Thursday, July 18, 2024
General Agriculture

Concept, Definition, Types, Benefits and Issues of Animal Ranching

Ranch is a farm that is usually large and used for the breeding and raising of cattle, sheep, or horses on rangeland. Ranching is the activity that involves the operation of running a large farm, especially one used for raising animals like cattle, horses or sheep.

Ranching systems specializes in one or more livestock species and producing mainly live animals for slaughter, wool and milk. The farm is different from a ranch in terms of the purpose, worker’s nomenclature, Nature of job and their focus.

Benefits of ranching are in the forms of maintaining the health of grasslands and improves soil quality with manure. The success of ranching is plagued by the huge amount needed to start it and harsh weather condition.

On a global trend, the business of ranching seen threatened due to reduction in grazing land resulting to overgrazing on the available land unfavourable weather conditions and lack of appreciation and the imposition of unfavourable regulations by government authorities

Concept and Definition of Ranching

Ranch is a farm that is usually large and used for or devoted to the breeding and raising of cattle, sheep, or horses on rangeland. (Ranch from Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia).

Ranching is the activity that involves the operation of running a large farm, especially one used for raising animals like cattle, horses or sheep.

Ranching, as a farming method or system is the raising of livestock (particularly cattle) farming, husbandry, or the activity of gathering livestock together so that they can be counted or branded or sold.

Ranch from Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia stated that Ranching systems consist of labour- extensive enterprises specializing in one or more livestock species and producing mainly live animals for slaughter (for meat, skins and hides), but also for wool and milk.

The animals are kept in captivity in a large but enclosed land, where they are fed or grazed, provided water and medicated. Animals kept in a ranch grow faster than those ones left to roam about or raised in the wild. Reason for this is that most of their energy is conserved and used for growth.

Difference between Farm and a Ranch

The food items you find in a grocery store, vegetables and the meat included, are a result of the hard work of farmers and ranchers. These individuals tirelessly work at a farm or a ranch to provide you with high-quality food items. Farm and ranch are the two most important terms to understand in the agricultural sector.

We must establish that a farm, as well as a ranch, are both a large lot of land but they differ in that, while some people use these terms farm and ranch interchangeably, others ponder upon the question, “what is the difference between a farm and a ranch?” in answering this question certain attributes or factors must be taken into consideration as pointed out by the report on Difference Between Farm and Ranch – The Ultimate Guide. The factors are:

The purpose: A farm is a land where a farmer grows crops and livestock for dairy (milk) products. A ranch, on the other hand, is a land where livestock such as sheep, cattle, goats, and pigs are raised.

The worker’s nomenclature: Farmers are known to work in the farms while Ranchers work in the ranch.

Nature of jobs: In the farmer vs. rancher comparison based on their nature of work, the first thing to consider is the type of tasks and jobs each of them is associated with. Farmers divert all their attention to growing crops, while ranchers worry about winter feed and the market prices.

Based on Expertise: A farmer has expertise in counting bushels and bales while a rancher possesses expertise in counting heads and tails.

Their focus: The focus of people working on a farm is to keep the soil fertile for growing healthy crops. While the focus of a rancher is to maintain the grazing grass as it is essential for the livestock animals.

Benefits / Importance / Advantages of Ranching

With the global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050 and income levels rising, demand for beef is increasing and will continue to grow. Yet beef production requires a lot of land, water and energy, and generates considerable waste. It is thus essential to improve its sustainability globally.

There are many ways of beef production and when sustainably managed, it can achieve conservation benefits. These benefits according to a report on “Ranching, National Geographic

200 Society‟ can manifest in the forms;

Grazing maintains the health of grasslands,

Improves soil quality with manure, and

Preserves open space and wildlife habitat.

Additionally, carbon is sequestered in the grasses and soils of grazing lands.

Beef production also provides social benefits by sustaining livelihoods and community vibrancy in rural areas where grasslands dominate. This may involve the use of people to do grazing and get paid for it.

Ranching provides health animals that provide man with meat and dairy products and through this, consumers are assured the choices for a safe, affordable and sustainable diet.

Rangeland provides habitat for insects that are valuable for pollination.

Cattle reduce the dry grass that could fuel wildfire.

Grazing improves the habitat for the Bay checkerspot butterfly, a threatened California insect.

Animals raised in the ranch also supply materials, such as leather and wool, for clothing, furniture, and other industries.

