Where Have All The Cows Gone?

A client recently completed a 1031 exchange. The replacement property is approximately 27 acres near Tampa.  It will be a little over a year before we are ready to develop this property.  The prior owner had an agricultural exemption on the property which he maintained by giving a farmer grazing rights for his cattle.  Last week, the client asked me to prepare a new Grazing Agreement with the farmer.  “Sure”, I thought.  I was certain I had done one before.

I had to dig way back in my form files, the ones kept on CD, to find one. That got me thinking, where have all the cows gone?  It wasn’t too long ago that here in South Florida there were plenty of cows, horses, goats, sheep, emu, pigs and other livestock grazing in and around our neighborhoods.  I grew up in Hollywood and went to school in Davie.  Davie was (and still claims to be) horse county.  My school was surrounded by, and smelled like cows.

My wife and I raised our kids in Cooper City. There were pastures all around “The Coop”.  Our development was a former pasture.  It was not an uncommon site to see sheriff’s deputies corralling stray cows that had escaped their pasture.  Police cars would corner cows against fences and trees while waiting for the farmer to shepherd the cow home.  These sites were common all over South Florida for many years.  Slowly, the cows and horses moved further west and now, the farms and pastures are few and far between, limited to small, rural communities.  If you miss that life, you need to head north, towards Lake O, to Ocala and to the Panhandle.

Where have the cows gone? Open space has vanished in South Florida and my need to draft grazing agreements has long past.  The big dairy farmers have cashed out – selling their land for development.  The small open fields used for grazing or nurseries or other agricultural uses have been snatched up more recently for more small McMansion communities.  The idea of throwing a couple of cows or goats on your property to claim an agricultural exemption in South Florida is not standard practice anymore.

Is this a bad thing? Yes and no.  We certainly miss the open space.  But, it is hard not embrace the growth and progress and what the community has become and can become.  Cows do add character and I hope that we don’t loss all of our grazing areas.

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