Ranching Operations

How Do You Know When To Hire Staff On Your Ranch?

3 cowboys and one cowgirl on horseback preparing to herd cattle.

The decision to hire staff on your farm or ranch shouldn’t be made lightly. Barring the situations where you’re paying the neighbor kid a few bucks an hour to stack hay, bringing on employees can either enable you to grow your revenue by increasing your production output, or dig you into a hole. 

What it boils down to is timing – it’s up to you to determine if now is the right time to outsource some of your labor. Below, we’ll outline the key considerations that you should be making before you make a half-hearted post on a job board. 

Does It Make Financial Sense To Hire Someone?

This question isn’t just a matter of “Can I afford to pay someone?” (though that’s important, too), but more about identifying how hiring an employee would benefit you financially. 

Are you leaving money on the table by not having an employee? For some, this could mean being able to increase your production output, thereby increasing your potential to generate revenue. For others, this could free up some of your own time, by delegating some day-to-day tasks to your employees, to pursue other revenue-generating business interests.

The key here, though, is to determine a realistic estimate of how much additional revenue you can generate by hiring an employee and if that number adequately offsets the cost of that person’s wages/salary if you’re offering competitive compensation. 

Employee Availability

The topic of competitive compensation is a perfect segway into our next consideration:  employee availability. In most areas of the country, farm and ranch work is currently an “employee market”, as qualified candidates are becoming more and more scarce. 

Get some insight into the labor market in your area. Are there more individuals looking for farm or ranch work than producers are hiring, or will you need to expand your search to other regions? If the latter is the case, is housing readily available, or will you need to provide it? Are you prepared to do so? In many cases, the ability to provide housing gives you a leg-up as an employer, since this can be considered a large aspect of the total compensation package. 

Other Considerations For Hiring Farm Or Ranch Staff

Along with your financial situation and your local labor market, some questions you need to ask yourself when determining whether or not to hire staff include: 

  • Can you afford to get by with day labor? 
  • Would you and your neighbors be able to work out an employee share? 
  • If you cannot afford to pay competitively, what additional value can you add to the total compensation package? 


Deciding whether or not to become an employer is tough, especially for smaller farming and ranching operations, but it is undoubtedly a good sign. The ability to bring on staff, in most cases, means that your operation is growing – and for that, you should be proud!

The considerations we discussed above are only a jumping-off point to determine if hiring staff is the right move for you, but a good next step may be to evaluate the human risk associated with employing others and create mitigation strategies that will work for your farm or ranch. 


How do you know when you need to hire more employees? 

Hiring more employees requires the same considerations as when you’re just hiring one employee. Identify if it makes financial sense for your operation, and if you can meet the demands of your current labor market. 

What skills should I be looking for when hiring a farm or ranch worker? 

The skills that you’ll require when looking for a candidate depend on the daily tasks that you expect them to carry out. If you need someone who can herd, brand, and drive cattle, then the skillset to confidently work around cattle and (likely) horses would be non-negotiable unless you’re willing to carry out extensive training. 

Can I hire young people (under 18 years old) to work on my farm or ranch? 

Hiring young people often involves understanding your state and federal laws enacted to protect minors in the labor market. 

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