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Horse ranchers breed, raise and sell horses. Unlike other ranchers who work with animals like cattle, horse ranchers usually don't intend to sell their livestock as food; instead, they work to produce horses for riding, racing or labor. However, their job duties are similar enough to other ranchers that the Bureau of Labor Statistics groups them with all other farmers and ranchers for the purpose of reporting earnings.
General Horse Ranchers
General horse ranchers carry out the day-to-day operations of the ranch. They're the primary laborers. For instance, they may water or corral the horses and clean stalls.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, general horse and other ranchers earned an average salary of $42,710 per year in May 2009. This works out to an hourly rate of $20.53. Those in the 10th percentile made $18,900 per year, or $9.09 per hour. Horse ranchers in the 25th percentile earned $26,150 per year, or $12.57 hourly. The median compensation was $32,350 annually, which equates to $15.55 hourly. In the 25th percentile, horse ranchers earned $46,960 per year, or $22.58 hourly. In the 90th percentile, pay was $91,710 per year, or $44.09.
Horse ranch managers fulfill many of the duties of general horse ranchers, but they also carry out the formal administration of the ranch. For example, they may coordinate the sale of livestock or handle payroll, as well as ensure the ranch is operating according to local, state and federal safety and sanitation regulations. It's more important for these workers to have additional experience or a degree in agricultural management.
Horse ranch managers averaged $65,560 per year in May 2010, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This converts to $31.71 hourly. In the 10th percentile, wages were $29,280 per year, or $14.08 hourly, while wages in the 25th percentile were $40,640 per year, or $19.54 hourly. At the median, compensation was $60,750 per year, or $29.21 per hour. Those in the 75th percentile made $81,750 annually, or $39.30 per hour, while those in the 90th percentile earned $106,980 per year, or $51.43 per hour.
Some horse ranch workers are labor contractors. They act as middlemen between the managers and the general ranchers. It's their job to hire additional workers for the ranch as necessary under a contract basis. They're essentially agricultural recruiters who ensure that there are enough laborers to keep the ranch operational.
Labor contractors who work on farms and ranches earned $35,890 per year in May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This equates to $17.25 per hour. In the 10th percentile, earnings were $19,370 per year, or $9.32 hourly. In the 25th percentile, labor contractors earned $25,080 annually, or $12.06 per hour. The median rate was $29,990 annually, or $14.42 per hour. Those in the 75th percentile made $43,860 per year, the same as $21.09 hourly. In the 90th percentile, labor contractors made $57,480 per year, or $27.64 hourly.
Horse ranchers, like other ranchers and farmers, can't guarantee what percentage of their livestock will yield a profit, as some animals inevitably get sick or don't develop the traits or qualities desired and predicted. Yield is largely determined by what buyers on the open horse market are willing to pay for the animal at any given point. Good management is essential to earnings, as it makes the ranch more efficient and increases the number of horses that are born and sold. Additionally, the lines between general rancher, manager and contractor sometimes are blurred, with some individuals playing all roles, particularly on smaller ranches. Pay tends to be higher on larger ranches, but larger ranches also take more time and other resources to manage.
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