A rancher manages a ranch, a large facility dedicated to the production of livestock for milk, fiber, or meat. Ranchers typically own their ranches and are supported by a large staff which can include family members who work on the ranch. Ranching can be seen in parts of the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and Brazil, where large expanses of land are available for ranching.
The origins of ranching appear to lie in Spain, where people have been raising livestock on large plains for centuries. Ranching as a profession grew dramatically with the settling of the New World, which opened up numerous spaces for ranching. Cattle and sheep are among the most commonly ranched animals, and ranchers can also raise horses and more exotic animals such as buffalo or emus.
The rancher supervises the operations of the ranch, deciding which animals to raise, making decisions about breeding stock, and rotating stock through the ranchlands to prevent overgrazing. Ranchers also negotiate leases for neighboring land which they can use for grazing, hire and fire employees who do work on the ranch, and supervise ranch maintenance, from walking fence lines to confirm that the fences are solid to keeping outbuildings in good condition.
In addition to breeding stock, a rancher can also buy stock, with some ranchers focusing on buying young stock and raising it. The rancher can also utilize artificial insemination to bring new bloodlines into the herd, or sell semen from his or her herd so that other ranchers can access the ranch bloodlines. Ranchers are also responsible for organizing the sale of the animal products they produce, whether they are selling cattle to slaughterhouses or selling wool at a farmers' market.
Many ranchers also grow hay and grain on their ranches to support their livestock nutritionally, and to avoid buying feed. Raising feed requires managing the land where the feed is grown, sowing feed at the appropriate time, and maintaining the crop until it is ready for harvest. The rancher is also involved in the health care of the herd, keeping animals healthy and seeking veterinary care when it is appropriate.
Ranchers typically live on site in a ranch house, and the ranch may include housing for employees and family members as well. Ranching is often a family business because it requires a great deal of work and family members are a convenient source of labor, although ranchers can also hire outsiders to supplement the family workers.