want to fill them all) that I would need to have 2 helpers. I would probably only fill at most 20 stalls.

    With 2 people working at the barn - is that realistic to assume that they can do most of the work - mucking stalls, cutting grass, maintianing the fences, feeding, dragging the rings etc.

    I work full time but I have always wanted my own place so my horses care is in my control and the barn can be run the way I like it.

  • #2
    You don't really give enough information. What is your experience in managing or working at a barn? Are you planning on taking on boarders?

    What happens if your helpers don't show up? Are you able to call in to your full-time job and take a day or more off to feed and muck if that situation arises?

    I would not want to have a full time job + managing a barn without a barn manager and cushion of a very, very big pile of money.

    Have you ever managed staff before? It sucks. Nobody is invested in your business like you are. Managing people sucks the will to live out of you.


    • #3
      When you say 'fill' the stalls, I assume you mean with boarders...

      If you have a demanding full time job, then you'll likely need a stable manager, not just some helpers.

      This isn't just keeping your horses at home, it's becoming a small business owner. Time for a business plan. Will the local economy support what you'd have to charge to make this viable?
      ... and Patrick


      • #4
        If you want the barn run the way you like it you will either need to be on site to manage it or you will need to hire a barn manager to oversee your help.

        Your barn manager will have tasks like:
        - ensuring the workers show up, dealing when they don't.
        - overseeing the workers and altering their task list as needed
        - paying the workers
        - collecting board
        - dealing with complaints and requests from boarders
        - ordering hay, bedding, and other supplies
        - observing horse and boarder behavior to keep everyone safe and healthy
        - scheduling farrier and vet visits
        - dealing with broken stuff, either by calling someone to fix or directing staff to fix

        and the list goes on.

        You will also need to work in days off for all your staff, so likely you'd need at least three workers in order to always have two working. I'm assuming you'd sub in for the barn manager on weekends... which makes your life kinda suck, just BTW.
        If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


        • #5
          I got my own farm but I would not ever want to start out with boarders. Sounds too much like running a child care center (which BTW I have done). If you really want to enjoy having horses at home, I would advise against it.


          • #6
            Running a 20 horse facility with a full time job is just asking for a whole lot of stress that you really don't need. Managing a facility that size is a full time job in itself, even with a barn manager and staff. You'll have boarder and staff headaches that will make any spare time you have at the barn to enjoy your own horses disappear.

            Take that money and get yourself a place just big enough for your personal horses and hire someone to do the daily mucking. The moment you start bringing boarders into your life, the barn will of necessity become an all consuming monster. If you can't be there full time, don't go there.
            Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
            Witherun Farm


            • #7
              I think that if you even have to just ask the question, the answer should be no.


              • #8
                Also do the math on the costs.

                Let's say you have to pay two people $10/hr for 6 hours of work a day 7 days a week. In people costs alone you'd be spending on average $3600 a month in labor costs.

                I don't know how much the mortgage payment, property taxes etc etc would be, but let's guess $1600/month.

                Utilities and Water maybe $400/month

                I have no idea how much shavings and feed and all that is per horse when you're buying in bulk so I'm just going to guess $180 a month per horse but I doubt the profit margins would be that good. With 20 head that'd be $3600

                I'd also want to budget $200 a month in a repair and maintenance fund.

                Let's not even talk about large equipment like tractors and spreaders and what nots. I also don't know how much liability insurance is. I'm going to just through in $100 a month for good measure

                If you've got 20 boarders at $450 you'd be making $9000 a month in revenue.
                That's IF you've got all 20 boarders. I haven't included an costs for marketing either so you'd have to get the boarders for free.

                Total estimated carrying expenses without a barn manager (which you would probably need having a full time job) = $9500

                Obviously these are just guesttimates on my part but you'd be operating at a loss without a barn manager in this scenario. If you live on the property and there's already a place to live you can subtract our your rent from the carrying costs to get close to breaking even.

                Unless you're also upselling with training, lessons and what nots a boarding barn seems like a terrible way to make a living or supplement income. I don't know your area, maybe board fees could be higher than $450/month.

