“It’s what I’ve always known…” Growing up on his family’s livestock operation, rancher Ryan Sproul (husband of AgCareers.com Education and Marketing Specialist, Kristi Sproul) was surrounded by immediate and extended family that made their living off the land and the cattle that grazed it. Ranching has been a part of him for as long as he can remember. Now, Ryan and Kristi own Sproul Livestock, raising commercial Red Angus cows in Northwestern Oklahoma.
What is a day in the life like for you?
There’s never a typical day! I also work a full-time job as a Field Representative for the United States Senate, so I balance this with the work needing to be done with the cattle. This often means the ranch work is done during early mornings, late nights and weekends. Our operation’s work load varies by season. During the summer we are slower, while winter and spring are consumed with feeding and calving.
What skills do you think that someone should possess to become a rancher?
Work ethic and commitment to the land and animals is most important. Also, being a jack of all trades. Somedays you’re a mechanic, the next a veterinarian and the next a livestock nutritionist.
If you were talking to someone who wanted to be a rancher, what kinds of special training would you tell him or her they need?
Formal education is great, but you need the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned. You can watch a video on how to pull a calf, but until you’ve actually done it, the textbooks aren’t going to help. The best training is to find someone who will give you hands-on experience. For me, that was my grandpa. Also, be a lifelong learner. Attend cattleman’s meetings, read industry publications, and learn from others.
What do you enjoy about being a rancher?
That it’s a family business. Not many jobs allow you to work alongside your spouse and kids, but ranching involves the entire family. When we work cattle my wife, dad, sister, brother-in-law and at least 1 niece/nephew are generally helping.
What are challenges of your job and the not-so-fun parts that people wouldn’t expect?
Ranchers typically only get one paycheck a year, so making that income (if it’s a good year!) last the entire year can be a challenge. The cattle market has been pretty volatile in its highs and lows the past few years so we’re at the mercy of the market when it’s time to sell calves. Also having the capital to expand as land values increase can be difficult.
What advice do you have for an aspiring rancher?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to those who seem to be doing it right. And while there’s a thousand ways to do something, you have to figure out what’s best for your pocketbook and operation. Mostly, it’s important to enjoy what you’re doing.
Ranching roles are available right on AgCareers.com. Find related roles here and check out our Career Profile of a Ranch Manager.