Beef Magazine is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

What Is Sweat Equity Worth?

Even though it’s bitter cold in some areas of the country right now, it doesn’t mean ranchers aren’t working hard outside and breaking a sweat. With hay to be fed, frozen waterers to thaw, bedding to lay and preparations for calving season underway, there’s a lot of work to be done when others might be taking a snow day.

Ranching is certainly a work-intensive career. For aging ranchers who aren’t as spry as they used to be, having the younger generation around to put in some “sweat equity” can be a welcome and valuable thing.

Sweat equity can be equally rewarding for the younger generation. Particularly with today’s prices for cattle and land, the capital requirements of getting started in ranching can be overwhelming and nearly impossible to attain. That’s why partnering up with the older generation can be a wise investment for younger folks, even if it means being the designated slave labor for years.


Subscribe now to Cow-Calf Weekly to get the latest industry research and information in your inbox every Friday!


By definition, sweat equity is an interest in increasing the value in a property earned from labor toward upkeep or restoration. The term is used to describe the value added to real estate by owners who make improvements by their own toil. The more labor applied to the home, and the greater the resultant increase in value, the more sweat equity that has been gained. What applies to real estate also applies to a ranch. The more upkeep and improvement that’s put into the ranching enterprise, the more it is worth in the long haul.

My folks got into the cattle business by taking cattle on shares with my dad’s dad. My dad took my grandpa’s commercial operation and made it into a successful purebred business, adding value to the ranch by bringing in higher-value cattle to sell to commercial operators in the area.

My husband and I invested in the business when we moved back to my family’s operation and started doing some of the heavy lifting around the place. Instead of taking a market share of my dad’s customers, we have had to find ways to diversify by bringing in another breed and investing more in the marketing to expand the business instead of dividing up the existing shares.

In turn, my folks have been generous by co-signing on some loans, offering equipment for us to use instead of having to invest in our own. Just as valuable is their wisdom and advice as we stumble around in our youthful years of getting established in the business.

As a young person, sweat equity can only work if both parties clearly understand each other’s expectations. It would be heart-breaking to put in decades of sweat equity into an operation, only to discover the older generation never had any intention of passing it along or making it possible for that individual to invest once the owner hits retirement age. Equally challenging for the current operator can be making an immediate commitment to that younger generation. However, this gap in expectations and understanding can be solved with a little communication. Nonetheless, the arrangement can be a difficult situation to navigate, and each family operation has its own unique set of challenges.

I bring this up today because I would like to hear from all of you on this subject. If you’re in the position of putting in years of sweat equity, what is your incentive to stick around? Does your operation have a road map that lays out what to expect in the decades to come?

And, if you’re the current owner and operator, how heavily do you rely on a younger family member to work on your ranch? What is sweat equity worth to you? Does it come with any guarantees on your part? Share your stories, advice and experiences in the comments section below.


You might also like:

What Exactly Is Transparency In Agriculture?

4 Tips To Cut Your Winter Feeding Bill

10 Years After The Cow That Stole Christmas

Share This --> Simple Infographics That Explain Beef Industry Basics

Breathtaking Photos Of Winter On The Ranch

TAGS: Cow-Calf
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.