Some ranches offer tourist facilities to the people of the area. Some of these sites are working ranches that allow guests to help out in real ranching activities. Others focus on horseback riding, offering lessons and trail rides. Still others allow visitors to hunt native or imported animals.

Ranching is a way of life and contribute strongly to the Gross Domestic Product of the economy of some countries.

In Africa, most ranches are wildlife ranches. Wildlife ranches, also known as game ranches, maintain healthy populations of species such as rhinoceros, elephant, leopard, and antelope. People pay a fee to hunt these animals on the ranch.

Wildlife ranches also appeal to ecotourists. Ecotourism promotes traveling in a way that has minimum environmental impact and benefits local people.

The diversity of plants and animals is greater on grazed, managed grassland than on unmanaged grassland.

Disadvantages of Ranching

To everything or process that have advantages, there are bound to be disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages according to a report, the disadvantages of ranching farming include;

The main disadvantage is the amount of money it takes to even start. Land, cattle, tractors/equipment, feed, and fencing are very expensive especially if you’re trying to do it all at once.

Another disadvantage is the weather of the region. There are cases where a good weather all of a sudden turn unfavourable. At such times, the farmer may loss some of his animals thereby resulting to losses

Nature is also a disadvantage to ranching. Nature is something man cannot control and so the nature of some areas like falling of a kind of disaster like flood, drought, etc. would adversely affect the animals when they occur and thus cause him to losses

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Ranchers clear large swaths of forest in order to create pastureland for their cattle. This clear cutting reduces habitat for native species such as monkeys, tropical birds, and millions of species of insects not found anywhere else in the world.


Most of Amazon rain forest has been cut down, much of it for cattle ranching and this creates the scenario of deforesting our forest leading to loss of medicinal and valuable species of plants.

Overgrazing is a threat throughout areas of ranching and of the land do adversely affect the

202 environment. The practice destroys the structure and texture of the soil.

The loss of valuable topsoil also takes place resulting to reduction in the agricultural productivity for crops and grazing lands.

Compaction of the soil from animal hooves further degrades the land. Some of the animals like cattle have heavy, flat hooves that flatten the soil and reduce its ability to absorb water and nutrients.

Livestock ranching also contributes to air and water pollution. Runoff from ranches can include manure, antibiotics and hormones given to the animals, as well as fertilizers and pesticides. Chemicals from tanneries that treat animal hides can also seep into water.

Ranching is also a major contributor to global warming. In fact, livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. Carbon is released when forests are cleared for pastureland. Manure produces nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the warming potential of carbondioxide.

Types of Ranching System

Ranching is of different types and these types produce different products. So before a rancher establishes his/her ranch, he/she must first establish or determine what his/her desired or expected products are likely to be.

To this end in view, Ranch from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia stated that ranching may take any of the following forms:

Cattle ranching: In cattle ranch, there might exist other types of animal in the ranch but the most dominating animal in the ranch is cattle.

This is the most common type of ranching that exists and it is established for the purpose of meat production to assist in meeting the protein intake of the people.

Dairy ranching: In dairy ranching, there are animals of different types but predominantly dominated by cattle and the main purpose of keeping the animals is for production of milk and milk products.

Sheep and/or goat ranching: This is a ranch meant for the keeping of animals like sheep (e.g. the Karakul breed of sheep) and goat. Though the animals could be rarely eaten as meat because its main purpose is for production of industrial materials like wool and skins used for production of clothing materials, and/or other products.

Issues of Ranching

Previously, many farmers allow or set their cattle and sheep loose to roam the prairie (a large area of grassland with few, or no trees). Most of the lands where the animals graze are owned by the government. This was the so-called open range.

Ranchers only owned little expanse of land that could allow for homestead (subsistence) production and sources of water. For this reason of lack of space, the ranchers are always quick to gather steers (male cattle) for sale.

Sooner or later, the open range system soon came to an end. Rutherford (2016) explained several factors were responsible for this, namely;

Reduction in grazing area: The invention of barbed wire in 1874 gave rise to farmers fencing off their fields (cropping land) to protect them from being destroyed by livestock.

This limited access to grazing land and the scenario over shortage of land and water rights resulted to conflicts between farmers and ranchers, thus resulting to reduction of animals being raised.

Overgrazing was also a problem. As more and more ranchers grazed their animals on the open range, there was now the problem of overstocking which resulted to degradation of the quality of the land.

Grasses did not have time to grow on the open range, especially in winter and this consequently affected animal production

Unfavorable weather condition: Animals are raised in the open and so exposed to the vagaries of weather. Unfavourable weather condition (especially a very harsh weather) can cause some of the animals that are not too strong to give away.

For example, the winter of 1886-1887, one of the harshest ever recorded, killed hundreds of thousands of cattle that were already weakened from reduced grazing. Many large ranches and cattle organizations went bankrupt.

Difficulty in doing the job: Most ranches are usually very large in area and for this reason the rancher finds it difficult in going round the ranch and knowing what is happening in the ranch. In ameliorating this issue, some of the ranchers use horses as working animals to be going round the ranch.

The size of ranch now poses a problem to the number of animals the rancher would want to keep. Horses are also strong and responsive, making them excellent herding animals.

The use of ranching animals for sports: The sport of rodeo (sports involving skills with horses, cows and other livestock) developed from the skills required of cowboys and ranch horses created an issue in discouraging the ranchers from raising animals in the ranch.

Attack on the animals: During ranching, there are times where the animals come under attack and during such attack, some of the animals may be killed thereby having their number reduced thereby resulting to shortage.

In overcoming this ugly situation, several types of dogs have been bred for their herding abilities. Many of these highly intelligent, agile animals are simply called shepherds; Australian shepherds and German shepherds are probably the most familiar. These dogs help to protect the rancher and his animals.

Threats to Ranching

There are threats to the long term viability of cattle ranches in the different countries where they are found or established and these threats put all these benefits (of ranching) at risk. Huntsinger (2017).

Some of the notable threats include:

Development purpose: Some of the ranches are being sold for the purpose of advancing development of the area. The sale of the ranch for development is very attractive for a rancher who isn’t making a sufficient profit on the land.

Dividing of ranch into parts: There are cases where the original of a ranch after passing on, may now transfer the ranch to the children (via inheritance).

These children on their own may not all be interested and soon begin to share or split the land into parts. Also, the division of a ranch for inheritance purposes can make it difficult to keep a ranch intact and in the business of raising cattle.

Lack of appreciation: The public misunderstanding of and a lack of appreciation for ranching is another factor that is threatening the system. A person or even the government that does not appreciate the need for ranching would not want to promote or encourage its establishment. Such scenario would soon make ranching go extinct.

Imposing unfavourable regulations: Regulations governing the system of ranching are made by the government. Sometimes when the regulations made by the government are not favourable, aren’t needed and not valuing, creates a demoralizing and frustrating effects amongst the ranchers and this leads to discouraging them from continuing the ranching business.

Much of the land grazed by ranchers is public’s own and grazing is supported by public and environmental agencies. The same government sometimes makes laws that would or may not permit further grazing on the land, thereby frustrating the efforts of the ranchers who may later reduce the herds

Terminologies Associated with Ranching

There are different terms/terminologies that are peculiar to ranching as a system. Some of them are:

A ranch is an area of land, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle and sheep most often applies to livestock-raising operations

Ranching is also a method used to raise less common livestock such as horses, elk, American bison, or even ostrich, emu, and alpaca.

Ranches generally consist of large areas, but may be of nearly any size.

Ranchers, cattlemen, or stock growers are people who own or operate a ranch are called Rangeland is an open land used for rearing animals but must importantly, the animals are not under any restriction.

Herding is the practice of caring for roaming groups of livestock over a large area. Cowboys are men who join ranchers and care for animals toward favorable grazing areas. Livestock provide meat for human and animal consumption.

Grazing land is a land used to grow grass and shrubs used for the purpose of feeding animals.

In summary, ranch is a farm that is usually large and used for the breeding and raising of cattle, sheep, or horses on rangeland.

Ranching systems specializes in producing different types of animals but most common is cattle which is used as meat to meet protein need of man, wool and skin. The word “farm‟ is different from a „ranch‟ in terms of the purpose, worker’s nomenclature, nature of job and their focus.

The benefits of ranching outweigh the demerits, as it helps in the maintenance of health grasslands for animal grazing and as well improves soil quality with manure.

The operation of ranch is limited by some factors like; the huge sum needed to establish the ranch and seasonal harsh weather condition

Ranch is a farm that is usually large and used for the breeding and raising of cattle, sheep, or horses on rangeland.

These animals produce meat, dairy, wool and skin for man’s use. The purpose, worker’s nomenclature and their focus are some of the factors used to differentiate a farm from ranch. Several importance of ranching were advanced and the study also found that the importance outweigh the demerits of ranching.

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Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with several years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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