Ranch vs. Farm – What’s the Difference?


You might use the term ranch and farm synonymously, but they aren’t as similar as you might think. Understanding the difference can help you choose the right career path or just sound more educated when you are dealing with farmers and ranchers.

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What is a Farmer?

A farmer is someone that handles a large variety of tasks on a farm. A few of those tasks include:

  • Raising crops
  • Raising livestock
  • Managing soil
  • Be an expert on planting, fertilizing, and soil

As a farmer, the key ingredient is the soil as everything grows from it, including the farmer’s success. Farmers work long, hard hours on land that is typically smaller than a rancher’s land.

What is a Rancher?

A rancher is someone that raises livestock, namely cattle or sheep. Ranchers are more concerned with the quality of their grass than the soil and they have very little machinery on their land. The rancher’s main priority is the animals and their welfare, including their food and health.

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Ranchers don’t work as many hours as farmers as they don’t have to maintain the land as much as a farmer does. Instead, ranchers focus on maintaining the livestock and ensuring the land is lucrative to the livestock’s lives.

Do They Overlap?

This doesn’t mean that farmers can’t have animals or ranchers can’t have crops. Some farmers choose to do both, using a majority of their land for crops, but reserving part of it for livestock. Farmers generally choose a method that is most conducive to their land. If they have a small area for crops, they may practice crop rotation, planting one crop during the spring and another during the fall rather than simultaneously planting them. This also helps farmers decrease the need for large amounts of working capital by spreading the work out.

Ranchers, on the other hand, don’t usually have any crops. Again, because they are not concerned with the quality of the soil as much, they focus more on their animals. But ranchers often have more than one type of animal on their farm. For example, they may have poultry and cows or poultry and horses. It depends on the size of the land and the rancher’s capabilities. You may see some overlap in the type of animals that farmers and ranchers have, but again, ranchers rarely have any crops.

Whether you want to be a farmer or a rancher, you’ll need adequate education and experience in order to succeed. Check out the resources in your area, including internships with successful farmers or ranchers to help you get the experience you need to have a successful career.

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