Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals

This is a sub-career of Agricultural Worker

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Job Outlook:
Education: None
High: $51,550.00
Average: $36,290.00
Average: $17.45

What they do:

Attend to live farm, ranch, open range or aquacultural animals that may include cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses and other equines, poultry, rabbits, finfish, shellfish, and bees. Attend to animals produced for animal products, such as meat, fur, skins, feathers, eggs, milk, and honey. Duties may include feeding, watering, herding, grazing, milking, castrating, branding, de-beaking, weighing, catching, and loading animals. May maintain records on animals; examine animals to detect diseases and injuries; assist in birth deliveries; and administer medications, vaccinations, or insecticides as appropriate. May clean and maintain animal housing areas. Includes workers who shear wool from sheep and collect eggs in hatcheries.

On the job, you would:

  • Feed and water livestock and monitor food and water supplies.
  • Herd livestock to pastures for grazing or to scales, trucks, or other enclosures.
  • Examine animals to detect illness, injury, or disease, and to check physical characteristics, such as rate of weight gain.

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Agricultural workers need excellent hand-eye coordination to harvest crops and operate farm machinery.

Listening skills. Agricultural workers must listen carefully to ensure that they understand instructions from farmers and other agricultural managers and supervisors.

Mechanical skills. Agricultural workers must be able to operate complex farm machinery. They also occasionally do routine maintenance on the equipment.

Physical stamina. Agricultural workers must have physical endurance because they do laborious tasks repeatedly.

Physical strength. Agricultural workers must be strong enough to lift heavy objects, including tools and crops.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

82% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
79% Independence  -  Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
76% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
76% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
75% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
A3 Your Strengths Importance


100% Realistic  -  Work involves designing, building, or repairing of equipment, materials, or structures, engaging in physical activity, or working outdoors. Realistic occupations are often associated with engineering, mechanics and electronics, construction, woodworking, transportation, machine operation, agriculture, animal services, physical or manual labor, athletics, or protective services.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

69% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
66% Control Precision  -  The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.

Job Details

Care for animals.
Operate farming equipment.
Examine animals to detect illness, injury or other problems.
Treat animal injuries or illnesses.
Prepare materials or solutions for animal or plant use.
Maintain forestry, hunting, or agricultural equipment.
Transport animals, crops, or equipment.
Clean equipment or facilities.
Mark agricultural or forestry products for identification.
Care for animals.
Care for animals.
Maintain inventories of materials, equipment, or products.
Perform animal breeding procedures.
Operate farming equipment.
Care for animals.
Classify organisms based on their characteristics or behavior.
Operate farming equipment.
Maintain operational records.
Care for animals.
Care for animals.
Package agricultural products for shipment or further processing.
Operate farming equipment.
Care for animals.
Remove skin or other body parts from animals.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

83% Exposed to Contaminants  -  How often does this job require working exposed to contaminants (such as pollutants, gases, dust or odors)?
80% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
78% Spend Time Standing  -  How much does this job require standing?
78% Outdoors, Exposed to Weather  -  How often does this job require working outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions?
78% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
75% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
74% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
73% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
72% Spend Time Walking and Running  -  How much does this job require walking and running?
71% Very Hot or Cold Temperatures  -  How often does this job require working in very hot (above 90 F degrees) or very cold (below 32 F degrees) temperatures?
69% Outdoors, Under Cover  -  How often does this job require working outdoors, under cover (e.g., structure with roof but no walls)?
66% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
66% In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment  -  How often does this job require working in a closed vehicle or equipment (e.g., car)?
65% Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings  -  How often does this job require exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings?
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

75% Performing General Physical Activities  -  Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
75% Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings  -  Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
74% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
69% Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment  -  Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
68% Handling and Moving Objects  -  Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
66% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
65% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

What Agricultural Workers Do

Agricultural workers
Agricultural workers operate farm machinery.

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend livestock. They perform physical labor and operate machinery under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.


Agricultural workers typically do the following:

  • Plant, inspect, and harvest crops
  • Irrigate farm soil and maintain ditches or pipes and pumps
  • Operate and service farm machinery and tools
  • Apply fertilizer or pesticide solutions to control insects, fungi, and weeds
  • Move plants, shrubs, and trees with wheelbarrows or tractors
  • Feed livestock and clean and disinfect their cages, pens, and yards
  • Examine animals to detect symptoms of illnesses or injuries and administer vaccines to protect animals from diseases
  • Use brands, tags, or tattoos to mark livestock ownership and grade
  • Herd livestock to pastures for grazing or to scales, trucks, or other enclosures

The following are examples of types of agricultural workers:

Agricultural equipment operators use a variety of farm equipment to plow and sow seeds, as well as to maintain and harvest crops. They may use machines such as tractors, balers, conveyor belts, fertilizer spreaders, and threshers. Workers also may adjust and make minor repairs to the machines and equipment.

Animal breeders select animals that will mate and produce offspring with desired traits and characteristics. For example, they breed chickens that lay more eggs, pigs that produce leaner meat, and sheep with more desirable wool. Others breed and raise cats, dogs, and other household pets.

To know which animals to breed and when to breed them, animal breeders keep detailed records. Breeders note an animal’s health, size, and weight, as well as the amount and quality of its product or byproduct. Animal breeders also track the traits of animals’ offspring.

