Working as a Rancher: What They Do, Key Skills and Tips To Succeed

Updated June 24, 2022

Working as a rancher is a fulfilling job that allows you to work outdoors and enter the business sector. Ranchers provide a crucial service to the national infrastructure by providing food for the public. For many ranchers, the career is part of a family business, but others pursue this profession through alternative routes. In this article, we discuss what a rancher does, key skills and education a rancher needs, the career outlook for a rancher and tips for succeeding in this career.

What is a rancher?

A rancher is an agricultural professional who raises animals, commonly cattle, to be sold for meat production. Ranchers often own their property but may also seek work as a ranch hand for another rancher. Ranchers are responsible for the general care and maintenance of both the livestock and the property or facility where they live. Ranching is an active career with higher than usual physical demands that provides the opportunity to work outdoors for large portions of the workday.

Related: 50 of the Best Outdoor Jobs

What does a rancher do?

Ranchers have a diverse range of responsibilities when caring for their livestock and preparing them for sale. Some common duties a rancher include:

  • Caring for and feeding livestock to maintain their good health

  • Tending to the land of the ranch to keep it in a condition that's hospitable to the livestock

  • Building and repairing structures on the property, including both facilities and fencing

  • Monitoring the livestock and providing healthcare or contacting a large animal veterinarian when needed

  • Tracking levels of supplies or feed on the ranch and making purchases to maintain inventory

  • Keeping detailed records of livestock, sales figures and other important information

  • Negotiating sales prices when working with a butcher

  • Butchering meat when selling directly to customers or grocers

  • Overseeing the reproduction cycle of livestock, including assisting in births and providing castrations

  • Grooming livestock to avoid potential pests or illnesses

  • Milking cattle and creating products when including a dairy operation along with meat production

  • Performing additional farming tasks when running a diverse farm that includes fowl or crop production

Related: Working as a Ranch Hand: Responsibilities and Different Work Environments

Key rancher skills

In order to succeed as a rancher, you need a mixture of physical, interpersonal and knowledge-based skills. Developing a diverse skill set ensures you can handle any situation presented on the ranch. Important skills for a rancher include:

Animal care

Animal care skills allow a rancher to tend to the health of their livestock and manage illnesses, protect them from predators and maintain their healthy weights. Caring for animals is the most important responsibility for a rancher. Well-managed livestock produces more salable products and increases the profitability of a ranch.

Related: What Is Animal Science?


Communication skills allow a rancher to speak and write clearly so that others can understand them. Effective communication is important on the ranch when working with other ranch staff. These skills allow ranching professionals to stay coordinated and maximize production. Communication is also important when interacting with customers or vendors in order to avoid misunderstandings and maintain positive relationships.


Coordination skills allow a rancher to work with other groups effectively or serve in a planning capacity while aligning the work of multiple groups of employees. Effective coordination makes a ranch more efficient by ensuring that all work integrates as part of a larger plan. Learning to coordinate multiple groups can significantly improve your performance as a rancher.


Physical endurance allows a rancher to provide manual labor over an extended period while maintaining high-performance standards. Managing the livestock on a ranch can require a great deal of physical exertion on an average day. High endurance levels make it so that a rancher can complete all of their work efficiently and makes them more productive as a result.

Financial management

Financial skills provide a rancher with the ability to manage all the ranch's finances, including both general budgeting and responsible sales or purchases. Many ranchers oversee the financial aspects of their business themselves. When working with your own finances, it's important to have a strong understanding of financial principles in order to make informed decisions that benefit the profitability of your ranch.


Negotiation is the ability to come to an agreement with one or more other parties that is beneficial to the rancher. A rancher may use negotiation skills when setting prices with a butcher in order to increase how much they earn in sales. Some ranchers opt to sell directly to consumers and may do so in settings such as farmers' markets, where negotiations may be common. The more effective a rancher is at negotiating, the better price they can get for their products.


Organizational skills provide a rancher with the ability to manage large quantities of products in a fashion where they can easily find what they need. Organization can help on a ranch when managing livestock or sorting tools and equipment. In addition, organization is important in maintaining access to important records when necessary and ensuring important transactions get recorded accurately.

