Farm transfer from one generation to the next is a lengthy and sensitive endeavor in the best of circumstances. Too often, tales of losing the operation, or permanent family rifts, are the result.

Recently, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) conducted a producer panel discussion as part of a session on agriculture succession and estate transfer. Here are some thoughts on the process from members of the “older” generation. All operate in Wyoming.

Frank and Elaine Moore

The Moore family has ranched north of Douglas for a century. Two sons currently run the 58,000-acre ranch in two separate units, but work together on the operation. The family summers 4,000-6,000 head of yearlings, owns about 2,000 sheep, and 150-200 mother cows. Patriarch Frank Moore has lived on the ranch his entire life, and his boys are the fourth generation to run the ranch.

“With much discussion, much give and take, and more discussion, we split the ranch into two reasonably equal units for two sons who wanted to return to the operation,” Frank says. “This was probably the hardest part of the transition to the next generation. You find there are different attachments for different things and everybody has their own opinion.

“We’d talk about different options of how to split it, and what everybody wanted. Then, we’d give everyone a couple of weeks to process the information. Then we’d meet and share our thoughts.

“The two sons bought the livestock and equipment from us to start their operations, and are buying out their third brother, who didn’t return to the ranch. They run as two separate ranches, but we help each other with various jobs throughout the year.

“This arrangement isn’t as efficient as running the ranch as one unit, but it gives them each the responsibility, freedom and ownership to run their own operation. Best of all, it maintains a really good working relationship between brothers.

“The most important thing when planning for the future is to be flexible, trust your kids, and give them a chance to make their own way. Let go of the reins and get out of the way – they’ll do fine. Get together with a good estate planner to start the process. Estate laws are as favorable as they’re going to get right now, and it may not last,” he says.