The flagship property of the AMB West Ranches is Mountain Sky Guest Ranch (MSGR), which is a luxury dude ranch founded in 1929. In 2002 Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank purchased the ranch. Besides being a vacation destination, MSGR runs a 265-head cow/calf operation and six irrigation pivots on 8000 acres. In 2017 Mr. Blank purchased the adjacent property, West Creek Ranch, a 6500 ranch. This ranch has a small guest operation that hosts non-profit organizations. We lease out the grazing and host 400 head of spayed heifers and grow hay on another six irrigation pivots at West Creek. In 2019 Mr. Blank purchased the Paradise Valley Ranch. We lease out the farming and grazing on this 9500-acre property, and host an extensive hunting program that provides free elk hunts to local residents. In 2021 Mr Blank purchased the Ranch at Dome Mountain, a 5500 acre ranch. Although this property was previously managed as a hunting and fishing property, we are currently researching options to integrate guest activities, be good stewards of the conservation attributes of the ranch, and partner with state agencies and others to achieve cross boundary large landscape conservation objectives. The Paradise Valley is considered one of the original ranching landscapes in our part of Montana; as well as being the doorstep to the world’s first national park; which creates an interesting mix of working ranchlands, tourism, guest ranching, and rural community character. At the AMB West Ranches we manage our lands to be in concert with all the attributes of the Great Yellowstone ecosystem, which includes abundant elk and deer, wolves, grizzly bears, and a variety of other wildlife that demand that we adapt our practices to ensure the perpetuation of both working ranches and wildlife.
Every year presents new and interesting challenges, as we adapt to the long term climate patterns that are thrown our way. We share our ranches with guests from all over the world at our well appointed guest facilities. We think that our ranches can provide an apprentice with a full experience that will leave you with new knowledge, new questions, and an appreciation for the complexity of managing working lands where wildlife dominate the day.
Our mother cow operation consists of 265 cows that spend a majority of their spring summer and fall on private lands; with occasional public lease grazing mixed in. We also carry about 400 yearlings each summer; which includes leased commercial yearlings and some of our own replacement heifers. We own and manage a herd of 200 horses that are part of our guest operation. The horse herd winter grazes on the ranch, we have an indoor riding arena that we utilize to condition our horses in the winter months. The livestock team is responsible for managing the cattle and horse herds between large pastures, with near dailey riding to check range condition, move cattle from one area to another, and to scout for any disease, depredation, or injuries. We have been installing new cross fencing over the last several years to increase the number of pastures and to fully implement a rotational grazing program.
The AMB West Ranches also produce forage that is grown to feed our herds cattle and horses. This is an alfalfa grass mix that is more drought tolerant than a monoculture of alfalfa and that produces adequate winter forage for horses and cattle. We have experimented with biological soil amendments to increase soil microbial diversity and we are applying fish emulsion fertilizer to replace synthetic fertilizers. We sell some forage each year to neighbor ranches, a concessionaire that runs a horse operation in Yellowstone Park and some hay to the National Park Service to support its bison quarantine facility. Calves are marketed each fall to a natural beef buyer. We retain some yearlings as replacement heifers that are grazed with our lease operation on West Creek.
Arthur Blank and his family started a family foundation (The Arthur M Blank Family Foundation) that supports grantees that align with their family values and interests in Montana and Georgia. West Creek Ranch is operated as a working ranch and also has a non-profit convening center that hosts grantees partners and other NGOs that are advancing solutions to some of the toughest social and environmental challenges of our day. The other two ranches are strictly working ranches that support the larger operation. We are a guest forward ranch in all of our activities, which means that our entire crew is always cognizant of the appearance of the ranch and is aware that developing hospitality and interpersonal skills is an important skill to develop in the ranching world these days. Interacting with outside guests, the ranch owners, and our non-profit partners is a given; developing these skills is useful in many contexts, and will provide the apprentice with a depth of perspectives and experiences. The appearance of the ranch is a high priority. Keeping facilities and equipment clean and organized, lawns mowed, etc. can be just as important as livestock care and pasture management. We have guest services staff on the ranch during the season, which will make the ranch feel busy and bustling from April through October.
- We plan our grazing to allow for longer rest periods. Some pastures are rested for 12 months or more.
