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Swan Land Properties
Proven Livestock Auction Business
Gallatin County


  • Three Forks, Montana

  • 40 Deeded

  • $3,250,000

The Headwaters Livestock Auction, centrally located in one of Montana’s most productive livestock-producing areas, sits on approximately 40 acres.  The current owners leased the facility for three years prior to acquiring it in 2014, and have successfully operated it as a family business for the past eight years.  Situated in the middle of the western and eastern agricultural markets with major highways heading in all directions, cattle can easily be transported in all directions.
The Auction Yard has historically run between 31,200 and 37,800 head of cattle through the facility on an annual basis.  A Pro-forma of the operation will be made available to financially-capable buyers under a non-disclosure agreement.
Located in Three Forks, Montana, Headwaters Livestock Auction is conveniently situated just over a mile from Interstate 90 via Highway 287 on the well-maintained Wheatland Road.
Three Forks has grown significantly in the last several years and has a population of approximately 2,073 residents.  Three Forks has several lodging options including the historic Sacajawea Hotel, Lewis & Clark Motel, Broken Spur Motel, and a Travelodge by Wyndham.  For dining options, there are several restaurants and bars.  The town also offers medical and dental facilities, several small shops and salons, automotive services, rodeo grounds and is home to Steer In Trailer Sales.  Located where the Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers converge to form the Missouri River, the town is a hub for recreational activities, and includes the 9-hole Headwaters Public Golf Course.
Bozeman, which lies about 30 miles east of Three Forks, is a vibrant, active, university-oriented city steeped in culture and art.  It is the fourth largest city in the state, with a population of approximately 52,600 residents.  Bozeman is home to Montana State University, Museum of the Rockies, and abundant opportunities for fine dining, entertainment, and shopping.  Bozeman maintains its lively downtown core yet also preserves the small-town feeling visitors keep returning for, which couples nicely with amenities typically found in larger cities.  Within an hour and a half from Bozeman is Yellowstone National Park, which is easily accessible via either the north entrance in Gardiner or the west entrance in West Yellowstone.
Recently upgraded, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) at Gallatin Field in Belgrade offers several full-service FBOs and excellent commercial services through Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Sun Country, and United Airlines.  One of the busiest passenger airports in the Pacific Northwest, and the busiest in the state of Montana, the airport offers direct flights to about 30 major airports around the nation.
Approximate distances to other area cities and towns from Headwaters Livestock Auction are as follows:
Three Forks
Great Falls

5 miles
28 miles
35 miles
47 miles
53 miles
64 miles
151 miles
178 miles


Three Forks and the Headwaters Livestock Yard sit at an average elevation of approximately 4,075 feet above sea level.
The average precipitation of rainfall is 14.3 inches per year with the majority falling in May, and about 32 inches of snowfall annually.
Average high temperatures in June, July and August range from 77° to 86° Fahrenheit.  Summer average minimum temperatures range from 47° to 52°.  In December, January and February average high temperatures are between 34° and 40°.  Winter average minimum temperatures are typically around 15° Fahrenheit.  There are approximately 186 sunny days in Gallatin County, Montana.  Three Forks is situated in the USDA Hardiness Zone 4b.

Throughout the year, Monday is the regular sale day. Interspersed throughout the regular Monday-sale schedule are special sales such as feeder, sheep and bred cow sales. During the fall months, the special feeder sales are typically on Wednesdays. Currently, several local stock producers hold their annual bred cow, bull and/or feeder-calf sales at the facility as well.
During auction days, fifteen part-time employees are hired to conduct a variety of tasks such as feeding cattle, moving cattle to the sale ring, running the sale ring, re-penning cattle and loading out trucks.  There are two full-time employees—an office manager and a yard foreman.
The full-time yard foreman manages the Auction Yard and typically puts in a six-day work week.  The foreman generally oversees the day-to-day operations as well as the incoming and outgoing livestock.  On a weekly basis, there are four part-time employees that work when needed at the Auction Yard.  One of the part-time staff works flexible hours to unload trucks at night beginning on Sunday night before the sale through Wednesday night loading cattle post sale and helping during off hours as needed.  Another one of the part-time staff conducts maintenance and general work on an as-needed basis at the Auction Yard.  A third part-time staff member works when the yard crew needs days off and Sundays on an as-needed basis.  Typically, Sunday afternoons/evenings are busy receiving livestock prior to the Monday sale.  A fourth part-time staff member works weekends to clean pens, receive cattle and feed livestock as necessary.
On a typical sale week, livestock is received beginning several days prior to the Monday sale.  There are approximately 80 receiving pens on the north end of the facility where cattle are counted, inspected, and checked in. The receiving pens have feed and water facilities.  The cattle move smoothly through the pen system through a series of alleys feeding to the sale ring.  For bull sales, a single-wide alley is utilized to feed bulls into the sale ring in single file, keeping the animals calm and with minimal stress.  Once cattle are sold, they are moved out of the sale ring and penned in one of the holding pens on the south side of the facility.  All sold cattle are then loaded and shipped out of a second set of loading chutes on the south side of the facility, when trucks are available.  According to the Seller, the Auction Yard corral system can hold up to about 3,500 head of feeder cattle at a time.  The pen facility is well designed and graded to divert water and effluent to concrete collection channels during the occasional water runoff event.
The entire pen system was constructed out of steel pipe and rails.  The working cattle chute is housed in a covered shed for protection during inclement weather days and is centrally located in the corral system providing easy access from both sides of the facility.  Alleys of pens of various sizes have feed bunks and waterers, including six pens that hold semi loads of cattle with feeders and waterers. All alleys are fed with a hay processor.  Manure is made into compost and is taken away at no cost.