Time management

Time management skills enable a rancher to plan their day effectively to maximize the number of tasks they accomplish during working hours. This is a critical skill on a busy ranch, especially when managing assignments for staff. Successful time management reduces waste and increases efficiency for the rancher.

Rancher education requirements

A ranche r doesn't need to earn a degree . However, the tasks these professionals complete often require specific training. A rancher may learn to perform ranching tasks through practical education assisting at a ranch or by attending a vocational school to earn a diploma in an applicable program. Some ranchers elect to pursue a degree from a college or university, either with an advanced focus in animal care or in business and financial studies to better manage the commercial dealings of the ranch.

Related: 19 Degrees You Can Get To Work With Animals

Rancher salary and job outlook

Although income for a rancher can vary significantly due to situational factors, including the size of a ranching operation and other agricultural income sources on the property, the average salary for a rancher is currently $57,540 per year. An aspiring rancher may also work as a ranch hand, for an average wage of $13.92 per hour. In terms of job outlook, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistic s projects a slight decline in ranching careers from 2019 to 2029.

Tips for becoming a rancher

If you're interested in a career as a rancher, learning approaches that successful ranchers use can help you perform at a higher level. Follow these tips to increase your effectiveness as a rancher:

Find a mentor

Learning from a more experienced rancher can be a highly effective way to improve your performance. An experienced mentor can share the knowledge they have learned through their years working on a ranch, allowing you to benefit from their experience. A mentor can also offer advice you trust when facing an important decision for your ranch.

You may seek mentorship while operating your own ranch by finding a peer who you respect and who will share their knowledge with you. You may also benefit from mentorship while working as a ranch hand on another rancher's property. Observing how the owner of a property works can show you how to run your own productive ranch in the future.

Join local organizations

Ranching is a highly communal industry in which there's often a strong sense of fellowship between ranchers. Finding a local organization of ranchers can help you develop a network of peers. Other members of your organization may be able to offer you advice to improve your performance or offer help on your ranch when needed.

Build from the bottom up

When operating a successful business, it's important to have a firm foundation. As a rancher, the foundation of your business is your property and your livestock. When starting out in ranching, focus on improving the quality of your livestock and the care you provide to them. Maintaining the quality of your livestock may increase your profits and provide you with the funding you need for further advancement in other areas.

Befriend your neighbors

Building a strong relationship with other ranchers who live near you can be a highly effective form of networking as a rancher. Because they live nearby, your neighbors are most capable of providing you with help when a project requires more employees than you have at your ranch. By offering your help to your neighbors, and asking for their help when you need it, both parties can benefit and produce better results.

Choose your ranch hands carefully

If your operation has expanded to the point you're hiring staff, it's critical to find employees who fit in with how you operate your ranch. A ranch hand who is adept at the tasks you're most likely to require may be a better hire than a more experienced employee who generalizes and possesses a skill set in areas you intend to manage yourself. A well-rounded set of ranch hands allows you to use each employee to the best of their abilities and raises overall performance levels.

Plan for slow seasons

Working in ranching can be an inconsistent career choice, with fluctuations in the meat market affecting profitability levels. It's important to use successful periods to build capital to withstand slower periods. Taking a cautious approach like this can reduce risk and increase the long-term sustainability of your ranching operation.

Pay attention to details

When running a ranch, small decisions can have significant impacts on your bottom line at the end of the year. Therefore, pay attention to minor details throughout all of your work on the ranch, from caring for the animals to managing your books. Developing your attention to detail and instituting policies to ensure all procedures have sufficient oversight can have a significant impact on the performance of your ranch.

Buy older machinery

Older machinery can be an excellent bargain as a rancher, particularly if you are just starting out. While purchasing new equipment can appeal to a rancher, often older options still have many years of functionality at significant discounts. Most depreciation occurs in the first years, which means buying used tools and equipment can provide the best ratio of cost to years of service remaining.

Hire a financial advisor

If you're inexperienced with financial record keeping, hiring a financial advisor can save you money. When choosing an advisor, seek a professional who has experience working within the ranching or farming industry. This may allow you to find a financial professional who understands the unique situations you face as a rancher so that they can provide you with the highest quality of service.

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