How to be a Rancher in the Cattle Industry
Agriculture is a major driver of the U.S. economy, and the need for food is only going to increase as population size increases—both at home and around the world. In the United States, we are fortunate to have a diverse and bountiful land ideal for all manner of livestock and crops to flourish, making running a ranch a potentially lucrative venture.
Many people dream of moving to the country but have no idea how to be a rancher or where to start looking for property.
What is a Ranch?
Traditionally speaking, a ranch is an area of land used for agricultural purposes, but these days, many ranch owners diversify their operations and run successful sports clubs or dude ranches.
One thing all ranches have in common is that the owners or workers will spend a significant part of each day outside, tending to the land and property. On a typical cattle ranch, this can involve:
- Tending the cattle
- Doing maintenance jobs such as building fences or repairs to irrigation channels
- Planting crops
Regardless of the size of the ranch, there are three pieces of advice that any prospective rancher will benefit from knowing.
A Job Unlike Any Other
Make no mistake, running a ranch is tough work, but the ability to spend long days outside with nature and seeing something you have nurtured grow before your eyes is truly fulfilling work. So, it is important not to consider operating a ranch a “job,” but rather as a way of life—one that will never get boring. The sheer variety of work required will keep things fresh.
If you plan to work the land yourself, knowledge of land cultivation will be a major asset, as will the ability to operate heavy equipment like tractors. This experience can be gained through various agricultural schools, but it isn’t essential if you don’t plan to manage the livestock operation yourself.
Build a Community
Ask any experienced rancher, and this is likely to be the first piece advice that they will give you, especially if you are new to the game. From the moment you start looking at properties, it is important to put the feelers out amongst the local community to gain insider knowledge about the local area.
It is vital that you build relationships with the local farming community as a spirit of cooperation is extremely valuable when you encounter problems or need an extra pair of hands. Also, as a new rancher, it might be worth considering a ranch management team that is familiar with the local area and who have already established relationships. This can significantly aid in the transition from the outside world to ranch life.
Expect the Unexpected
No matter what capacity you work in on a ranch, it is best to expect the unexpected, as you are living directly with nature. Nature marches to the beat of its own drum. It is, therefore, critical that you have a flexible approach to your day-to-day management and that you or your partner are armed with excellent problem-solving skills.
Across the ranch, small changes can have far-reaching consequences. Maybe you have some unexpected visitors in the form of flora or fauna that could cause damage to your cattle, or it could be that some unusual weather systems have caused damage to your fences or caused trees to fall. All of these things will need to be dealt with quickly and efficiently, but this lost time can affect harvests,as well as the feeding habits of your cattle.