Buzz surrounds auction of Wilder Buffalo Ranch

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Farm Forum

There’s a lot of speculation about the Oct. 17 auction of 22,103 acres near Mobridge. Who will buy the land and at what price?

Many from the community and beyond are expected to join serious bidders at the Mobridge Country Club for the sale of the acreage that has been known as the Wilder Buffalo Ranch.

“While some producers are looking at possibly purchasing some of the parcels, others are looking at the sale to see what prices their land could potentially bring if it sold,” Jeana Sayler, ag banker for Dacotah Bank in Mobridge, said. She explained that a number of people have leased land from those not living in the area. With the sale of this land, the price paid may provide a benchmark for what could be expected in future sales.

Whether the notoriety of the seller, Maurice Wilder, 81, a Florida real estate multi-millionaire, will have any bearing on the sale is not known.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Wilder, of Clearwater, Fla., said, “I like South Dakota. I liked being there.”

The rolling land is suited to cattle, but at one time, they ran 7,000 buffalo on the ranch. Wilder said it is now time to sell. “We had trouble getting help and keeping help,” Wilder said. “And that is a problem all over the country. That’s what made my decision to sell the ranch.”

News reports four years ago told the story of starving buffalo at the ranch during a harsh winter. Local authorities impounded the animals and brought in food. Disagreements over the care of the animals have soured relationships, which likely influenced Wilder’s decision to sell.

According to economists, the next two or three years will see lower income in the ag sector because of lower commodity prices. The cattle market has come off its best year ever, Sayler said. And that could impact the demand for good pasture land.

While there is lots of conjecture about who will bid at the auction, Sayler said, “You’re never be sure of what the price will bring until the sale. Most likely, local guys will be looking at the tracts close to their operations. With an auction, an outside investor can come in at the last minute and change everything.”

Sayler said she knew of an auction of 7,500 acres by Dupree last December that brought about $1,000 an acre for rangeland. Whether the selling price for the Wilder land will be under or over that will be anyone’s guess.

Casey Perman of Mobridge Livestock said, “As far as what price it will bring, it will probably hit that $1,000 an acre price.”

The cattle market is strong and good pasture land is needed. Perman said the livestock barn is having their first big calf sale of the year with around 3,000 animals scheduled for Oct. 1.

The Wilder land straddles the North Dakota/South Dakota state line and will be auctioned by Schrader Real Estate and Auction Company of Columbia City, Ind.

R.D. Schrader, president of the auction company, said that “it is a considerable offering and will be a large auction by any standards.”

Schrader said there is a lot of good fencing and good water for livestock operations. Interested parties have been out to check out the land on inspection days.

There are some unsubstantiated rumors that movie stars will be showing up at the auction.

The ranch includes 5,880 acres in Sioux County, North Dakota, and 16,223 acres in Corson County, South Dakota. It will be offered in 13 tracts, ranging from 160 acres to 8,376 acres. The ranch has 19,599 deeded acres and 2,504 leased acres.

“This ranch is an incredible place, with enough land to support several livestock operations, so we’re offering it in tracts to allow ranchers to bid on the land that best suits their needs,” said Schrader.

“Two tracts along either side of SD-63 have a total of 12,692 acres, all with good fencing and water, and that includes the home that serves as headquarters, along with the feedlots with a capacity of 900 head for buffalo, or more for cattle,” said Schrader.

Taken as a whole, the ranch includes 7,838 acres of FSA cropland. “This property includes beautiful alfalfa and hay land, as well as the pastures and feed lot. We believe it will be of great interest to those who wish to move or expand their ranches,” said Schrader.

The auction will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Mobridge Country Club, Oahe Hills Golf Course, in Mobridge. Individuals with questions may visit schraderauction.com or call 800-451-2709.

Wilder continues farming

Maurice Wilder was raised on a farm in central Illinois, and his interest in farming is why he bought thousands of acres in South Dakota.

Through the years Wilder developed Wilder Farms Inc., consisting of several large farms throughout the United States. After selling the South Dakota acreage, Wilder Farms has about 110,000 acres in Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas. Wilder says he takes an active role in the agricultural production along with conservation of the land through responsible agricultural practices.

Selling the South Dakota land doesn’t mean that Wilder is getting out of farming. He said that they are looking at purchasing some land in Illinois, which will cost around $10,000 an acre. Wilder said they just bought 14,000 more irrigated acres in Texas for corn. Three years ago they sold the cattle portion of the South Dakota ranch.

Much of Wilder’s business interests are in commercial real estate, RV resorts, retirement communities and high rise office buildings, mostly in Florida and Texas.

But he added, “I really like farming. We just had a real problem getting good help.”

Wilder is concerned about the future of the ag industry and was eager to talk about prices for corn.

“I worry about oil prices and the impact on corn prices,” Wilder said. “I know corn is about $3 a bushel in South Dakota. We grow corn in the Dalhart, Texas, area where there are a lot of big cattle feedlots, and we get $1 a bushel more per bushel just because of the location.”

Wilder said he’ll miss the ranch.

“We have good grass on the ranch, and it’s a really nice ranch,” Wilder said. “I really love buffalo. I love farming and I think it’s the best life you can have.”

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