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The ultimate guide to finding ranch hand work

WorkHorse Hub October 8, 2018

Max graduated from college with a degree in livestock management and was ready for the thrill of his first real job. He knew he wanted to work outdoors in the ranching industry, and longed for the opportunity to see new areas of North America.

Max knew that the top States for ranching were Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, California, and Oklahoma. And he wanted to experience it all!

Other than his degree, Max had no agricultural experience, but thought it would still be possible to find a job. Here is exactly how Max found a ranch hand job, and how you can too!

Do I have what it takes to be a ranch hand?

Ranch hand jobs are versatile, and you need to be flexible. Some refer to ranch hands as jack of all trades.

Ranchers are looking for employees with understanding and experience with agriculture and animals for an entry-level ranch job. There is little or no time for instruction, ranch hands need to be motivated self-starters; driven to do the job correctly with minimal guidance.

Am I physically ready to be a ranch hand?

Listen: ranch hand jobs aren’t easy. The west, wide-open spaces, and cowboys have been romanticized, but on a ranch or farm, you’re working outside every day, no matter what the weather.

It’s not a desk job with heat and air conditioning, be prepared for sore muscles, physical labor, and the occasional splatter of manure!

What kinds of ranch jobs are out there?

So, going back to that romantic vision of working on a ranch, Max wasn’t all that sure what a cattle ranch job really involved. Of course, he wanted to ride ATVs and horses, and run herds of Angus cattle up and down green pastures. But, Max was smart enough to know there was more to it than that.

Max did some research. He found that ranch hands were in charge of animal health and nutrition, clearing land, building and fixing fences, operating equipment, scouting for crop pests, harvesting crops, and working cattle, including branding, vaccination, and castration.

A horse ranch job is also a possibility, with different roles. Some horse ranches are keeping the horses in shape for the rodeo circuit, others are breeding horses.

Dude ranch jobs are leading groups of guests on trail rides, and teaching basic riding and roping skills.

Should I try and be a “live in” ranch hand?

To begin with, some ranches may require you to be a live-in ranch hand. Or, housing could be part of the salary. A live-in ranch hand lives on the ranch is basically there 24/7. Ranch hands that don’t live on site, go home at the end of the day.

Days are long on a ranch, especially in the spring and summer. Live-in ranch hands tend to be “on call” at any hour, day or night, even if it’s their day off.

You also feel more connected to the ranch, the animals, and your co-workers. And this is a good thing!

What’s the difference between farm jobs and being a ranch hand?

Getting a job on a farm is different from being a ranch hand. On a farm, agricultural land is the primary part of the operation. Dairy and vegetables are two common farm types, with dairy growing crops to feed the cows.

A ranch primarily raises livestock, such as beef or sheep.

Where can I find a local ranch to work on?

Next, the question, how to find a ranch job? Max started with the traditional job search resources. He attended local work fairs, read the job ads in local papers, and ran Google searches for cattle ranch jobs.

Mostly, he found frustration; the process was slow and tedious—especially in a digital age! Max had no way of knowing if ranches were hiring now, or if his Google searches were finding old content. He didn’t think finding a ranch to work on would be this difficult.

How can I find ranch jobs across North America?

Max expanded his search mechanisms to include Indeed and LinkedIn, well-known job sites. Then he ran into Gary at a local restaurant. Gary was a couple of years older than Max, and working on a ranch in Saskatchewan.

Ranch hands: Get specific

If you’re struggling to find a ranch to work on, make your search more specific, Gary advised Max. LinkedIn and Indeed are great, but they’re for every industry. Ranchers are busy. How many of them are really going to post their available positions on every job board there is?

That’s right, very few of them. Gary told Max that he found his ranch hand job in Saskatchewan on WorkHorse Hub. It’s free, and matches you to jobs just like a recruiter would.

And it’s agriculture specific! So it’s one place you know you’ll find a lot of relevant jobs.

What do ranchers look for in a resume?

Gary re-invigorated Max’s job search, and he started fine-tuning his resume. Max remembered the advice from a career consultant at school:

  • Tailor your resume to the position you’re applying for.
  • Highlight relevant education, experience and achievements early in your resume.
  • Keep it short and simple, no more than two pages.

In other words, no word vomit, Max chuckled.

What’s the best way to apply for jobs on a ranch?

Showing up in person to apply for a job isn’t a great idea. Employers aren’t prepared for you, and ranchers are busy. They may not even be at the office when you show up.

Max knew that finding a ranch to work on meant applying for the job the way the rancher wanted him to.

He created a profile on WorkHorse Hub. It was so simple that Max thought he missed a step. You fill out a form to sign up for ranch jobs, and the site matches you with jobs that fit your skills and profile.

WorkHorse Hub instantly gave Max a list of ranch hand jobs that were open, and he was qualified for. He started reading through the job descriptions, wondering whether it was better to work for one ranch over another.

What kind of salary should I expect from a ranch job?

Indeed lists the average salary for a ranch hand in the U.S. at $11.17 per hour.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, ranch jobs can range in salary up to $64,170. In Canada, Indeed lists salary at $16.03 per hour. The site Neuvoo has Canadian salaries at $17 per hour and $33,150 per year.

What makes some ranch hands get paid more? It depends on the requirements of the job, whether or not it’s a live in ranch hand job, benefits offered, the experience of the employee, and what the ranch pays other employees.

How to prep for rancher interview?

You’re probably wondering if interviewing for a ranch hand job is different? Not so much. Show up on time, dress neatly and appropriately for the job your applying for (i.e. no need for the tie and jacket, but definitely a clean work shirt and jeans), and be polite.

Prepare for the interview by learning about the operation you’re applying to work for, and ask smart questions that show you understand the operation.

After interviewing at two ranches, Max accepted an entry-level ranch job offer working on a cattle ranch in Alberta. The ranch has a second location in North Dakota, and Max can transfer to that location in the future, allowing him to explore new places as his skills grow.

To sum it all up, ranch hand jobs are rewarding, get you outside, and provide the opportunity to work across North America. And not to mention the thrill of variety in your daily routine.

Finding a ranch to work on is simpler than you think, give it a try.

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