Ranch Roots to Real Estate: Q&A with J Boyd Vaughn

by | Apr 24, 2024

Ranch Roots to Real Estate: A Q&A with J Boyd Vaughan


Born and raised on a picturesque ranch right outside of Runge, Texas, J. Boyd Vaughan’s upbringing instilled a profound love for the land and ignited a passion for helping others find their perfect piece of rural paradise. In this enlightening conversation, we delve into Vaughan’s incredible background and unique perspective as a real estate professional with an intimate understanding of the ranching lifestyle.

How did growing up on a ranch influence your work ethic?

I was the third of four kids, and we were all tasked with being “the labor” on the ranch. Ever since I can remember, we were working on the ranch. That responsibility turned into a passion because of what I was required to do—that was our lifestyle. It becomes a part of you, from cattle feedings at midnight after basketball games, building fences, and working on the weekends. We learned that working on the ranch is what puts food on the table, clothes on our backs, and covers our school supplies. I am where I am today because of it; it’s what I love to do.

Can you describe a typical day in your life on the ranch? What specific chores or responsibilities did you have?

There were a couple of different schedules, one for the school year and one for the summer. During the school year, we’d wake up early, feed the steers and other cattle, and then head to school. After class, we’d be at sports practice until around seven-thirty p.m., or if it was a game night, that would end around eleven p.m. Then we’d get home and have to go feed again. Sometimes, we’d have a big rain and have to fix a fence to prevent cattle from getting out; there was always something to do after school.

Now, during the summer, we typically spent the extra time we’d normally be in school maintaining our property. This included spraying brush and building or fixing fence. We’d work from eight a.m. until it was dark, write down the hours we worked, and then make about five dollars an hour.

Did that teach you how to budget?

Yeah, absolutely. That was money we had to buy our own clothes and school supplies, or if we wanted “fun money” to go out with friends or out to eat. I didn’t have as many expenses as I do now, but it made sure that we were stewards of our own money. I budgeted the same way as I do today, and it helped me learn the value of money and the value of hard work.

How many days a week did you work during the school year and summer?

We worked five days a week and followed the motto: “You work hard, you play hard.” We worked hard during the week, and then we did our best not to on the weekend. We would do fun activities with the family or friends. We never worked Sundays because that was the day we went to church and relaxed. Still today, my faith is very strong and my number one priority.

What hardships or challenges did you face on the ranch while growing up?

Oh, there were multiple challenges on the ranch. First and foremost, the weather. It’s always challenging during the winters because the cattle still have to be fed and need shelter. And when it rained, we had to fix a lot of fence, so our cattle would not escape. We’d have water gaps where the rain washed the fence out, and the potential of cattle escaping. So we’d be in water, building fences and fighting off the occasional water moccasin, copperhead, and sometimes rattlesnakes.

When the cattle got out, we’d always get the call from the sheriff or the game warden saying, “Hey, your cows are out.” They typically knew whose cattle they were since they knew the ranches in the area. We often had to ask our neighbors’ permission to enter their property to fetch our cows. Sometimes, we’d have to go on horseback/four wheelers to get them, herd them back to our pasture, then see where the break in the fence was and fix it all in the same night or next day.

Last was calving season. When a heifer is having her first or second calf and the calf is too big, you have to step in and pull it out. It requires a tool called a come-along or a calf-puller and help from one of us to align her correctly. If you don’t catch it in time, it will kill both the calf and the cow. We had to check on that daily in our herd.. We’d have to divide and conquer to check all of them. And with the calving season comes more predators.

A lot of people don’t know that buzzards are a very difficult predator when it comes to calving season, especially in large groups. Coyotes and Mexican eagles (crested caracaras) are two more when calves are young or when cows are weak from calving.

What did the sales process look like for your ranch?

We ran a commercial cattle operation, so we would sell calves either at the local sale barns or send them to the feed yard by truckload once the calves were through the stalker phase. It is important to understand how an animal is processed, focusing on the quality and yield grade. Being on the meat judging team at Texas A&M truly gave me the foundation and appreciation needed to improve the quality of our herd.

You said Sundays were saved for church, but did you have other traditions throughout the year?

Absolutely. We would typically try to work all of the cattle on one day or a weekend, like Friday and Saturday. It was an all-day affair. When we’d take a break for lunch, we’d go to the gas station, which made the best hamburgers in the world.

The gas station?

Yes, the gas station, believe it or not! Everything was homemade. I grew up on the outskirts of Runge, which was a town of a thousand people, and their burgers were amazing, so we really looked forward to it!

There were a lot of times, too, when other family members came in to help us work cattle. Some of them lived pretty close, and others were an hour and a half away. My dad’s siblings and their kids would help out, which were true family gatherings. It was great to see grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins on those days.

Do you have a favorite animal?

We had a calf that we named Sideways when it was born. It would walk in diagonal lines, and when it started to run, it would run in diagonal lines. We had these big molasses troughs that would help with certain mineral intake in addition to making them eat more grass. One time, Sideways fell into one of the troughs. We found it in the middle of the pasture, surrounded by ten cows licking the molasses off the calf. It was quite the scene.

We also kept donkeys that would protect the cattle against predators. They act like shepherds. They would grow up alongside the cattle and make friends, then scare all of the predators away.

How did living on a ranch shape your connection to nature and the outdoors?

I never grew up with any kind of gaming system. We were limited to no more than thirty minutes to an hour of television a day, and going outside was a requirement. My dad asked me once if I’d rather have a PlayStation or a dirt bike, and I asked for the bike—it made herding cattle easier.

There were so many days when we’d go to the creek or hunt for antlers in the brush. We’d build forts in the woods or went to climb the cliffs. I have a huge connection and appreciation for the outdoors. It takes a lot to keep a ranch in good shape, so I spent a lot of time cutting down dead trees or keeping the grass in good shape.

How do you think your experience helps you in your current role with Capital Ranch?

For starters, just knowing ranching terminology when talking to a rancher. It helps me connect buyers with the ranches they’re looking for.

Also, when looking at a property, I understand different pieces of it that you wouldn’t normally look for in a neighborhood home. For example, is it native grass or improved grass? Where’s the water draining? What’s the best use of this acreage?

I spend a lot of time listening to my buyers to understand if they’re looking to run cattle, hunt, use it as a recreational place, or if they want it for tax reasons. There are a lot of questions and due diligence before we go out to look at a property.

Since you represent both buyers and sellers, what would you recommend ranch sellers have ready when they contact you?

I would say any and all information and paperwork they have on the ranch. For example, are there mineral rights? Who owns all the water rights? Are there any pipelines? What are the improvements (house, barns, water well, ponds, etc)? What’s the ranch history? I want to give the best representation possible, and having the survey and documentation available is extremely important.

What would your dream ranch look like?

I’m a pretty simple guy. My dream ranch would be where I can run a healthy herd of cattle, hunt, and fish. Big oak trees, nice grassland, and really nutrient-dense soil. A place where I can raise my kids. God blessed us with owning a ranch in our family, which has given me a lot of great memories and opportunities, and I want to continue that lifestyle for my kids.