According to the Montana Department of Livestock, the total number of cattle ran through the Auction Yard for the past five-years are as follows:

2016 Cattle Total             31,457
2017 Cattle Total             36,586
2018 Cattle Total             37,821
2019 Cattle Total             34,467
2020 Cattle Total             34,424
2021 Cattle Total             31,222



The Sale Building, which houses the offices, cafe, brand inspector’s office and sale ring, has been well maintained and is very functional.  Constructed in 2004, this building is approximately 18,460 square feet of usable space and is one of the newest facilities of its kind Montana.  In the main sale arena, portable bleachers on wheels allow for easy reconfiguration for the weekly auction and special events such as weddings, reunions, car shows, sports events, or they can be removed altogether.  In addition, an approximately 68 feet x 95 feet overhang extends over a portion of the sorting corrals and alleys off the west side of the main building.
The main sale arena can be totally emptied and provides for easy cleanup.  The office area consists of a large open area where the business manager and receptionist reside, and where ranchers come to pick up their checks and settle business.  Off this main office area is a State Brand Inspector office and a mudroom for the employees as well as a break room and a private office area.
Across from the office area and near the main entrance to the facility is the Cattlemen’s Café.  Consisting of approximately 1,930 square feet, the restaurant area is spacious and complete with a full commercial kitchen.  Open for sale days, it is operated by an outside contractor and provides a delicious breakfast and lunch menu.
On the second level of the Sale Building is a large open area directly above the main level offices and consists of approximately 4,200 square feet.  Within this space is approximately 940 square feet of partially finished office space and storage.  This second-level space could potentially be developed for either additional office space to lease or sell, or to run an additional business generating supplemental revenues for the Auction Yard.
During the winter of 2022, the auction block was updated with new audio components and computer system.  The computer system has a direct feed to the business office for the efficient processing of cattle sales and for quickly processing sale checks and receipts.  The Auction Yard utilizes Sale Time System to manage their sales; this system is leased and will transfer to the new owner at closing.  The sale ring itself has a 50,000-pound Fairbanks-Morse digital scale under the livestock deck.


An approximately 1,708 square foot modular home that is located on the property has historically housed one of the staff.  This home is on an individual well and septic system, and is heated with gas-propane forced-air heat.


An outdoor-sand roping arena is situated near the southwest corner of the property.  Constructed of steel-pipe fencing, the arena is approximately 100 feet x 400 feet, with an alleyway on one side and pens on both ends of the arena.


There are four lagoons located on the property that serve different purposes.  All the lagoons were permitted and constructed through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
Effluent Lagoon
In the rare occasion of significant rainfall, the Auction Yard is designed to drain any runoff containing livestock effluent to a series of concrete drainage channels.  Once contained within the concrete channels, the runoff gravity-flows from south to north through the length of the facility.   The effluent is then captured within a lined lagoon situated on the west side of the Yard.  This solid waste is pumped on an as-needed basis and disposed of appropriately.
Livestock Water Lagoon
Most of the livestock waterers in the holding pens within the Auction Yard are designed to be continuous flow to prevent freezing during the winter months and to provide fresh drinking water to the livestock.  Each of the livestock waterers contains a drain that catches the overflow and is piped underground to the lagoon located on the north side of the Auction Yard. The water is stored in the lagoon during the winter months and then pumped out of the lagoon during the summer months.  The water is either utilized to irrigate the surrounding grass growing on the property or it is used by state, county or local construction companies for road projects in the area that require water for dust mitigation.
Sewer Lagoons
Two additional, smaller lagoons handle grey water from the Auction Yard and sewer produced by the facility.  According to the Seller, these two lagoons have historically operated under capacity with very little upkeep or maintenance required and serve the facility very well.

