THERE'S AIR IN THEM THAR COWS
Rent-A-Cow, Inc., a Tempe, Arizona, firm, has reported earnings of more than $2,000,000 for the last quarter, an increase of almost 80% from the same quarter last year. Rent-A-Sheep, a wholly owned subsidiary formed in February of this year, reported year-to-date earnings of $581,306.
Clinton Quiqley, manager of the two-year-old firm, said that the increase in earnings is due primarily to land owners trying to reduce taxes on unimproved land--which they can do by showing that the land is actually a ranch, and is actively being used for grazing livestock.
"The cow renting business is booming, especially on the larger acerages," he told reporters at a news conference yesterday. "We formed the sheep subsidiary to take care of the smaller landowners--anything under four square miles--and it is rapidly becoming a real money maker, too."
Rent-A-Cow contracts with ranchers in the northern part of the state to care for their herds, then rents those cows out to individual landowners on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. "We make money both ways," Quigley explained, "which makes the business extremely profitable. For example, last quarter's $2,000,000 profit is based on only $2,500,000 in gross income."
"Of course, our business is a 'win-win' situation all the way 'round," he said. "The real ranchers get their herds taken care of for about 75% of what it would cost them to graze the cows on their own land, and the landowners who rent the cows only pay 5% of what the increased tax assessment would be without the cows. Plus feed. Everybody makes money."
The business also rents wooden cows, cow baloons, and stuffed cows with adjustable legs. "There's no reason for a rancher to have to have a full herd of live cows," Quigley said. "The assessors can only come to the edge of the property, so we put a few live cows close to the road and fill out the 'herd' with wooden silhouettes and inflatable cows in the distance."
What about the cows with the adjustable legs?
"We rent those out for special situations," a company spokesman said, "like when the assessors are suspicious that the land many not really be used for ranching. In a case like this, the assessor will check back weekly for a period of many months to make sure that the cows are still there."
To make things look realistic for the inspectors, the ranchers rent a few real cows and a bunch of adjustable, stuffed ones--which are considerably cheaper. They put the adjustable cows in the background with the legs at their shortest setting to make them look like calves. Then they reset the legs upwards about an inch every week to make it look like they're growing, and the inspectors never know the difference.
That's the theory--but, does it really work?
It would seem so. A check of tax records for Rent-A-Cow's customers shows that they pay an average of only $57 per square mile of artificially populated ranchland, while ordinary, garden-variety taxpayers pay an average of more than $63,000 per square mile of the identical land . . . Caveat Taxpayer.