- We rotationally horses on the edges of our irrigated fields with electric fence.
- All irrigated fields are grazed in the spring and fall to cycle forage, bring manure into the system, and to build soil microbial communities.
- We check and move cows on our larger pastures and public land leases several times per week–on horseback, to minimize negative impact to water sources, check for depredation by carnivores, monitor for poisonous plants, and
- We monitor range conditions several times per year to take note of changes and patterns, we also annually maintain over thirty range monitoring points that a third party consultant monitors with us for long term range condition analysis.
- Our stocking rate on the ranch is approximately 60% of prime, this is due to a lack of winter forage (hay) and winter grazing.
- We have implemented a fish emulsion fertilizer regime; which has allowed us to significantly reduce synthetic fertilizer application and use.
- We are a no-till cropping operation, we are just starting to implement this practice.
- We have applied humic acid based biological soil amendments to build our soil microbial diversity and activity.
- We have implemented a natural mineral based weed control program on rangelands that is focussed on cheatgrass control. This product is non-toxic and changes the micro mineral ratios in the soil to promote the recovery of native forbs and grasses, while limiting the competitiveness of cheatgrass. This will allow us to gain control of weedy invaders while decreasing our synthetic herbicide application rates.
- Our 18 hole golf course is certified bird friendly by the International Audubon Society, this includes pollinator planting, wild areas for bird nesting, water use efficiency standards, water quality monitoring, and minimal pesticide and herbicide applications.
We also have a handful of other wonderful, knowledgeable staff that would love to work with you too for certain jobs, if the work they are doing appeals to you, like our Lead Mechanic or our Head Wrangler. Foundation Staff are regularly on the ranch, hosting non-profit partners or working with our land and livestock team. You will have an opportunity to learn about the foundation’s giving areas and community partnerships.
Terance eichhorn – lead
I grew up around horses in rural Montana, but not on a ranch. I spent my youth competing in rodeos and helping the neighbors brand and move cattle. I started working at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in 2004 as a seasonal wrangler. When my wife, Katie, and I got married in 2014 we left MSGR to pursue year-round work. I found work on a large cow/calf ranch in Big Timber where I learned about calving, irrigating and haying. In 2017 we moved back to West Creek Ranch as a full-time ranch hand where I worked on the cattle and haying operation. In 2018 I became the head wrangler at WCR, and managed the horseback riding program. In 2020 I started managing the elk hunting program at Paradise Valley Ranch and became the full time ranch manager at PVR in 2022. In 2023 AMB West restructured the agriculture operation and horse programs across the ranches to increase efficiencies between departments, and I was promoted to Director of Land, Livestock & Conservation. Now I oversee the management of 32K acres and 10 employees.
Samantha Blanton is the farming manager. She has worked at AMB West for 5 years. Sam is responsible for all the irrigating, farming and haying across the ranches.
Cory Cantu is the livestock manager. He has worked at AMB West for six years. Cory is responsible for the husbandry of all the cattle on the ranches.
What will an apprentice do?
An apprentice working with our land and livestock team will be expected to participate in all of the following areas of our operation. We work as a team, the apprentice will always be paired with at least one other person on a daily basis. This is ranch work and you will be a contributing member of our team. We have a team meeting each Monday morning that sets the course for that week–within reason and weather permitting. You might be riding with our livestock team all day to check mother cows and yearlings, or sitting on a baler late into the evening in order to get the hay put up before the next rain shower. Other days might be shadowing a researcher that is monitoring range conditions or looking for the presence of rare carnivores (wolves, bears, lions, and other wildlife). It is also likely that you might be stuck on a mower trimming up our roadsides for fire control or cutting down juniper trees in our conifer encroachment control plots. We hope that your have a chance to experience all of the following tasks:
- Irrigation: Moving wheel lines, monitoring pivots, checking ditches
- Fencing: Repairing existing fence lines and constructing new fence
- Working cattle: Moving cattle by horseback, Hauling cattle in a stock trailer, Sorting cattle, Calving and branding in early spring
- Haying: Cutting, raking, and baling hay, Moving and stacking hay
- Equipment operation: Skid steer, tractors, side by side
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
- Good working in a team of like minded individuals
- Helpful if a comfortable horse rider–but not required
- Observant and willing to ask questions about our system
- Positive attitude when longer/later work days come up
- Physically comfortable walking/hiking, carrying heavy things, and moving throughout the day.
