Deciding on a career? Work on a ranch
How to Work Ranch Jobs
Ranch jobs include many duties, such as feeding and herding livestock, maintaining machinery and buildings, mending and building fences, and performing any other necessary business tasks. This kind of work is physically demanding and requires long hours. While no academic training is usually necessary, experience working on a farm or with animals quite helpful. Here are some suggestions for how to work ranch jobs.
Choosing a Fitting Job
Get experience working with animals.Much of the work on a ranch involves handling the cattle and any other animals that live on the ranch. Most ranches run both horses and cattle, but some raise other livestock, such as sheep and llama. Ranch jobs involve herding, feeding, and grooming the animals.
- Call a local farm or search the internet for opportunities to work with animals. It's possible to gain experience with animals growing up on your family farm, working at the local sale barn, gaining summer employment at an area farm, or volunteering at a large-animal veterinarian's practice.
Join an educational organization.Ranches tend to be quite large and require a lot of handy work. These are the kinds of manual skills that you may not have learned in school. You’ll need some experience to get hired, and it never hurts to have a few extra skills in your back pocket.
- Prepare for work on a ranch by programs like 4-H, Future Farmers of America, or the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.Such organizations often have programs for students who are interested in learning about agriculture, common farm practices, and ranch work. Check with your guidance counselor or local government to see if classes are offered in your area.
Search the internet for a ranch job.Search the internet for blogs or websites that give detailed information about the kinds of jobs that are offered on ranches. Ranch jobs are plenty. Some jobs ask for specific work with certain animals like cows or horses, whereas others are general management or maintenance jobs.
- Vary your search. Try using keywords like “farm” instead of “ranch” in your search. Although there are technical differences between farming and ranching, you might find useful information about work options if you broaden your search.
Use your network to find a job.Talk to any friends and family who have experience working on farms. Someone may be able to put you in touch with a ranch or farm in your area. Express your interest and set up a time to have an in-depth conversation where you can ask for tips.
- For example, you might say, “Hi Susie, I heard that you used to work on a farm. I’m interested in working a ranch job. I’d love to hear about your experience and get some suggestions. Would you be willing to chat over a coffee sometime?”
Apply for a job.Decide on a job that fits your experience and interest. Although some ranch jobs are seasonal, many ranches also hire for long-term positions. You may also need to mention whether you will need room and board if hired. Some ranches include room and board as a part of your salary, while others do not.
- If you’ve found a job listing on a website, follow the instructions for applying. Some ranches also have their own websites where you can contact the employer directly.
- Maybe a family friend or acquaintance suggested a job for you. Ask your friend how to go about approaching the ranch owners. It might be appropriate to state that you were referred by a friend.
Doing Manual Labor
Work with livestock.Most ranches raise grazing livestock like cattle or sheep. Animals have to be carefully cared for, as they are used for breeding and meat production. Sheep’s wool is also sheared and processed on some ranches.
- Many ranches also have horses. They as are used as work animals or to entertain guests with scenic horseback rides. Remember that horse care is another specialty job that must be completed on a ranch.
Consider working with uncommon animals.Uncommon ranch animals include bison, ostrich, emu, and alpacas.
- Bison ranches often produce meat, furs, and leather products.Ostrich ranches produce a ranch of products from meat to ostrich leather to eggs.Emu farms also produce eggs, meat, and emu oil.Alpaca farms usually produce yarn to make clothing and alpaca meat.
Learn to safely operate ranch equipment.Tractors are commonplace on ranches, as are balers, and augers. Knowing how to operate and provide maintenance on these pieces of equipment will make you a valuable ranch hand.
- Tractors are large trucks designed to move heavy material on rough terrain. They have many gears and controls that require extensive training. Make sure you are fully trained on how to operate tractors before use.
- Balers are large machines that crush large amounts of material into rectangular or circular shapes. On ranches, Balers are often filled with vegetation or hay which is later used as animal feed. Balers are usually used in combination with a tractor, and also require training before use.
Build and mend fences.All ranches have extensive fencing that regularly needs to be built, mended, or changed. Fences are typically constructed with barbed wire, steel posts, and wooden corner posts. Learn the basics of fence maintenance and building.
- Avoid common mistakes while building fences. Be sure to use the right materials for each part of the fence. Use the correct sizing and spacing when you measure and build your posts.
Prepare to use different modes of transportation.Ranches range in size and tend to be quite large. The largest ranches in the United States can be up to 2,000,000 acres in size!Many ranchers use some sort of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or truck to get around the ranch.Others might use horses to cut back on the cost of fuel.Prepare to ride or drive as you go through your work day on the ranch.
Building Good Work Habits
Be physically fit.A lot of ranch work involves heavy lifting and physical work. Lifting bales of straw, wrestling livestock, and stretching wire all require a significant amount of strength. Exercise and workout regularly.
- Do strength training. Lift weights or simply work your muscles by using your own body. Strengthen your arms and legs with daily push-ups and squats.
Expect long hours in all sorts of weather.If it rains, you work. If it snows, you work. If the sun is blisteringly hot, you work. If a heifer has a calf at two in the morning, you work. Ranch work happens all around the clock, so be prepared to face the elements.
Dress for the job.Protecting yourself against rough nature is important. Wear jeans, work boots, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and gloves in order to adequately protect your skin. A heavy work coat will be necessary in colder temperatures.
- Use sunscreen. If you work outdoors all day, your skin will need protection. Wear sunscreen regularly to avoid sunburn and other dangerous skin conditions.
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