Rules to Run a Ranch the Right Way

For some folks, running their own ranch seems like a romantic prospect, perhaps connected to the idea of retiring from the corporate rat race in search of a simpler lifestyle. Real ranching, however, is hard work, physically and mentally. Here are some things to consider before committing to the farming life.

A beginner's guide to buying a US ranch | Financial Times

Looking After Livestock

Your animals are your greatest asset, and therefore deserve your greatest protection. Cattle are prone to a host of horrific diseases, so it’s crucial to vaccinate calves early against common conditions.

Domestic dairy cows must be regularly milked, cleaned and fed with the proper blend of vitamins, minerals and antibiotics. Range cattle require herding to and from grazing grounds, as well as continual monitoring by capable ranch hands who can deal with this delicate and dangerous business. To decrease the danger, calves should be dehorned and earmarked or branded to separate them from other herds’ stock.

However well you care for your cattle, there are circumstances beyond your control. Cattle can be killed or injured during storms, electrocuted by fences or lightning, drown in a flood, suffer attacks or even theft. Buy livestock mortality insurance to buffer your business against such misfortunes.

Caring for Crops

If you cultivate crops for food or fodder, they too must be considered essential goods. Land aridity and length of growing season are the biggest factors influencing cultivation and crop rotation. Each crop additionally requires specific treatment to thrive. For a fruitful harvest, study the local climate before planting and adjust your practices accordingly.

If your crops contribute to your livelihood, consider crop insurance. Crop insurance includes both crop yield and crop revenue insurance. The former covers catastrophic losses sustained in a drought, tornado, hailstorm, frost or blight. The latter provides protection from price drops on commodity crops. As a producer, it’s up to you to purchase a policy. The good news is the US government subsidizes a high proportion of the premium.

Treat Your Workforce Well

Agriculture is more back-breaking, and much more fatal, than most jobs. Workers are routinely liable to heatstroke, pesticides, and the risk of severe injury or death by heavy equipment and animals. Workers should always have access to clean water for drinking and washing, sanitary restroom facilities and a place to cool down during excessive heat. Training should be conducted in the management of machinery and the handling of horses and livestock. By the same token, all reasonable precautions must be taken to ensure worker safety, including against exposure to harmful chemicals.

Running a ranch or farm effectively requires a wealth of varied and specialized knowledge, historically acquired over generations. Nowadays, all the information is at your fingertips for you to succeed.