Electricity is provided by Northwestern Energy.  Telephone and internet service are provided by CenturyLink.  The Auction Yard is served by an individual well and septic system as is the manufactured home.  The buildings are heated with propane heat supplied by Montana Energy Alliance.

The taxes on the real estate and improvements for 2021 were $12,183.00.

Water Right No.
Filing Date
41G-30016405 August 2005 Domestic/Stock
Gallons Per Minute
Restaurant and Office Use
Livestock Yard Use

The Seller will convey with the Property 100% of whatever mineral, oil, gas, geo-thermal, hydrocarbon and gravel rights it owns, subject to reservations by previous owners.  The Seller makes no representation as to the quantity or quality of any mineral or other subsurface rights appurtenant to the Property.

The Sellers are selling Headwaters Livestock Auction in its “as is-where is” condition which includes the location of the fences as they now exist.  Boundaries shown on any accompanying maps are approximate.  The maps are not to scale and are for visual aid only.  The accuracy of the maps and information portrayed thereon is not guaranteed nor warranted.
The Sellers hereby make known that there may be variations between the deeded property lines and the location of the existing fence boundary lines on Headwaters Livestock Auction.  The Sellers make no warranties with regard to the location of the fence lines in relationship to the deeded property lines, nor do the Sellers make any warranties or representations with regard to specific acreage within the fenced property lines.

Situated at the crossroads of Interstate 90 and US Highway 287, Headwaters Livestock Auction is positioned at the intersection of two major highways that serve a vast area of South-Central Montana.  This region harbors some of Montana’s most productive cattle ranches.  Convenient to the interstate and a major US Highway, this ideal location allows for transportation of livestock to and from all Western and Central Montana as well as Canada.
The Seller would be willing to assist a new owner in the transition of the business to new management.  It is their sincere desire to see the Auction Yard to continue to be successful and prosperous moving forward.  They have made the decision to retire and pull back from the day-to-day demands a livestock auction can pose.


Headwaters Livestock Auction, as previously described herein, is being offered for sale at $3,250,000 Cash or Terms acceptable solely at the discretion of the Sellers.  The conditions of sale are as follows:
  1. All offers to purchase or letters of intent must be in writing and accompanied by a wire transfer of 3.0% of the purchase price to the escrow account at Security Title Company of Bozeman;
  2. Earnest money deposits will be placed in escrow with Security Title Company of Bozeman, which may place the funds with local banks at nominal rates of interest accruing to the benefit of the Buyer until Closing;
  3. All Prospective Buyers must demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Seller, absolute financial capability to purchase the Property prior to scheduling an inspection of the Property;
  4. The Sellers will provide and pay for a standard owner’s title insurance policy.  Any endorsements requested by the Buyer or any lender will be at Buyer’s expense.  Title to the real property will be conveyed by a deed;
  5. All of the water right claims controlled by the Property will be transferred to the Buyer at Closing;
  6. Buyers’ Brokers are welcomed and invited to contact Mike Swan in our Bozeman Office for information regarding Cooperation Policies.
The Sellers reserve the right to effect a tax-deferred exchange for other real property in accordance with provisions in Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.  The Buyer will not be required to incur any additional expenses nor to step into the chain of title on any property which the Sellers may acquire.
This entire Offering is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, change, or withdrawal without notice and approval of purchase by the Seller.  Information regarding land classifications, acreages, carrying capacities, crop yields, potential profits, etc., are intended only as general guidelines and have been obtained from sources deemed reliable; however, accuracy is not warranted or guaranteed by the Seller or Swan Land Company.  Prospective Buyers should verify all information to their sole and complete satisfaction.
A 48-hour notice is requested to make proper arrangements for an inspection of Headwaters Livestock Auction.
Swan Land Company has been authorized by the Seller to act as their Exclusive Real Estate Broker on the sale of Headwaters Livestock Auction.  Since 2002, we have focused on the brokerage of significant ranches, farms and recreational properties throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
This Offering is based on information believed to be correct; however, it is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale and change or withdrawal without notice.  Information contained herein has been provided by the Sellers or obtained from other sources deemed reliable.  The Agent does not, however, guarantee accuracy and recommends that any Prospective Buyer conduct an independent investigation.
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Michael S. Swan
It was growing up in Southwest Montana where that deep sense of love for the land was first instilled in me. Our family ranch was on the banks of the Jefferson River near Twin Bridges. Being raised on a sizable commercial cow-calf operation, my brothers and I learned the importance of being good stewards of ...
Meet the Broker
Owner/Broker of Swan Land, Mike Swan

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