                You need a business plan. You need to know what each item that goes into running a barn would actually cost in your area. You need to know what you can reasonably expect to get for board. Then you need to do the math.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for your replies.

                  I have a lot of experience with horses, barn management and managing people. I have been involved in horses for 20+ years, although not as my primary job.

                  I have a job where I can take time off if I need to but depending on the day may not be able to at short notice. I think that getting a barn manager is a great idea or maybe even leasing the facitlity to someone maybe the way to go. Base don the numbers I have run for having a facility I would not be making a ton of money just enough to cover my 2 horses and some of my mortgage.

                  I thought about having just my horses but was concerned about being able to get help.

                  Trevelyan96 - you have a point on the stress level...I maybe be asking for a lot of stress if I were to do this.


                  • #10
                    I have a small private farm with 8 boarders, and it makes enough money to pay one person, sort of. That one person can be me, or can be someone I hire. But if I hire any help, then it means I don't get paid. I doubt that your scenario would throw off any money beyond what it would cost to hire a barn manager, and even that might be tricky.

                    Good luck!!
                    Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                    • #11
                      In this economy, I'd think twice or more before taking this on. The headaches of that many boarders is mind-boggling too. Buy a property big enough for your horses, deduct price of boarding and it goes a long way toward your mortgage, and might just save your sanity.


                      • #12
                        Finding good help is very difficult. Even when you do find good help, I do believe that a healthy level of owner involvement is still necessary to keep everything on the right track. You want control of your horses, but if you aren't there to stay on top of things you are very likely to be coming home to find out that things aren't getting done how you want them.

                        Even if employees are doing all the "work" you still will need to manage those employees and do payroll, taxes, insurance, etc. as well as keep track of boarding checks and accounts with suppliers. I know that some "managers" do more of this bookkeeping than others, but my own opinion is that it is very hard to find someone you can trust with these things and you will definitely at least need to oversee it. Small businesses are very vulnerable to embezzlement and theft.

                        You never know when one of your employees will quit or get sick or not show up for whatever reason (typically right before you leave for your one vacation a year, or right when you are facing a stressful/important situation at your day job), so you need to have a backup plan in place as well.

                        Boarding is high stress for other reasons too--clients coming and going, bringing guests and badly behaved dogs, doing dumb things, having accidents, causing property damage, etc.

                        The final straw is that boarding (by itself) is by and large a break even proposition financially unless the land itself has excellent investment potential and you plan to subdivide or develop it later.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by touchadream View Post
                          I work full time but I have always wanted my own place so my horses care is in my control and the barn can be run the way I like it.
                          I briefly (very briefly) toyed with that idea when buying our place. However, after doing the math and talking with BO the "profit" was not worth the headaches. Most of the BO either only took a couple to cover their horses expenses or did training where they made their real profit. Be sure to run all of the numbers and now all of the legal requirements for having employees before jumping in. My friend's accountant told her to start off with a business you can do without hiring anyone for 1-2 yrs and once established and real costs known, then look to expand and take on the headaches of employees

                          LIke your quote, so do many others and there are many who will expect you to run your place the way they like it. I would look more to a place where you can take yours and maybe 1 or 2 others - those 1 or 2 can be wonderful if you want a vacation or become injured as you might be able to trade board for work
                          Epona Farm
                          Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

                          Join us on Facebook


                          • #14
                            It takes a substantial amount of money to start a horse business and with the economy still being crap, i would not expect to make any money on this project in the near future. You might even be operating at a loss for a while if you have to throw all of your resources into paying the help. What would happen if boarders miss payments? How will that affect your business. What would happen when the tractor engine blows up? There are so many things that can go wrong in a horse operation that cost so much money to fix or make right.
                            Being the control freak that i am, i sure wouldnt want to take something on like this with a full time job. I would want the time to set the operation up to my liking and have my barings grounded before i hire someone else to take over.

                            To be a success right out of the gate you need a lot of money, and if you have it, great! But, i agree, if you have to ask, then the answer is probably no.


