Monday, July 11, 2011

Farm or Ranch?

Isn't this a pretty sight?  We were bringing cow/calf pairs in early this morning just as the sun was coming up.  There's a golden glow over us at this time of day and we were riding right in the middle of it.  Sounds a little like a fairytale, doesn't it?  But it's not, really.  Just ask my sons if they enjoyed getting up at 4:30 a.m. Never mind the fact that while we were out there riding horseback we had deer flies biting us, mosquitoes and gnats flying in our ears, noses, and eyes, and then there are the bugs that you breath in through your mouth!  (Do you remember the OFF mosquito repellant commercials where the guy puts his arm in a square box that's swarming with mosquitoes and not one bites him?  That was what it was like in this particular pasture today -- swarming mosquitoes.)  But never mind all that.

I sure have appreciated all your comments lately -- I enjoy each one -- but something I've been noticing  is that many of you think that I live on a farm.  Well, I do not.  I live on a ranch.  I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Farm, ranch.  Ranch, farm.  What's the diff?"  Let me explain the differences.

A farm is a tract of land (including buildings) that is mainly used for raising crops like corn, wheat, rice, fruit, veggies and such.  There are also farms that raise livestock, like dairy farms or pig farms or chicken farms, but farms usually produce the grains needed to feed their livestock.  Ranches, on the other hand, are large tracts of land (including buildings), typically found in the Western US and Canada (I'm also thinking about large sheep and cattle ranches in Australia) that are used primarily for grazing livestock.  Some ranches raise crops like wheat or hay, but most often, typical ranches are arid to semi-arid with no irrigation and sparse rainfall for growing crops.  Of course, there are always a few exceptions, but in short, ranches produce livestock, farms produce crops.
(a pic of the same pasture in 2007)

Out where we live, the average annual precipitation is 11-12 inches.  That's not very much, is it?  Our area is typically very arid, and cows and sheep graze native prairie grasses.  It takes about 40 acres of land to graze just one animal unit per year in this ranch country.  Some folks try to plant a little wheat here.  Sometimes it works, but more often, it doesn't.  We raise our own hay for our livestock for the cold months when the snow buries the grass and there is no grazing to be had.  Most years we can put up enough hay for the winter, but sometimes we don't due to the weather conditions.  A year like this one, however, we're getting triple what we normally put up in hay in an average year.  We have been in a wet weather pattern the past three years and have had bumper hay crops, but before that, we were in a serious seven year drought and had to buy most of our winter feed.

The thing that farmers and ranchers have in common is that they live off the land.  Both raise protein.  The  farmer raises protein in the form of grains, and the higher the protein levels in his grain, the better the prices.  The rancher raises protein in the form of meat by grazing native grass.  The more pounds of protein he can produce, the better his paycheck is. 

I was thinking today of how a farmer and a rancher would use a horse.  You recall that Old MacDonald had a horse.  Well, John Wayne had a horse too, but he was a rancher in the old movie "The Cowboys."  The farmer used the horse to plow the ground, to plant crops, and to harvest crops.  The rancher, on the other hand, used his horse to move livestock from pasture to pasture for grazing,  and then used the horse to move his livestock to the markets to sell them.

Some of you who are reading already know this stuff, but for those of you who aren't familiar with farming and ranching, I just thought I'd share a tidbit of agri-culture with you!    Now don't you feel more cultured?  For more ranch knowledge, check out the original movie trailer (below) for The Cowboys, starring John Wayne.  It is one of our family's favorite movies.  (note:  There is a bit of rough, cowboy language  in this movie.)


  1. Thanks, Jody! I have wondered about this and it's so interesting to read the clarification. The first photo is gorgeous!

  2. Okay, now I HAVE to go watch that movie! Looks like a good one :)

  3. Yahoo...a new movie to watch! I love the photo Jody.
    The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the title of your post was the song from "Oklahoma", "The Cowboys and the Farmers Should be Friends." I remember thinking....Hmm...'there's obviously some differences here.' That was all new to this city girl.

    Great post!


  4. Good Morning Jody :)

    Thanks for clarifying the Farm/Ranch thing for us. I was actually just thinking about that the other day. I LOVE your cattle, they are so beautiful. One day we hope to have some.

    Oh btw, a dab of Lavender essential oil will help with those mosquito bites as well as with deer fly bites (which I can never avoid :()

    Have a great day!

  5. I like how they lable the country where we live as "the meanest country in the west". I dunno about that! Maybe back then.

  6. I do feel more educated now. One of the things I love about blog hopping is the fun education you can get!
    The colors and glow in that first photo really is amazing. Our son has to keep a good relationship up with the ranchers on our Northern border especially when he has to encroach on the rancher's land. I'm happy to say the relationship is good.

  7. Thanks for the clarification, Jody. I guess I've always thought of you as a farmer and a rancher; don't know why, as I'm perfectly aware you don't raise crops.

    Hope the tomatoes are getting closer to fruition!


  8. About the movie, The Cowboys.....there is some rough, cowboy language here and there.

    Thanks for all your comments. I hoped you didn't think I was being snooty or picky about being a rancher.


  9. I grew up on both farms and ranches. My Dad was a cattle rancher until he died. I think he loved his cows more than us and on the day he had to take his calves to the sale, he cried all day.
    I really had forgot the distinction. So thanks for the clarification.I liked the clip.
    You said you didn't know what a Cuckoo Maran was? They are just black and white chickens, except they lay very dark eggs. I think it is a fairly new breed. It took me awhile to get them.
    When I write my post for tomorrow I will post a picture.

  10. Joyce,
    Ranchers and farmers were not always friends. They see things from different perspectives. A rancher likes the wide open spaces for grazing while the farmer wants to plow the land and plant. Both are necessary so they ought to get along.

    Sharon, thanks for the tip for treating mosquito bites.

    Ellen B., I can see why your son must be in good relationship with ranchers. They could be helpful to him when he must navigate their land while he protects them. tomatoes, nary a bloom. Bah.


  11. I did know this but applaud you on your educational monologue. Well said...

    Now, about that first photo. You could have left the narrative off and let me just enjoy the beauty. You ruined everything. I HATE mosquitos!! :)

    Blessings, Debbie

  12. Your system for sorting ranches from farms must not apply to California and my agricultural family. My grandfather and father both managed and/or owned various agricultural endeavors and they never called them farms, but always ranches. There was no protein involved, but citrus, avocados, other tree fruits, even cotton. I never asked them why the terminology, but I will ask my brother. And I will definitely save your post for reference!

  13. G'day. I love the photo's, they are great. We call our property a "farm" and breed Hereford cattle. We have four and a half thousand acreas. But, only for four more days and then we move. You are right about the large cattle or sheep ranches here in Australia, they have hundreds of thousands of acreas, our one is very small in comparison. Take care. Liz...

  14. I always tease my husband about being the cowboy that married the farmers daughter, and he always tells me that he "saved" me from the plow. Ha.

    I got the best of two worlds and would not change a thing.

    We love that movie. I think it was one of his best, and yes a touch of rough language, but overlook it and just watch the story.

    Love your pictures and seeing all the green grass Whoo Hoo for green grass!


  15. Yipes, that is not much rain at all. Very interesting.

  16. Ha, I thought you lived on both. Well now I will say ranch xoxo Clarice


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