Some animal breeders consult with farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers about their livestock.

Crop, nursery, and greenhouse farmworkers and laborers perform numerous tasks related to growing and harvesting grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other crops. They plant, seed, prune, irrigate, and harvest crops, and pack and load them for shipment.

Farmworkers also apply fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to crops. They repair fences and some farm equipment.

Nursery and greenhouse workers prepare land or greenhouse beds for growing horticultural products, such as trees, plants, flowers, and sod. They also plant, water, prune, weed, and spray the plants. They may cut, roll, and stack sod; stake trees; tie, wrap, and pack plants to fill orders; and dig up or move field-grown shrubs and trees.

Farm and ranch animal farmworkers care for live animals, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, poultry, finfish, shellfish, and bees. These animals usually are raised to supply meat, skins, feathers, eggs, milk, or honey.

Farmworkers may feed, herd, brand, weigh, and load animals. They also keep records on animals; examine animals to detect diseases and injuries; and administer medications, vaccinations, or insecticides.

Many workers clean and maintain animal housing areas every day. On dairy farms, animal farmworkers operate milking machines.

Work Environment

Agricultural workers held about 804,600 jobs in 2022. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up agricultural workers was distributed as follows:

Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse 523,500
Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals 199,400
Agricultural equipment operators 64,000
Agricultural workers, all other 11,200
Animal breeders 6,500

The largest employers of agricultural workers were as follows:

Crop production 54%
Animal production and aquaculture 24
Wholesale trade 5
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 3

Agricultural workers usually do their tasks outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Agricultural workers’ jobs may be difficult. To harvest fruits and vegetables by hand, workers frequently bend and crouch. They also lift and carry crops and tools that may be heavy.

Injuries and Illnesses

Agricultural work may be dangerous. Although agricultural workers may be exposed to pesticides applied on crops or plants, the risk is minimized if workers follow safety procedures. Tractors and other farm machinery may cause serious injuries, so workers must stay alert. Additionally, agricultural workers who deal directly with animals risk being bitten, kicked, or stung.

Work Schedules

Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Because living crops and animals need constant care, workers’ schedules may vary to include early mornings, weekends, and holidays.

Many agricultural workers have seasonal schedules. Seasonal schedules typically include longer periods of work during planting or harvesting or when animals must be sheltered and fed.

Some agricultural workers, called migrant farmworkers, move from location to location as crops ripen. Their unsettled lifestyles and periods of unemployment between jobs may cause stress.

Getting Started

Some College Courses
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED)

How to Become an Agricultural Worker

Agricultural workers
Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training once they are hired.

Most agricultural workers do not need a formal educational credential to enter these occupations; however, animal breeders typically need at least a high school diploma. Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training.


Agricultural workers typically need no formal educational credential. However, animal breeders typically need a high school diploma, and some jobs require postsecondary education.


Many agricultural workers receive short-term on-the-job training of up to 1 month. Employers instruct them on how to use simple farming tools and complex machinery while following safety procedures. Agricultural equipment operators may need more extensive training before being allowed to operate expensive farming equipment.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some agricultural workers, especially those who operate equipment, need a valid driver’s license. Agricultural workers who handle pesticides might need a pesticide applicator license. And in a few states, certain types of animal breeders must be licensed. Check with your state licensing boards for more information.

Other Experience

Animal breeders sometimes need work experience interacting with livestock. Ranch workers may transition into animal breeding after they become more familiar with animals and learn how to handle them.

Some agricultural equipment operators might need work experience on a farm or operating heavy equipment.


Agricultural workers may advance to crew leader or other supervisory positions. The ability to speak both English and Spanish is helpful for agricultural supervisors.

Some agricultural workers aspire to become farmers, ranchers, or agricultural managers or to own their own farms and ranches. Knowledge of produce and livestock may provide an excellent background for becoming buyers or purchasing agents of farm products. Those who earn a college degree in agricultural science could become agricultural or food scientists.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of agricultural workers is projected to decline 2 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Despite declining employment, about 115,700 openings for agricultural workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Projected employment of agricultural workers varies by occupation (see table). Despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, demand for some types of farmworkers and agricultural workers is expected to be limited as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase farmworkers’ productivity.

Employment of agricultural equipment operators is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations and faster than any other type of agricultural worker over the projections decade. Increased use of mechanization on farms is expected to lead to more jobs for agricultural equipment operators relative to farmworkers and laborers.

Small farms that sell their products directly to consumers through venues such as farmers’ markets might create opportunities for some agricultural workers.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about agricultural workers, visit

Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

For more information about careers in agriculture, visit

AgExplorer, National FFA Organization

New Farmers, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of agricultural workers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
Agricultural and food science technicians Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

Associate's degree $46,140
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

High school diploma or equivalent $75,760
Forest and conservation workers Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers perform physical labor to improve the quality of natural areas such as forests, rangelands, and wetlands.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,270
Grounds maintenance workers Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers install and maintain landscapes, prune trees or shrubs, and do other tasks to ensure that vegetation is attractive, orderly, and safe.

See How to Become One $36,160
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,740
Animal care and service workers Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers attend to or train animals.

High school diploma or equivalent $29,790

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.