What Does a Cowpuncher Do?

Lumara Lee

A cowpuncher tends livestock on ranches and farms. Some of the specific duties of a cowpuncher may vary depending on the type of livestock he or she works with, but the general tasks are the same. Whether the ranch hand is dealing with cows, sheep, goats, poultry, horses, or some other animal, all livestock must be fed and watered daily. Stalls, yards, and pens must be cleaned, and the animals’ health must be maintained by frequent inspections. Animals also need to be watched to prevent injury and make sure they don’t eat any poisonous plants while grazing.

A cowboy hat.
A cowboy hat.

Cowpuncher is another term for cowboy. The main tools of the trade are ropes, hats, boots, and chaps. Horses, saddles, and spurs are other necessities. When going on an overnight cattle drive, a bedroll, canteen, eating utensils, and cooking implements round out the list of equipment required to do the job.

Cowpunches are commonly referred to as cowboys who manage livestock.
Cowpunches are commonly referred to as cowboys who manage livestock.

The duties of a cowpuncher can include herding, castrating, breeding, and protecting livestock from predators. A cowpuncher may also sort and weigh the animals, administer medications, measure feed and nutritional supplements, and move livestock to different grazing areas. The ranch hand may also be required to maintain records of livestock purchases, sales, growth, and weight. Branding, tagging, marking, or otherwise identifying each animal may be another job requirement. Cowpunchers are also responsible for the working animals, which may include dogs and horses.

Saddles are part of a cowpuncher's necessities.
Saddles are part of a cowpuncher's necessities.

Specific duties often vary by the type of animal under the cowboy's care. Ranch hands who work with sheep may be responsible for shearing, docking, and lambing. A farm hand working on a poultry farm may be responsible for collecting eggs, placing them in incubators, and debeaking fowl. Those who work on a dairy farm will be required to milk cows, collect the milk, and maintain the milking equipment. Wranglers train and work with the horses used to herd livestock.

A cowpuncher may go on overnight cattle drives.
A cowpuncher may go on overnight cattle drives.

Cowpunchers are often responsible for administering artificial insemination and assisting with animal births. Duties may include operation, inspection, maintenance, and repair of farm equipment and machinery. Cowboys are also tasked with building fences and sheds. These structures must be inspected and repaired.

Branding might be the responsibility of a cowpuncher.
Branding might be the responsibility of a cowpuncher.

Ranch hands may also be in charge of weed control. This can entail spraying weeds along fences, in ditches, and in pastures so that proper forage can be grown. Many farms and ranches grow their own feed, so the cowpuncher may be expected to prepare the soil, plant, irrigate, and add fertilizers and pesticides. Cutting, bailing, and transporting hay can all be part of the job.

Cowpunchers are often in charge of tagging animals.
Cowpunchers are often in charge of tagging animals.

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