ranch hand salary

How Much Do Real Ranch Hands Make?


If you've watched even one episode of Yellowstone on the Paramount Network, you know that the Dutton Ranch wouldn't operate without all of the trusty ranch hands living in the bunkhouse. We know money seems tight for the hard workers, after all, Jimmy did compete in the rodeo to earn some extra cash, but what exactly do real ranchers make? Are they accurately portrayed on the western TV series? 

Let's dive into the facts of ranch hands and what life is really like for them today in the United States.

What does a ranch hand do?

If you're a live-in ranch hand similar to the bunkhouse boys on Yellowstone, your job is to take care of the ranch full time. This means herding and taking care of the animals. The job description also includes other typical ranching tasks like maintaining fences and buildings on the property as well as all of the farm equipment. 

Basically, the ranch hand jobs include a lot of outdoor manual labor, which is why similar to the show, you'll find that they live on the property in communal housing because there are definitely some early hours working on a ranch.


How does one become a ranch hand?

If you're dreaming of working on the ranch, we have some great news. Not only do you not really need any experience to get started but you don't even need a high school diploma. Though you do if you ever want to become a breeder. Typically new employers will provide on-the-job training for new ranch hands for up to a month so that you'll learn the ins and outs of the farm equipment, what you need to do for the animals on a daily basis, and more. 

Read More: Forrie J. Smith is a Real Cowboy Who Also Plays One on 'Yellowstone'

What is the average salary? 

Average ranch hand salaries will differ depending on the state you're in. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the BLS), the average wages annually are just over $25,000. Keep in mind, that since many of these workers are living on-site, their cost of living is much lower so that dollar goes farther than you'd think. 

What is the job market like?

The one downside for ranch hands is the demand for agricultural workers is lower than ever due to new technology. Places like the Dutton Ranch aren't as common these days but the BLS predicts that job demand will increase by 1% over the next decade as demand for crops continues to increase.


Now Watch: 'Yellowstone': You Can Stay at the Real Dutton Ranch in Darby, Montana