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June 24 will mark a “first” in Wyoming history when Wyoming Downs pairs live horse racing with Historic Horse Racing (HHR) terminals at its Evanston track.

“It’s historic in every sense of the word,” said Rick Cook, Wyoming Downs Chief Operating Officer. “For the first time ever, the two attractions are going to be offered under the same roof at the same time. It’s not hard to predict that 2017 will be bigger and better than ever.”

The 16-day season kicks off on June 24 and continues through Aug. 13, with gates opening at 11:30 a.m. and the first race at 1:05 p.m. Each race day hosts eight races, with up to 10 horse fields.

The track’s historic new additions, HHR terminals as they are known, will feature new games including Buckaroo Rodeo, Very Cherry, Street Cash, Double Horseshoes, Dancing Diamonds, Patriotic Pay Day and more. Just as they do at Wyoming Downs’ off-track betting facilities, the track’s 20 new terminals will offer added excitement for racing enthusiasts. 

2017 signals the fifth year horses have raced at Wyoming Downs since Eric Nelson re-purchased Wyoming’s only privately owned horseracing track at auction in 2012. A real estate investor, Nelson originally bought the track in 1998 and operated it through 2006 when he decided to sell. However, in 2009, that owner shut the track down, and along with the shutdown went the hopes of those whose livelihoods depended on live horseracing. The impact on Wyoming, Utah and other intermountain area owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys and farmers who made up the industry was demoralizing. Many left or considered leaving their part of industry behind.

After his 2012 re-purchase, Nelson began the process of dusting off Wyoming Downs and bringing live racing back to the track where the grandstands hold 5,000 people and there are stalls for 850 horses. He knew, though, that live racing could only be sustained with the introduction of Historic Horse Racing. 

Betting that it would finally happen, and after years of legislative consideration, Nelson saw live racing’s resurgence eventually made possible. In 2012, the Wyoming legislature approved historic horse racing terminals.

In 2013, Wyoming Downs featured an unprecedented two-day season to signal to the industry and the fans the track was back in action. HHR machines were introduced in Wyoming at off-track betting facilities in January 2014, and with their introduction and revenue, the Wyoming Downs track began a full 16-day racing season that June.

Those HHR terminals are currently located in Wyoming Downs’ eight off-track betting facilities throughout the state. In addition to paying betters at the racetrack and winners at the off-track betting facilities, the income from the historic racing terminals now funds the racetrack’s operations, purses and other track expenses, not to mention the state and local economies that benefit from the industry taxes and fees.

June 24, 2017 marks the first moment HHR terminals will be available at the track, as well as at off-track betting facilities.

“Yes, it’ll be a big day for everyone. We’ve come a long way,” said a smiling Nelson.

Looking toward the future, Nelson wants to focus on larger purses for the races and more non-horse racing events at the track, like concerts, rodeos and other special events.

In addition to the horseracing and HHR terminals, this year’s 16-day Wyoming Downs race season will feature special events every day. Live music from 4:30-7:30 is set to follow races on several race weekends.

Judy Horton, public relations and event coordinator, has scheduled a full slate of special events. Among them, the first weekend will feature the Wyoming Youth Racing Experience for ages 15-18. June 24 will be Legislative Day, with local and state officials as special guests and the Wyoming Downs Governor’s Cup and the John Schiffer-Sue Wallis Tribute. AQHA Racing Aces will feature handicapping seminars on July 1-2, with special guest Jennifer Hancock giving personal help placing wagers. The second annual Brew Fest will be held in conjunction with the first annual Car Show on Aug. 5. A full schedule of special events is at wydowns.com

First-time live racing betters can look for Jodi Lopez, Wyoming Downs’ mutual manager, who will be on site to assist those new to horse racing. Lopez handles wagering and all pools.

“If you’d like assistance, come to window 118, next to the office. I’d love to talk with folks and help them with the process,” said Lopez.

Jodi knows the track inside and out. Her whole family has been involved since 1986, when her father was the track’s superintendent. The Gary Waite Maiden Derby is named after her dad. These days, her brother is the starter.

Along with Wyoming fans, much of the crowd, made up of families and people of all ages, hails from Salt Lake City, Utah and the surrounding Utah area. But, every year, license plates testify to a hearty showing from Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and California. Generally, in addition to Wyoming entries, the largest group of owners, trainers, horses and jockeys are from Utah, Montana and Idaho. However, they are known to come from a dozen states and from as far as Minnesota.

Wyoming Downs Racetrack is located on Highway 89 off I-80 approximately 15 minutes north of Evanston. Coming from Utah take Exit 3 through Evanston.

