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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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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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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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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@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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Discussion Starter #7
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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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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Discussion Starter #9
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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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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@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.
Those are great thoughts.

It so depends on where the ranch is. In the West end of the county I live in, it is estimated one needs 45 acres per cow calf pair. On the east end it's 85 acres. A buddy in AZ place is rated at 250 acres, but north of him it's around 100 acres. And a couple friends in Missouri can run 2-3 pair on an acre. Of course you need more than 25, or 250, or 100, and have to manage the whole place in order to succeed.

On cow outfits, they are figuring one hand for every 2-6,000 head of mother cows.

Horse can be more labor intensive if you are fitting, showing, breeding, competing, boarding, training...
 

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Chickens and pigs, to me, are not part of a ranch. Sure, they may grow a few for their own needs, including eggs, but not to the extent that the chickens and pigs are actually thought of as part of the "ranching operations".



I lived on a 28,000 acre cattle ranch for five years as a retired volunteer wanting to learn. The ranch was ran mostly by a husband and wife. The man could no longer ride but the woman could. She did roundups with both horses and hired helicopters. The man ran the squeeze chutes. Various cowboys at large were hired at various times to come help. They ran 400 brood cows.


To have 10 long time employees would be staggering in terms of the size of ranch operation it would require in the ranch I experienced.


Now if there were only a few cattle, as cattle won't support many full time employees, but mostly high-end bred horses for one or another specialized activity, that required long term training, the employee number needs could go up dramatically and the financial support would be there.


But for the cattle part of the operation, most owner/operators of ranches, in my parts, are struggling to keep up with the rest of the world.
 

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I don't have much to say for the cattle or large-scale ranch part of it, but can definitely attest to a horse operation needing many more employees, especially if you're breeding/training/raising/competing etc. Of course, whether or not your horses will be mostly stabled or mostly pastured makes a huge difference.

At places where horses are stabled 75% of the day or more and get minimal or no turn-out, you will have a LOT of man-power put into constantly feeding, mucking, watering, and exercising every individual horse. If the horses are turned out as one huge group 100% of the time with only run-ins to use for shelter as they please, you can completely avoid having to muck and exercise them (not that you wouldn't want to exercise them though, since that's the purpose of having them) as the land will take care of that for you. You also won't have to feed nearly as much hay (or any hay at all, at the right time of the year) and you can fill one big water trough every so often with a weekly scrubbing instead of dozens of individual buckets scrubbed and refilled every day. At that scale, you probably wouldn't even bother blanketing in the winter, whereas stabled horses almost always get their blankets changed daily with the weather changes and that alone is a huge chore.

I have worked at a stable with only 7 horses that had 5 workers, just because the stable owner was very specific and high-maintenance. I definitely can't say the same would go for a large ranch.
 

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A horse ranch can be as small as 25-50 acres. That is if by ranch you mean horse breeding operation. Cattle ranches need to be bigger as the profit margin for them is lower while horses can afford to be fed bought hay and grain and don't necessarily need a lot of grazing land.
 

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I wasn't thinking yesterday when I posted. A GREAT place to get some info would be the 4 Sixes (part of Burnett Ranches, LLC) down in TX. Here's a link to their website: https://www.6666ranch.com/en/

They're a HUGE operation and they run Black Angus, Quarter Horses (racing, ranch remuda, and sales to the public) and have a full veterinary service. Read their site and it will answer quite a few of your questions and you can contact them and get a lot of great info.
 

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I live by a ranch that has 100,000+ acres that runs cattle and rodeo stock (saddle horse, bucking horses, bulls, steers and calves). they have about 10 full time hands (including family). They are run by the third generation (I believe). My friend has worked there for 20 years. They provide him with a house and pay utilities along with a salary for he and his family. in addition, he can run a few head of cattle and his personal saddle horses with the ranch herds. He also runs a hunting guide service int he fall to supplement his income a bit. It's a great way to raise kids, but if the ranch ever fails, it would be devastating for he and his family.
 

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Those are great thoughts.

It so depends on where the ranch is. In the West end of the county I live in, it is estimated one needs 45 acres per cow calf pair. On the east end it's 85 acres. A buddy in AZ place is rated at 250 acres, but north of him it's around 100 acres. And a couple friends in Missouri can run 2-3 pair on an acre. Of course you need more than 25, or 250, or 100, and have to manage the whole place in order to succeed.
This. Grass quality and how the cattle do varies a lot depending on location. Type of cattle matters, too. For example, Angus cattle do well in the northern states because it isn't as hot and the grass is usually good quality. Some places in the southern states use a lot of Brahma or Corriente influence to help the cattle be more heat and drought tolerant, as well as being more spread out between forage and water sources. It takes more acreage per cow for that cow to do well.
 
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Discussion Starter #18
These are all really great, helpful responses. To be clear, I don't need to go into much detail beyond that they were a successful and very hard-working, self-reliant ranch family. "They ran horses and cattle," and also that the grandson, early 20's, graduate of a top school like Texas A&M, is determined to raise Akhal Tekes......(this was the breed I choose after much feedback and advice from this forum several years ago.) All I want for the book is that it rings true for the average reader, and that for folks like you (your kids, actually, the novel is aimed at 12-15), will at the very worst think, "well.....okay......I guess that's pretty close......" As opposed to "That is so stupid! As if!"

With that in mind, I am thinking the following revisions: Ranch is 20,000 acres.......mostly a horse operation (I don't give any more detail than 'he was determined to breed/raise Akhal Tekes"-- "some" cattle (I don't have to be more specific than that.) Some pigs/chickens, (sell eggs locally, is that a thing?)

Please let me know if that works.
 

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These are all really great, helpful responses. To be clear, I don't need to go into much detail beyond that they were a successful and very hard-working, self-reliant ranch family. "They ran horses and cattle," and also that the grandson, early 20's, graduate of a top school like Texas A&M, is determined to raise Akhal Tekes......(this was the breed I choose after much feedback and advice from this forum several years ago.) All I want for the book is that it rings true for the average reader, and that for folks like you (your kids, actually, the novel is aimed at 12-15), will at the very worst think, "well.....okay......I guess that's pretty close......" As opposed to "That is so stupid! As if!"

With that in mind, I am thinking the following revisions: Ranch is 20,000 acres.......mostly a horse operation (I don't give any more detail than 'he was determined to breed/raise Akhal Tekes"-- "some" cattle (I don't have to be more specific than that.) Some pigs/chickens, (sell eggs locally, is that a thing?)

Please let me know if that works.
He's gonna starve to death raising an exotic breed like Akhal Tekes.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It's his dream! You'd kill his dream? :smile:

Anyway, there will be other horses as well.......the story isn't about horses.
 
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