Balls Deep’s latest offering takes us to the heart of Las Vegas to meet outspoken cattleman Hank Vogler, as he stands by his sheep and keeps predators at bay. These predators come in two forms: the coyote, and perhaps worse, the US federal government.
Join VICE veteran Thomas Morton as he learns everything there is to know about becoming a rancher. Lessons include:
Cattle and sheep herding is the worst job on earth
While Hank Vogler is a devoted rancher who loves his sheep and cattle, he doesn’t have a lot of love for the grunt work, which is fair enough considering his age.
Divvying out the responsibilities to young American workers proved a problem, and the most one lasted was nine days. It’s a physically and mentally draining job that requires total devotion to the detriment of all else.
The staff are poverty stricken men from South America
If sign a single contract to work on Vogler’s ranch, you’re committing to three years work, which might be why it’s so difficult to retain American workers.
Instead, Vogler hires from South America, where a strong shepherding culture remains. Poor men from places like Peru leave their families for long-stretches of time and remain motivated by the thought that the job is temporary and that their family will benefit financially.
Owning sheep and cattle in America is not easy
The amount of bureaucratic red-tape that Vogler has to cut through in order to perform his job is startling, which explains why the man spends much of his time on the phone.
Every animal requires a permit, and the federal government oversees all operations. Disputes over land rights are rife, and many ranchers would rather take up arms than give up farms they’ve owned for a lifetime.
Hank Vogler might have cut back his herding hours, but that doesn’t mean he’s semi-retired
While this particular rancher lives 15 miles from any sign of (human) life, he is by no means bored or lonely. Not only does he write contributions to various ranching and farming publications, but he is a weekly guest on a ranching radio show.
On top of that, Vogler is a sought-after speaker for events in the ranching community. He represents a massive class of Americans that are suffering financially and existentially, who want nothing more but to take their industry back from the powers that be.
Ranching is a continual reminder of the survival of species
Let it be known that certain scenes in this episode of Balls Deep present the brutality of nature without flinching, so prepare your hands near your eyes if that kind of thing upsets you.
But don’t worry, only a few moments contain these scenes.
To learn more about this forgotten population of Americans, tune into Balls Deep every Wednesday night on SBS VICELAND for double episodes from 8:30pm. Previous episodes are available to stream anytime on SBS On Demand: