Not every woman is cut out for a job in a high-rise cubicle -- or even a low-rise one. If the allure of wide open spaces is strong but you're not sure you can make a living on a ranch, list your experience against the skills that horse and cattle ranches need. You may be surprised at the options. If you have a mind for business, the muscle for maintenance and can handle an all-weather job, start knocking on barn doors.
Hands-On With Horses
If you have horse experience, look for several options on both horse and cattle ranches. For example, an experienced rider can lead trail rides on guest or dude ranches. You may need to get the horses back into shape after the off-season, and test-ride new horses for suitability. It takes a special type of horse to tolerate a nervous big-city greenhorn on his back, so not all will make the cut. A patient soul can give guests, family members or ranch employees riding lessons. Some working cattle ranches still use horses to sort or move cattle, requiring both good riding and cow knowledge. If you have breeding experience, ranches that breed horses need breeding managers to select desirable parental genes, assist births if necessary and handle newborn foals. You may have to negotiate sales with buyers, or hire and manage trainers. Less specialized work, but no less important, gives you plenty of time in the barn as a barn hand: feeding, grooming, and cleaning stalls.
Hands-On With Cattle
Cattle aren’t riding animals -- well, most of them aren’t -- but they entail a lot of handling for applying identification and administering vaccines. Some ranches brand cattle for anti-theft purposes. Modern-day branding methods include heating the iron electrically, or freeze branding, which kills hair pigment. Many cows sport ear tags either instead of, or in addition to, branding. You affix the tags with a tool that pierces the ear and attaches the tag in one step. The strength of 10 Vikings is needed to restrain a cow getting her ear pierced, so you'll need to sort the proper cattle from the herd and shepherd them into chutes for these procedures.
Movie and television producers romanticize a laid-back lifestyle on cattle and horse ranches. But running a ranch is like any business -- except it horizons for windows and does not pay overtime. An experienced cattle ranch business manager understands when to buy and sell cattle, just as as a stock trader knows when to buy and sell corporate shares. You need to inventory equipment and understand basic accounting concepts. Putting together income and cash flow statements are two examples. It's the same on horse ranches, except you bring your understanding of the horse industry to the job. If the ranch breeds, buys and sells show horses, for example, you must insure future and current show horses to protect the investment. Prospective buyers may want to take a horse on trial, or lease it, requiring you to arrange complex business agreements.
Maybe you can’t tell the difference between a horse and a cow, but you know your way around a tool shed. If so, apply for a property caretaker position. Ranches can’t operate without one and, especially large ranches may need several caretakers. Machines have replaced some manual tasks, but pasture fences still don’t fix themselves. There are tractors to maintain, tires to change and repair, lawns to mow and gardens to tend. Dude ranches and other ranches that house guests have a greater need for painstaking maintenance to keep guests from getting injured. Even a splinter can dampen a good vacation.
- Dude Ranchers Association: Employment
- The Cattleman Magazine: Branding and Ear Tagging 101
- NASDAQ: Live Cattle
- Beef Magazine: Part 1 – Basic Economic Concepts for Running a Profitable Ranch Business
- United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook: Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images