ranch manager salary guide

In our continuing series looking at the process for hiring the right person to manage your ranch or rural property, we look at the often-tricky question of what you should pay your new ranch manager.

Let’s be clear, money is not a motivator! It is a hygiene factor. Meaning, it should be paid in proportion to the abilities of the individual worker. Under-paying for experience and ability of a manager usually leads to discontent, resentment or simply losing that individual to a better paying opportunity. So, pay must be sufficient, not merely adequate.

Read more: How to Qualify the Right Ranch Manager

The candidate, too, must be candid about his personal financial situation and needs. If the pay is inadequate to sustain the individual and his family as circumstances require, eventually the arrangement will become unworkable for them. An owner must know and address the real requirements of getting and keeping the right person.

This is always best done in the beginning, utilizing a thorough interview process. That process will require multiple conversations and face-to-face meetings where layers of unfamiliarity are patiently removed to reveal the true story. This goes both ways: no matter how badly a candidate might need a job, the most responsible and conscientious do not want a job that will not work out.

Be honest in your assessment about how any employee will live successfully on the pay and benefits package you offer. Put yourself in their position and consider their happiness and success your own.
As discussed, a ranch manager is a certain thing. The ability to manage implies a level of skill and experience that is not common. If you have concluded that you, in fact, need and want a manager, be prepared to pay for that in return for the advantages the manager brings. In most cases, this means a base salary of $80,000 to $100,000 per year and a benefit package that prevents the erosion of that
salary by other costs to the employee. Meaning, they must be able to remain whole. The ability to save money for later years is the best proof of this.

Read more: The A to Z Glossary of Ranch Management

Use of a spreadsheet to identify and capture all of the financial needs of the individual, under the conditions they will live, is essential in this process. The candidate should quickly appreciate your interest and willingness to do this, both for his benefit and yours. Once completed, you will have the tool to make the design of the overall compensation package simple and self-evident. It is the owner’s responsibility to lead this process. If a successful compensation package is arrived at, few things will help more to ensure the success of the relationship going forward.

Next week, the final part in our series on finding a ranch manager to manage your property, we will look at the pros and cons of hiring a local versus someone new to the area.


  • With a graduate education in Management & Communication, Dan Leahy has held top jobs in construction and resource management. This has taken him from Texas to Alaska and to the most remarkable lands in North America. A working ranch manager, his time is increasingly spent mentoring young managers, addressing property rights issues and consulting with land owners. He employs two principle tools of his own design, including the "Advanced Placement Method" for ranch staffing and the "Balanced Enterprise" land management model. His home range is the high desert of eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. He can be reached at 43.44x118.63@gmail.com.

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