Ticket prices are $10 for general admission and $20 for clocker’s corner table seating. Children under 12 are free. A number of food concessions are available, as well as wine, beer, specialty liquor drinks and soft drinks. The day’s last race will conclude at approximately 5:30 p.m.

For more information, see wydowns.com or call 307-789-7223.

Warren Buffett is widely regarded as one of the greatest investors of all time. He has a tremendous record of picking winning stocks. What does this legendary investor say about how to invest? 

In the 2013 annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, Warren Buffett instructed his heirs to invest in index funds.

Buffett went on to say, “I have good news for the non-investment professionals. The typical investor doesn’t need this skill. In aggregate, American business has done wonderfully over time and will continue to do so, though, most assuredly, in unpredictable fits and starts. In the 20th century, the Dow Jones Industrials Index advanced from 66 to 11,497, paying a rising stream of dividends to boot. The 21st century will witness further gains, almost certain to be substantial. The goal of the non-professional should not be to pick winners – neither he nor his ‘helpers’ can do that – but should rather be to own a cross-section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well.” 

Again, from the letter, “Both individuals and institutions will constantly be urged to be active by those who profit from giving advice or affecting transactions. The resulting frictional costs can be huge and, for investors in aggregate, devoid of benefit. So ignore the chatter, keep your costs minimal and invest in stocks as you would in a farm. There might be bad weather. There could be a crop failure one year or the next. There are certain costs of doing business, mostly predictable and best kept low. And, largely, there’s nothing to do. Like crops in the field, a long-term, mostly stock investment cannot help but produce a reasonable return – assuming you don’t overthink it and don’t spend willy-nilly in a vain attempt to make it grow faster.”

Buffett himself owns a 400-acre farm. Has he laid awake at night worrying about fluctuations in the farm’s market price? No, says Buffett. He has focused on its long-term value. And he counsels investors to take the same relaxed approach to liquid investments such as shares of stock as they do to the value of their family farm.

“Those people who can sit quietly for decades when they own a farm or apartment house too often become frenetic when they are exposed to a stream of stock quotations,” Buffett said. “For these investors, liquidity is transformed from the unqualified benefit it should be to a curse.”

“Owners of stocks too often let the capricious and irrational behavior of their fellow owners cause them to behave irrationally,” Buffett says. “Because there is so much chatter about markets, the economy, interest rates, price behavior of stocks, etc., some investors believe it is important to listen to pundits – and, worse yet, important to consider acting upon their comments.”

If you invest in the stock market, you would be wise to follow the advice of Warren Buffett and buy and hold a diversified portfolio of low-cost index or asset-class mutual funds. Make sure the portfolio contains multiple asset classes and is matched to your tolerance for investment risk.  

Chris Nolt is the owner of Solid Rock Wealth Management, Inc. and Solid Rock Realty Advisors, LLC, sister companies dedicated to working with families around the country who are selling a farm or ranch and transitioning into retirement. For more information, visit solidrockproperty.com and solidrockwealth.com.

With 2016 already in the books, we are looking ahead at the New Year and pondering some of the factors that could drive livestock markets for the next 12 months. Any such list is inherently flawed because the real market movers tend to blindside the market.

As Rumsfeld would probably say, it’s the unknown unknowns that really get you.

With this in mind, below are few items to consider.


Meat demand and consumer preferences

When we look at meat demand and consumer preferences, this is one of those topics we have been highlighting in our year-end review for a number of years. It is always important.

We think there has been a shift in the way in which U.S. consumers approach meat protein. Fat is no longer taboo. The industry is no longer trying to eliminate all traces of fat from its products at the detriment of flavor.

Recently, we noticed some marketing materials from the National Pork Board informing consumers that “marbling can improve pork’s flavor and moisture.” Too bad we need to remind consumers of this, but good for the Pork Board for doing so. It’s about time we bring the focus back on flavor.

What is important to the consumer today above else appears to be authenticity. And a well-marbled, juicy steak speaks for itself. Some new dietary work done also is raising doubts about long held beliefs about the dangers of fat.

Economy and incomes

The state of the economy directly impacts consumer meat demand. While we saw somewhat softer consumer demand during the first half of 2016, the situation shows signs of improving.

Consumer incomes are increasing at a faster pace, unemployment is down to pre-recession levels, and consumers feel more wealthy, thanks to higher home values and equity markets.

With a hard fought election battle behind us, we think the consumer also feels a bit more relaxed and willing to return to their normal daily routine. Prices at retail have been slowly adjusting lower, and in time, this should expand protein availability and accessibility for U.S. consumers.