                            • #15
                              I'm going to go against the tide. I would recommend doing it IF you don't mind hard work and can be flexible.

                              Both Mr. IF and I work FT professional jobs. We don't live on our farm during the week because of commuting issues. We've manage to run a farm business this way for 14 years. The property has been a very good investment for us.

                              The key is to simplify wherever you can. Look at the property with the idea of how to minimize labor. Labor is going to be your biggest cost and headache. Also be prepared to do some of the labor yourself because frankly, it is easier and faster if you do. I happen to like manual labor and working with what my father used to call "tools of ignorance." I rarely keep horses in and I clean the stalls we use for short term holding on weekends myself. I also feed on weekends. Mr. IF does lots of mowing. IF Jr. also has chores. We keep busy, but the place looks good.

                              Obviously you will make decisions based on the property itself. It may make sense to rent part of the barn to a trainer versus individual boarders. Let the trainer provide the labor needed for her stalls.

                              I don't take many boarders, but focus on sales and training. I have an on-site tenant who feeds during the week and keeps an eye on things. I have two part time trainers who work with the horses, teach lessons, and assist with sales during the week. It took a while to find the two trainers and I make sure they are compensated well and appreciated for their contribution to my business.

                              I have no regrets about having a farm. It is work, but it is quite satisfying. I am looking forward to retiring in a few years and moving there permanently.
                              Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                              • #16
                                OP, as a farm owner and someone who grew up on a farm, my answer is always the same:

                                Owning a horse farm is CRAZY. INSANE. It makes NO SENSE in any possible way. Only buy a farm if you can't bear to live without one.

                                I wouldn't trade my farm for the world but I recognize and embrace the insanity of the entire proposition. If you can avoid purchasing one, do.

                                The thought of making money with a farm makes me laugh. And my dad is a farmer. He has been a farmer his entire life, has a lovely place and still barely scrapes by every year. Any money you make must be plowed back into the farm to keep it prime. The cost of fertilizer alone is through the roof and likely to stay that way. If you pay someone to do the labor, you will need to plow outside money into it. Farms are huge money pits.

                                Best of luck with your decision. And welcome to farm life, if you are crazy enough!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by showhorsegallery View Post

                                  I don't know how much the mortgage payment, property taxes etc etc would be, but let's guess $1600/month.
                                  I want to move there, as that would just cover our taxes...


                                  • #18
                                    How much acreage is there? That will make a huge difference in how much you spend. Less acreage = more stalled time = more bedding used.

                                    20 horses is a lot to manage. 2 people can take care of the horses, sure. I boarded with, at times, upwards of 30 horses. There was a BM (who couldn't do much physical work, but did tack up many of the lesson horses), 1 instructor, and a few stall cleaners. The pasture never had to be mowed, as there were enough horses eating it down. Fencelines rarely had to be repaired, as most of them were overgrown with bushes/vines. Horses were stalled about 20 hours a day, so they went through a lot of bedding. Hay and grain was included in the board. The only thing that kept them making money was the lessons, mostly, because boarder costs didn't make them much.

                                    Even breaking even just on boarding means fairly high board rates. Does this place have the facilities to attract 20 boarders who are willing to pay to keep you afloat?
                                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by airhorse View Post
                                      I want to move there, as that would just cover our taxes...
                                      All my numbers were just guesses. That would be about for $200,000 mortgage? I have no idea where the OP was. I see some horse properties in the rural areas of my part of town for about this much that aren't fancy and smaller acreages.


                                      • #20
                                        It was the 28 stalls/20 horses that makes me say "this isn't keeping your horses at home". I have a barn that could hold 6 horses (with space for even more stalls). I have 2 right now. Have had 4. Four you can do by yourself, and a full time job. 5 is somehow LOTS more work. And I'm really loving the 2.

                                        Boarders are an entirely different kettle of fish, and if you want them at home so you can care for them as you see fit, having boarders will throw wrenches into that because they will make demands on how you care for their horses. It will be the other side of the coin from being a boarder but you'll get requests.

                                        If you want to have your horses at home (although you have not said how many you have) find a smaller farm and go for it!