Ranch Workers put their guts, sweat, and blood into caring for the livestock on a ranch so that the healthy and well-fed animals can be sold for a profit.
Similar Job Titles
- Barn Help
- Hired Hand
Typical Job Responsibilities
What do Ranch Hands do?
A Ranch Hand would typically need to:
- Assist in the day-to-day operations of the ranch
- Tend the livestock; feed, birth, brand, shear, rope, sort, pasture, herd, groom, and doctor the ranch’s horses, cattle, poultry, pigs, and sheep
- Plough fields, sow seeds, and harvest crops; cultivate growing crops by hoeing, spraying, and thinning, as required; bale hay
- Check the animals for any signs of disease, injury, or illness; administer vaccinations; treat minor ailments and assist the veterinary surgeon, if necessary
- Help artificially inseminate the cows; ensure the bulls do not maim or injure the cows or each other
- Alert the range boss if you find a dead animal during assigned range checks and document it
- Haul healthy livestock to market or a shipping terminal; sell goods at the farmer’s market and make deliveries
- Clean barns, sheds, pens, yards, incubators, and breeding units
- Milk animals by hand or operate and sterilize milking machinery on dairy farms
- Operate, repair, and maintain farm machinery, pipes, and pumps; perform irrigation
- Help construct, repair, and maintain farm buildings
- Trim hedges and clear drainage ditches; build and mend fences/walls
- Supervise seasonal staff; order animal feed, and help manage the ranch’s inventory
Standard Work Environment
Ranch Hands work outside all year, in all weather conditions. The nature of their profession requires them to constantly lift and transport agricultural goods and equipment weighing 70 to 100 pounds.
They spend most of the day on their feet or in the saddle. You must be able to climb ladders in addition to frequently bending, stooping, kneeling, and reaching to operate farm machinery, tools, and equipment.
A usual day begins between four and six o’clock in the morning, though this may be earlier during the calving and branding seasons. Your work may be completed before sundown. You could work 46 to 48 hours each week, including evenings, weekends, and bank holidays.
Days off can be one every week or two days every other week. To avoid being taken advantage of, it is best to establish a baseline for the hours you will work right away.
Seeking a new job may appear difficult. Ranch Hands can improve their job search by soliciting referrals from their network, contacting companies directly, using job search platforms, attending job fairs, leveraging social media, and contacting staffing agencies. Accept no jobs unless you have adequate documentation. Check to see if your employer has insurance that will protect you if you are injured on the job.
Ranch Hands are generally employed by:
- Agricultural Facilities
Unions / Professional Organizations
Professional organizations and groups, such as The Global Opportunities on Organic Farms, are essential for Ranch Hands who want to further their professional growth or interact with other professionals in their field or trade.
Participation in one or more of these organizations adds value to your resume while strengthening your credentials and qualifications.
- High probability of finding desirable employment far away from large cities and family
- The need to put having a family or pet on hold until a full-time position is in hand
- The ability to function outdoors in all kinds of weather and get the job done properly
- Exposure to chemical compounds and other agricultural products may prove hazardous/dangerous if instructions are not properly followed
Suggested Work Experience
Agricultural colleges provide vocational education. When your tasks outside of the classroom precisely align with your teachings inside, you will get the most out of them. When more experienced workers manage to turn seemingly ordinary occurrences into unique learning experiences, you may be able to hear endless stories from them and gain significant hands-on knowledge.
After high school, you can apply for intermediate/advanced apprenticeships or internships that will train you as a general agricultural worker or stock person for 12-18 months. Such experiences will assist you in determining whether the job will suit you in the long run, in addition to helping you acquire vital abilities.
Search for paid internships and apprenticeships that will be worthwhile investments of your time, energy, and service. Confirm that you will be able to live independently after paying for your housing and board.
Your work experience as a cashier or sales associate will help you gain a job as a Ranch Hand. To demonstrate your passion to course providers and possible employers, read about the profession and interview/job shadow ranching specialists.
If you want to learn how to ride a horse, look for local horse farms or equestrian centers that provide classes. Some roping experience would also be beneficial.
Although many Ranch Hands hold a bachelor’s degree and a small number hold a master’s degree in agriculture, others with merely a high school diploma or GED (General Education Development) can find work. Some candidates believe that having an associate degree, diploma, or certificate in the field is advantageous.
Academic programs at agricultural institutions should ideally include theory and practical skills in crop production, animal husbandry, and farm machinery operation. Welding, carpentry, mechanics, and animal sciences classes would be beneficial. If they are not covered in your high school curriculum, you will benefit from learning them from a qualified source. Throughout high school, pay close attention to athletics, gardening, stamina, and speed.
Certifications, Licenses, and Registration
Ranch Workers who engage in the necessary training can obtain certification to operate heavy agricultural equipment. Certification from a reputable and objective organization can help you stand out in a competitive job market, carry a large wage premium of up to 18%, and improve your chances of development.
When applying for a farm labor internship, having a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate certain types of machinery will add significant value to your resume. An application, processing fees, an examination, and applicable education and experience are often required for licensure. Consult with local or national agricultural organizations to see if you’ll require a public pesticide operator’s license.
Projected Career Map
Ranch Hands can advance to Supervisor, Unit Manager, or Range Boss on a large ranch based on performance, experience, and the attainment of professional qualifications.
It is sometimes important to transfer across ranches to earn experience and well-deserved promotion. It is also feasible to work as an Agricultural Contractor, providing maintenance services or supplying agricultural equipment and supplies.
Candidates with requisite skills and experience have the best job prospects.
Beneficial Professional Development
CPD will assist an active Ranch Hand in developing personal skills and competency through work-based learning, a professional activity, formal education, or self-directed learning. It enables you to always improve your skills, regardless of your age.
Further education will help you strengthen your occupational abilities and make your resume more appealing. A degree or diploma program in animal science or farming can offer you really useful information. Attending an agricultural school can assist you in developing new technical abilities as well as learning how to operate and repair complex farming equipment and vehicles.
Ranch Workers do not have an easy life, according to popular belief. Long hours, arduous and tedious work, and loneliness are some of the difficulties they confront when guaranteeing the efficient operation of a ranch.
Advice from the Wise
A good Ranch Hand is distinguished from a mere guy mounted on a horse by sound judgment and the ability to be “in the right place at the right time.”