The money that a cattle rancher can make varies greatly; a lot of it depends on the location of the ranch, if it’s owned or leased, the acreage you have and the number of cow pies that appear each day (also known as “heads of cattle”). The price of feed as well as the price of beef (which is the purpose of cattle ranching) is a huge variable; it can fluctuate from year to year, and even week to week. You’re at the mercy of the markets.
If you don’t own your own cattle ranch, chances are you work for an “agribusiness” such as DuPont, Monsanto, and Dow. For ranch managers at this sort of endeavor, the average wage is about $50,000 a year; a ranch hand earns considerably less (and has many less responsibilities). The average independent American cattle rancher earns about $60,000 a year. Note that this ranch owner is paying for all the work, the machinery, the food and all the other necessities of running of cattle ranch.
All that aside, major restaurants—independent and franchise-based—are increasingly looking for purchase with farmers and ranchers who use sustainable agriculture and human methods for raising livestock. Imagine yourself as one of Chipotle’s main providers of beef, a Whole Foods best friend, a Noodles & Company partner. Niman Ranch, one of the largest suppliers of sustainable beef, pork and chicken in the U.S. is actually not a single ranch; it’s an organization of more than 700 independent farmers and ranchers who raise all-natural meat and provide it to restaurants and grocery stores that insist on this high level of product. Some of these ranchers can earn upwards of $100,000 a year.