Ever wonder what real ranch life is like?

Good Morning! How’s your week going so far? Today I have a special guest post for you from my friend Jenn aka The South Dakota Cowgirl.


For those of you who don’t know me, allow me a moment to introduce myself.  My name is Jenn, and I live on a third-generation, family-run, working cattle ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in Western South Dakota.  I haven’t always lived on a cattle ranch.  I grew up in Texas, and trained barrel horses for a living, until I met My Cowboy.
We’re a cow/calf operation.  Essentially that means we raise and sell black-hided calves (Angus/Brangus).  We run on about 8500 acres.  We’re a 20 mile round-trip from our mailbox, and our nearest neighbor is 3 miles away.  If I want fast food, I have to drive 55 miles West to either Dairy Queen, or Taco Johns. Otherwise, everything we eat comes out of one of the three kitchens on the ranch.  In addition to our ranching operations, we grow alfalfa hay, offer ranching/horsemanship vacations, and an equine internship program.

On our ranch, we run a couple hundred head of cattle and also have a 45+ year old Quarter Horse breeding program.  Even though we’re located in some of the best grass country this beautiful world has to offer,  it takes about 30+ acres of grass per pair, or per animal unit, to successfully keep our cattle looking good and have healthy, fat animals.

People often ask me, “what’s a typical day on the ranch, like?”

To that my answer is, “there is no such thing as a typical day.”

Every single day is different!

I don’t mean that to sound bad. It’s not. Oh sure there’s some consistency.  There’s chores to do every day. Those don’t really change.  Generally it’s making sure there’s hay and water for the animals in the corral. During calving, it’s checking on the cows to make sure they don’t need our help. In the summer it’s haying and fixing water gaps.  Our ranch backs up to the Missouri River/Lake Oahe, so as the river expands and contracts it wreaks havoc on fences that go into the water.  And all our river-side fences do just that.

Living on a ranch is often romanticized. I’m here to tell you it’s not all tall grass and horseback riding.  Though there is plenty of that here, to be sure. Some days you might ride miles to find or gather the cows.   To quote my favorite horseman, Buck Brannaman, “There’s nothing romantic about feeding cows when it’s twenty-below.”

He’s right, you know.

Last Friday was a perfect example of the inconsistencies of ranch life.

I woke up knowing I’d have to take calves to the sale barn.

In the colder climates, ranchers only calve once a year- in the Spring (if you’re in the South- they may have two sets of calves. Spring calvers and Fall Calvers. But I’ve digressed).  Calves are sold in the Fall for their one and only paycheck each year!  When you sell your calves you want them to be as even as possible (by weight). So there’s always a few that don’t make the load; or you might miss a pair when you gather.  Those smaller/missed calves won’t go to the sale barn until later. Usually the rancher wants to get them weighing more so they’ll bring more.   Last week, it was time to take our odd-ball calves to the sale barn.

As I began to stir, I looked out the window and what do I see in our yard?

Saddle horses.

It’s not unusual for me to look out the windows of my house and see horses. What makes it unusual is that they were RIGHT outside my window.   Technically, they’re not supposed to be in the yard.

This meant that I’d have to gather saddle horses and put them in a different pasture- until I had time to sort out the fencing debacle that had caused them to be out in the yard.  This also meant that I had to rectify the situation before I went to the sale barn.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but uh, it was about a -9 on this particular morning.

If you’ve never had the privilege of getting to ride on an ATV, at a -9, you’re missing out.  I jest! I jest.  Most of you reading this are thinking, “Holy cow! Glad it was you and not me!”

By the time I got my coffee downed, and was ready to go to town for the day, I had saddle horses in four different locations- including the neighbor’s pasture.

This is how the morning from here on out went down:

1. Start the pickup I’m taking to town.
2. Check the fence in the pasture where the saddle horses were supposed to have been.
3. Gather the escaped saddle horses and put them into two traps (only because this was the easiest thing to do).  You have to be flexible, y’all!
4. Head to the corrals where the calves were kickin’ it,  to sort a mama cow, a wild stallion, and a bull from the calves.
5. Go back to the house to get the now warm pickup that I was taking to town. Plus it had the trailer hooked to it (because at ALL costs I avoid hooking and unhooking!) and if you’re going to load calves, a trailer is a good thing.
6. Back the trailer to the loading chute.
7. Load calves.
8. Air up the trailer tires because they were low.
9. Fill up with diesel.
10. Drop the calves off at the sale barn.
11. Make my once-monthly stop at Wal-Mart
12. Fill up with diesel.
13. Drive home.
14. Do not pass go, do not collect $100.  Go straight to the John Deere and feed some hay to the saddle horses that are locked in traps with no grass.
15. Head to the house to unload all the groceries.
16. Clean the kitchen.
17. Cook dinner for the boys.

If you’re wondering if I did all of the above by myself, the answer is most definitely, yes.
If you’re wondering if the fence is fixed, it is still not.
If you’re wondering if I got all the horses in, I didn’t. I’m short three- two of which I located on Valentine’s Day.

And that my friends, is how life sometimes goes at The DX Ranch. It’s a life I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world.  You laugh, you cry, you will shed blood and tears, and every morning you wake up knowing there’s not a chance you’ll ever be bored!


Thanks Jenn for giving us some more insight into Ranch life! I hope all of you enjoyed this post! If you’d like to chat with Jenn you can find her here and here.


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    February 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    & yet she still manages to find some time to give us daily updates & create jewelry #wonderwoman : ) Thanks for the post Jen & Ashley!!1
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