How much harder do trucks work on a ranch?

Using Trucks as Tools

There was a time when a cowboy on horseback, driving cattle across the plains, epitomized life on a ranch. Fast-forward to the modern cowboy. He or she is still rugged, but you probably picture that person driving a pickup truck. In the past 50 years, ranching has become a primarily motorized operation, and a truck is a necessity [source: Renteria].

A ranch truck is used solely for chores on a ranch. The ranch truck doesn't have to be an actual "truck," but can be any make or model of four-wheeled vehicle. While horses remain part of ranch culture, pickup trucks and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) now are commonplace on a ranch, too.

Here are a few of the different sizes of trucks that ranchers can pick from:

  • Compact pickup: The compact is the most popular size truck. It has a four-cylinder engine and conventional cab. The cargo bed is too small for a 4-foot-by-8-foot (1.2-meter-by 2.4-meter) sheet of plywood to lie flat.
  • Mid-size pickup: Introduced in 1987, the mid-size pickup has a V6 engine and a cargo bed large enough for a sheet of plywood.
  • Full-size pickup: The largest pickup comes in four sizes, from 0.5 tons to 1.5 tons (0.45 to 1.36 metric tons), which indicates the payload. Full-size pickups are more rugged and ride higher off the ground than other pickups. They often have V6 engines or something even more powerful.
  • Dual-wheeled pickup: "Dualies" are the largest full-size pickup trucks. Along with the front two tires, they have four rear tires, two on each side, and may be equipped with a fifth wheel (with a hitch in the cargo bed) for towing heavy trailers.

Whatever size truck a rancher drives, it's bound to be different from a regular truck. Unlike regular trucks that travel the highways, ranchers guide their trucks over fields and dirt roads with no speed limits. They are functional, serviced when and where they break down, and are usually dirty and dented.

Ranch trucks spend much of the day traversing the property doing a variety of heavy chores, which require them to be versatile and rugged. Ranchers use their trucks to check on their herd, haul and distribute feed, and maintain fields and fences. They often modify their modern workhorses in the following ways to meet the needs of the operation:

  • Install a removable ball hitch in the truck bed to haul a trailer and load hay
  • Replace the standard bed with a lightweight flatbed
  • Mount a winch on the front
  • Add grill guards and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights
  • Upgrade the suspension, wheels and tires
  • Modify the engine to give the truck extra power for climbing and hauling

[source: Stover]

Keep reading to learn how trucks make raising livestock a little easier.