International trade and the U.S. dollar

Everyone involved in the U.S. meat industry knows that we are heavily dependent on export markets. The United States is a low-cost meat producer, with significant natural resources, and is a very reliable supplier. These are all important considerations for global buyers.

As incomes in a number of large, populous nations rise, they opt to upgrade their diet to include more protein. Over 20 percent of all U.S. pork, 16 percent of all U.S. chicken and 10 percent of all U.S. beef currently goes to export markets. As U.S. meat supplies are expected to expand further in 2017, we will need all this export demand to remain in place and grow further, which is why markets tend to react negatively to any indication of export disruptions.

The strong U.S. dollar generally is negative for exports, but by far the most significant negative impact is from non-tariff trade barriers. This is a fancy way of saying some nations will look to raise barriers in order to protect special interests within their borders.

Drought

Grain production in the U.S. in the last couple of years has exceeded all expectations. The last USDA projections pegged U.S. corn yields at an all-time record 175 bushels per acre and corn production at over 15 billion bushels.

Ending stocks are some of the largest of the past decade. There is a lot of corn available for livestock and poultry and feed costs for producers are some of the lowest in years.

But Mother Nature holds the cards on this one. The drought monitor currently shows areas in the Southeast are experiencing exceptional drought. So far, the Corn Belt has been spared, but this is a real risk.

Pasture conditions for livestock producers also have been above average the last two years. This has provided the opportunity to retain more heifers and bulk up hay supplies for the winter. It’s all been good and helped bolster cattle supplies.

Expanding drought conditions could quickly reverse that, initially pushing more calves onto feedlots, with a short-term bearish outlook, but setting the stage for a more bullish beef market in 2018-19.

Many ranchers today would like to transition out of ranching into and retirement, but don’t want to pay the capital gain tax associated with a sale. Fortunately, there are ways to bypass taxes on the sale of land. 

The most common method for bypassing capital gain taxes on the sale of appreciated land is to use a 1031 exchange.

Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) states, “No gain or loss shall be recognized on the exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment, if such property is exchanged solely for property of like-kind which is to be held either for productive use in a trade or business or for investment.”

To defer taxes on the sale of appreciated land with the IRC section 1031 exchange, an investor must purchase, or exchange into, other real estate. Contrary to what many agricultural families think, land does not need to be exchanged for other land. We can exchange land into many types of investment property, such as office buildings, rental houses, apartment complexes, storage facilities, retail strip malls, et cetera. Ironically, a family that is selling land and investing the proceeds into other types of property can often triple their income without having to work nearly as hard for it.

Income-producing real estate

The goal for most families who have sold their farm or ranch and are transitioning into retirement is to generate income. Most families want secure income-producing real estate they do not have to personally manage. 

While land can offer tremendous appreciation potential, it does not offer the cash flow returns we can generally achieve with other types of income-producing real estate such as office buildings, apartment complexes, storage units, retail centers, etc.

Effectively analyzing income properties can be very complex and is something best left to professionals. A commercial real estate investment professional can help identify and evaluate income producing real estate investments. With that said, it is helpful to understand some things when evaluating income producing real estate investments.

While location, supply and demand, and good demographics are important factors in evaluating real estate investments, when it comes to investing in cash flow real estate, one is mainly interested in buying the income stream the property offers. Therefore, the most important factor for evaluating income producing real estate investments are the numbers. 

Investors use many different approaches to evaluate investment properties.  We should be familiar with the different approaches as we begin our property search. 

Cap rates are one of many financial tools used by investors to establish a purchase price for an investment property in a given real estate market.

The capitalization rate, or cap rate, is a ratio used to estimate the value of income producing properties. It equals the net operating income divided by the sales price or value of a property expressed as a percentage.

Cap rates based on figures from recent transactions of buyers and sellers provide the best market value estimates for a property. If we are able to obtain reliable cap rate data, we can then use this information to estimate what similar income properties should sell for. This will help us to determine whether or not the asking price for a particular piece of property is too high.

The cap rate can be calculated by dividing the net operating income (NOI) by the value of the property.

Estimated property value is calculated by dividing NOI by the cap rate of the property.

For example, a property has a NOI of $140,000, and the asking price is $2 million. The cap rate is equal to $140,000 divided by $2 million, which is seven percent.

Another example is an office building that has a NOI of $150,000. Cap rates in the area for this type of property are eight percent. The estimated property value is equal to $150,000 divided by eight percent, which equates to $1.875 million

Chris Nolt is the owner of Solid Rock Realty Advisors and Solid Rock Wealth Management, sister companies dedicated to working with families throughout the country who are selling a farm or ranch and transitioning into retirement.  For more information call 800-517-1031, or visit solidrockproperty.com.