Question about ranching? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 11-09-2019, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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Question about ranching?

Hi, this community has helped me before, so I wanted to ask another couple of questions (I know this is not a "ranching forum," but people here have never had a problem with the types of questions I've asked.) I'm an author and my novel is only slightly ranching-related, but I need to have any ranching details be accurate, lest folks like you (and especially your kids) read something and say "Oh come on.....!" So, my questions are:

1) on an 8,000-acre ranch which mainly raises horses, but also has "some" cattle, pigs and chickens......how many full-time or part-time workers would be employed there? In the novel, the ranch belongs to a family for generations.....but I assume that's much more work than one family can handle......and that some long-time employees might be considered as almost "family?"

2) Do I assume correctly that a typical ranching family would be extremely self-reliant? As in, capable of fixing/repairing/maintaining pretty much anything? (equipment, tractors, engines, furniture, appliances, etc, etc.)?

Thanks for any feedback!
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post #2 of 26 Old 11-09-2019, 06:59 PM
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I've ran 640 acres (1 section) with cattle and a couple horses by myself and a buddy worked a full time job too. We ran 160 head on a cow/calf operation. It kept us busy before daylight til after dark to do both. I've cut way back since then and life is more enjoyable and I've gotten older. As far as upkeep on everything , if you don't do it yourself you won't make any money at least at my scale. You definitely don't want to look at the hours and divide it out as you hourly wage is real low. I'm fortunate as my father taught me to do almost anything as for a repairs go, so I do it all.
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post #3 of 26 Old 11-09-2019, 09:18 PM
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I ran 6,400 acres when I was a single mom. The only thing I didn't do was bale the hay. Everything else, from fencing to plumbing, irrigating to swathing, light mechanical to calving, I did.

8,000 acres is small here for cattle and hay.

But, if you are breeding and raising horses for sale an outfit would likely need two hands in addition to two hands on owners. Whether those are made up in part or total with kids or grandparents is up to you.
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post #4 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 01:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for this. I'd really like to have some longtime employees on this place, as it will increase the stakes in the story. I could easily increase the size of the place if that makes more sense, in order to justify more employees/hands. What size operation (mainly horses, some cattle, pigs, chickens) would justify maybe another few employees in addition to the family? 12,000? 15,000?
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post #5 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 03:46 PM
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18-25,000 for cow/horse business.

For a straight horse business you can need more people just by diversifying. Cows can either play into that, or be a stand alone.

You're thinking of having chickens and pigs in the mix, that can increase labor needs. Most hog operations are containment facilities for biosecurity concerns. Chickens, can be for personal use, or for income. Lots of options for how labor-intensive they are.

Good luck. Have fun.
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post #6 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 04:00 PM
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@boots would it also depend somewhat on how densely the cattle were stocked? e.g. it's based more on the number of cattle you have than the size of the spread? For instance, on the extreme end, someone running an operation like a feedlot, with super high density, there's no way they could manage thousands of acres themselves, right? So even someone with 1,000 acres could, if they were running a lot of cattle on those acres, find that they needed help, whereas someone could run 10,000 acres by themselves if they had fewer cattle?

And might it not also depend on the purpose or type of the cattle? You would need more workers for a dairy operation, for instance, right? Could you possible also need more workers if you were raising fancy $20,000 beef cattle? Because maybe you'd need to keep a closer eye on them because losing even one would be really expensive?

ETA: I'm honestly curious. 90% of what I know about cattle ranching comes from Hank the Cowdog, LOL.
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post #7 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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The ranch angle is very, important.......but I don't need to go into a lot of detail about the actual operations. The reader needs to know that there are stables, barn, shops, sheds, the usual, thousands of acres of land.....but there will be minimal actual details about what goes on there, other than "they were running cattle" or "raising/breeding horses."

