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Old 06-08-2009, 08:53 PM
307 posts, read 845,349 times
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Greetings all. I was curious if anyone had any insight as to where the best place is to get started and get involved with thr cattle ranching and/or equestrian business. I am looking at a few states, but am not sure where to go, and am considering all advice from people who know. I have little experience but am willing to learn and work hard. Would like to have my own ranch someday. Thanks to any help and opinions.
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:09 PM
Location: Eastern Washington
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Offhand, you might start with a trip to a dude ranch, assuming you are completely green to the whole cowboy scene, although you will pay to work rather than get paid to work. Like hunting guides, you need to shop around for a dude ranch who are willing to take you on and give you the "crash course" as opposed to just "executive entertainment". I mention hunting guides since I know at least a few who will ask, if you want to learn to do this for yourself from now on, or do you just want to put an elk or moose head on your wall and you won't hunt them again -

Leasing a few acres to a local cattleman who grazes part of his herd on it, over the past few years I have learned quite a bit.

I think the best way to get into the ranching business, big Western style, is to inherit one...sorry to say that but it's really tough to make money consistently in agriculture period, anymore.
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Old 06-09-2009, 07:58 AM
Location: Nebraska
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Very true, M3 Mitch. Cattle ranching is VERY expensive - just the property alone is expensive, then there's the equipment, employees, animals, hay production, inoculations, AI or bull, managing the herd for weight and reproduction - there's a lot involved. Even long-time family ranches are struggling now around here; most are scraping by, without hands to help, mostly their kids. IF the kids stick around, once they go to college its a crapshoot if they come back. A good friend of mine had three bulls. One was her own, two others were bought for the express purpose of breeding, supposedly certified. At the end of six months, fully two thirds of their cows were still "open". Turned out she had all the bulls retested - and only their home-raised bull was able. All of those bred cows they were going to sell at the January auction, or those calves they were counting on to sell at the fall auction are now nonexistent. Sure, they can return the bulls or sue, but they are hanging on by a shoestring anyway. It isn't an easy life by any means, and the simplest thing overlooked can bankrupt you.

Other friends breed quarter horses, but the demand isn't high right now for them, either - especially 'green' ones. Breaking them takes time, money, and effort, with no guarantee of a sale. You have to continually 'prove' your herd's capabilities, in either ranch work, barrel racing, or whatever skill, to guarantee good bloodlines and ability. And you have to keep feeding them as long as they are on your property, and keep them in excellent condition, and hope for the best...

Try looking in Midwest Messenger or other online publications (There are links at Midwest to other ones) for employment in Western/Midwestern states. But don't be too confident - cattle prices are 'way down, and training a new cowboy isn't beneficial right now. Are you ready, willing, and able to ride a fence line by yourself, from 5:30 in the morning til 8:30 at night, even when summer temps can drop to 38 deg, with hail or pelting rain or even the occasional blowing snow, to replace fenceposts or restring barbed wire with bleeding hands to keep the cattle from getting out (or your neighbors' cattle from getting IN)? Are you willing to skid from side to side of a barely-there dirt path in six feet of drifted snow, stopping every so often with your numbed hands to throw out hay from a truck for hungry cattle who are willing to knock you down and tromp you because they are hungry? Are you willing to skin a dead calf and put its skin on a new, living calf so that the dead calf's mom will take it because the new calf's momma died? Are you willing to stay up all night bottle feeding two twin calves whose mother died giving birth? Are you willing to get slammed into fences by the cattle who don't appreciate you and that horse who likes to bow up and hop like a demon when you throw his saddle on? These are common practices in real cattle ranch life. This is not a romantic job; it is dirty and nasty and either soaking wet or freezing cold or burning with thirst on a long ride in the hot sun with a temperamental horse and an empty canteen. But, if you understand all that and are willing to give it a shot, then go for it.

Last edited by SCGranny; 06-09-2009 at 08:19 AM..
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Old 06-09-2009, 08:43 PM
307 posts, read 845,349 times
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Thank you all for your advice. Is there a certain state or region that seems to have a more prevelant ranching industry, where it would have the most opportunities?
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Old 06-11-2009, 03:53 PM
Location: NOCO
535 posts, read 1,408,397 times
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Colorado, Wyoming, Montana.
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Old 06-12-2009, 02:56 AM
Location: Moku Nui, Hawaii
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The island of Hawaii (aka "the Big Island") has several large ranches and loads of cattle folks up near Waimea/Kamuela. Parker Ranch, which is a huge ranch, is up there as well as a lot of other ranches. Mostly black angus and hereford beef cattle although there are some rangy spotted horned beasts out in the fields, too.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:05 AM
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If one watches the feeder austions on RFD TV in the fall, one could get the names and towns of many cattle ranches as they state what ranch and where the cattle are from.

Lots of cattle from ranches in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska , South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:45 AM
Location: Sandhills
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Nebraska ranches are looking for hands from time to time also. Ranching is a good life, it can be lonely at times, but in my book it can't be beat.
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:15 PM
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Another option if you are simply looking for rural life and to be around livestock is dairy farms. I know Maine pretty much has 3 job openings in the entire state right now and I think two of those are dairy farms!

I am being silly of course, but its true. The dairy farms are always hiring. You could work on a dairy farm, gain some valuable experience and then head out west with some "experience back east". It's better then nothing .
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:45 PM
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Working on a huge dairy farm, pulling an 8 hour milking shift indoors in a milking parlor would not be the same as working outdoors on a cattle ranch.

In fact, it would resemble a factory assembly line job.
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