In Good Hands: Picking the Right Ranch Manager

Owning a ranch is a dream for many, a piece of land where one can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in the tranquillity of open pastures, as the cattle graze into the evening. However, the reality of ranch ownership often comes with the need for careful consideration, especially if you will be an absentee owner. Before purchasing a property, it’s crucial to ask yourself a critical question: Can you care for it alone?

Many aspiring ranch owners are weekend visitors, juggling urban responsibilities with their rural retreats. If you fall into this category, you must ponder the logistics of managing your property efficiently. Will you be able to feed cattle, repair fences, and attend to unexpected house repairs during the week? The answer to these questions can guide you toward an essential decision – whether to hire a ranch manager.

The Reality of Absentee Ownership

Absentee owners often find themselves caught between two worlds – the serenity of the ranch and the demands of their weekday lives. The picturesque landscape might be an oasis, but it requires consistent attention and care. Cattle have to be fed and cared for, fences will need repair, equipment will break down and the usual upkeep/maintenance of ranch houses will always need attention (much of the time when you aren’t there!).

Being present only on weekends means you’ll miss the subtle changes and emerging issues that demand immediate attention. This is where a ranch manager becomes not just a luxury but a necessity, ensuring that your investment remains in peak condition even in your absence.

The Role of a Ranch Manager

A competent ranch manager serves as the linchpin between your dream retreat and the practicalities of ranch life. Whether you’re dealing with a large and complex property or a smaller one that demands constant oversight, a ranch manager can be the key to success.

Daily Operations:

  • Feeding and Livestock Care: A manager can oversee cattle and other livestock; from feeding and working them to hauling to the sale barn and all the in-betweens.
  • Property Maintenance: From fixing fences to handling basic house repairs, a ranch manager ensures that the property remains in optimal condition. Any house on the property that is not lived in “full time”, will always be prone to having damage or issues arise that may go unnoticed for several weeks at a time. Having a manager, or ranch hand, ensures that any issues can be spotted and fixed promptly.

Strategic Decision-Making:

  • Land Management: A skilled manager can implement sustainable land management practices, preserving the long-term value of the property. Clearing cedars, mesquites, and other brush for both cattle and wildlife management purposes.
  • Budgeting and Financial Oversight: They can assist in budgeting for operational expenses, ensuring your ranch operates efficiently. They will help you cut costs and many times will know which local contractors to use and the ones to stay away from for certain projects.

Hiring & Supervision:

  • Hiring and Supervising Staff: If additional hands are required, a ranch manager can interview, hire, and supervise staff, ensuring that everyone is contributing to the well-being of the property.

Crucial Considerations When Hiring a Ranch Manager

Trust and Confidentiality:

  • Confidentiality: Your ranch manager will be privy to sensitive information about your personal and financial affairs. It is inevitable they will get to know you, your spouse, family and friends. Conversations will be overheard concerning your business and/or family circumstances. It’s vital that you hire someone who mutually understands that trust and confidentiality are paramount in this working relationship.

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Ranching Expertise: Look for candidates with a proven track record in ranch management. Sometimes it is easy to overlook individuals who don’t have an immense amount of education, but always remember, ranching is a lifestyle and for many, it runs several generations deep. Sometimes the working experience and talents in various trades can overshadow a college degree.

Reliability and Dedication:

  • Availability: Ensure that the manager is available when needed, especially if you’re an absentee owner. Dedication to the job is key for effective ranch management. (This is why on-site housing is also very important)

Compensation and Benefits:

  • Salary and Housing: Determine a competitive salary based on the manager’s experience and the complexity of the job. Providing on-site housing can also be an attractive benefit and allows for the manager to be on-site at all times, able to respond to situations as they happen.
  • Retirement Options: Consider offering retirement benefits to attract seasoned professionals who see your ranch as a long-term commitment.

Ultimately, the key to successful ranch ownership is understanding your needs and implementing a management plan that aligns with the unique characteristics of your property. Whether you choose a full-time manager or a part-time hand, careful consideration and planning are essential.

By assessing the size, complexity, and specific requirements of your ranch, you can make informed decisions that protect both your time and investment. Remember, the goal is not just to fill a position but to secure a steward who shares your vision and can effectively manage the day-to-day operations.

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By:  Sheldon Wellborn –