So.....how about the ranch is 20,000 acres......mainly horses, but also chickens, pigs, some cattle. Can I justify having maybe 7-8 longtime employees in addition to the family? Maybe 10? I need a bunch of people who would be seriously adversely affected if the ranch were seized and sold, putting them out of a job.....that they might have difficulty finding another employer nearby, etc. And of course the sadness of seeing the family lose their property, which they've they've been a part of for so long.
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post #8 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 05:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjnick View Post
Hi, this community has helped me before, so I wanted to ask another couple of questions (I know this is not a "ranching forum," but people here have never had a problem with the types of questions I've asked.) I'm an author and my novel is only slightly ranching-related, but I need to have any ranching details be accurate, lest folks like you (and especially your kids) read something and say "Oh come on.....!" So, my questions are:

1) on an 8,000-acre ranch which mainly raises horses, but also has "some" cattle, pigs and chickens......how many full-time or part-time workers would be employed there? In the novel, the ranch belongs to a family for generations.....but I assume that's much more work than one family can handle......and that some long-time employees might be considered as almost "family?"

2) Do I assume correctly that a typical ranching family would be extremely self-reliant? As in, capable of fixing/repairing/maintaining pretty much anything? (equipment, tractors, engines, furniture, appliances, etc, etc.)?

Thanks for any feedback!
#1 - 8,000 acres is very small for a "large" operation. How many kids and what ages does this family have? How close are extended family and how many? Aunts, uncles, cousins can all be "hands" and only share in profit or get some stock as their share, rather than pay or cash money.

#2 - Yes, very much. I'm getting older, run only a few horses, and have 3 female helpers, part time, one works 5 days/week and the other 2 alternate weekends and cover if the main person needs a day off.

We had a small fire here last Monday. Started 3 farms away and by the time she ran to the door and told me & hubby that the fire was coming and we came running, our pasture (with the barn and all the horses in it) was on fire. We got out there and she & I got water on it and stopped it before it got to the barn, hubby evacuated the horses to a friend's place. By the time the FD got here, they put a lot of water down and put most of it out. We then used rakes and shovels and did the mop up and put the fire all the way out. It takes team work and everyone working and thinking as one to make it work.
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post #9 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 05:25 PM Thread Starter
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Wow, so glad you got the fire out in time! Scary........but sounds like you're more than capable of handling anything.
Thanks for your response.

1) There are a few family members but not a lot. Grandpa ( 78 y.o. widower), his son and his wife, 3-4 grandkids...part of the story is the family being scattered due to losing the ranch.

I will increase the ranch size to 20,000 acres, add a few employees, depending on what I hear back from you all.

2) This is as I expected.....I just can't see that people running a large ranch wouldn't be able to "fix anything but the break of day," as a famous novel put it.
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post #10 of 26 Old 11-10-2019, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by bjnick View Post
Wow, so glad you got the fire out in time! Scary........but sounds like you're more than capable of handling anything.
Thanks for your response.

1) There are a few family members but not a lot. Grandpa ( 78 y.o. widower), his son and his wife, 3-4 grandkids...part of the story is the family being scattered due to losing the ranch.

I will increase the ranch size to 20,000 acres, add a few employees, depending on what I hear back from you all.

2) This is as I expected.....I just can't see that people running a large ranch wouldn't be able to "fix anything but the break of day," as a famous novel put it.
That's pretty true (#2), otherwise all your money ends up being spent on repairs. We have an old Massey Ferguson Tractor (circa 1960's) that we're currently going through. Nobody is a mechanic, but we're pretty good at seeing what's not working and figuring out how to repair or replace parts.

We live in a college town, so most of the part timers I have helping are college students and frequently vet students, so they rarely stay more than 4 years. Occasionally, I'll get some one who's in another program at the school and they may be good for 5-6 years. That's pretty good longevity for grunt labor. I definitely give preference to hiring students, they usually need the money and I like that they can think for themselves. It would be lovely to have someone who hung around for 20 years, but they'd need 2 or 3 part time jobs to survive, if they weren't college students with help from parents, scholarships or grants. I just don't have enough work anymore to have anyone full time.
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