- Able to engage with team members, guests, etc with a positive attitude, and enjoy it! This is more often a busy/bustling property than a quiet one. So while there will be plenty of moments of peace and quiet, it more often than not isn’t, here. If your ideal position is majority quiet solo time, we probably aren’t the right place.
Skills that An Apprentice would expect to acquire:
- Safe use of equipment on the ranch, including trucks, trailers, atv’s, and tractors.
- The care and feeding of cattle and horses.
- Fencing basics on hard fences and building temporary electric fences.
- How to assess the pasture for condition and quality and when to move livestock in or out of each pasture.
- How to irrigate a hay field and maintain our irrigation ditches.
- How to move and sort and load cows, on foot and horseback.
- Understanding the basics of a beef business, if interested.
- Interaction with guests on the ranch–we have 120 plus guests a week on our ranches.
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: Ideal start date is late March to early April, the ideal end date is November 1st. Dates are somewhat flexible.
Length of Apprenticeship: 7-8 months, however we do try to be as flexible as we can with whatever time constraints that you may have.
General work hours: Generally, our ag team works 5 ½ days a week. Work generally starts at 7:30 and concludes around 5:00. Of course we may start earlier when gathering cattle and work later during the haying season.
Housing: Seasonal staff housing is shared with other seasonal employees. This is dorm-style housing with a shared kitchen and bathroom.
Laundry: Available in the housing area. Washer/dryers and other appliances are shared.
Internet availability: Depending on the housing location, internet is available at the staff housing. Otherwise, internet is available in common areas across the ranches.
Cell Service: Service is good. Verizon is the best provider–but others are present in our valley.
Time off: Our goal is to manage the ag program to allow everyone one to two days off each week. Holidays are work days on working ranches like ours; we provide guidance upon hiring as to when it is appropriate to request time off and how far in advance.
Visitors: Staff housing is shared, therefore we require all staff to provide a one-week notice for all visiting guests. Guests may stay onsite in the staff’s housing.
Food: All seasonal staff are provided meals at one of our two staff dining halls. Staff normally eat meals together at a set time. This includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week.
Pets: no pets
Horse Use: Riding horses is not expected, but encouraged. If the apprentice comes with horse experience, they will have ample opportunity to participate in gathering and working livestock. We are willing to train less experienced individuals.
All the fun stuff: No smoking or spitting in ranch buildings or vehicles. Always be cautious of fire danger if smoking. Legal use of alcohol during non-work hours that doesn’t impact work performance is acceptable.
Guns: The ranch has a gun policy that we can provide to the apprentice. We live in grizzly bear country, carrying bear spray is required of ranch staff that are in the field.
Health insurance: All AMB West associates, who work at least 6 continuous months, qualify for employer sponsored medical, dental, vision insurance. All associates qualify for our 401k program, that includes up to a 6% employer match, after 90 days of continuous service.
Ranch Vehicles: Apprentice will use ranch vehicles for work, to include trucks and side-by-side vehicles.
Personal Vehicle: A personal vehicle is highly recommended for apprentice’s independence on their time off and to get to town for free time activities/errands.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: Good footwear. You will ride horses, so investing in a pair of riding boots will be great, in addition to hiking boots or more comfortable work shoes. Work gloves for fencing etc are also important to have. Also, a good pocket knife. PAradise Valley always cools off in the evenings, so you’ll want a few good jackets and sweaters, but the days most of the summer are in the 70’s and 80’s with strong sun–and occasionally the 90’s. Bring sunscreen and good sunglasses! If you have certain kitchen/house items you like we recommend bringing them. The ranch provides bedding and towels. Staff will provide their own laundry detergent.
Living at AMB West Ranches: Emigrant, Montana is a very small town located 10 minutes north of the ranch. It consists of a general store/gas station, church, post office, bank, saloon and a couple restaurants. Most locals do their shopping in Livingston (30-minute drive) and Bozeman (50-minute drive). The local airport is located in Bozeman. While there is a great sense of community in the Paradise Valley area, most of the socialization is found within the 100+/- ranch employees. MSGR and WCR hire about 70 seasonal employees (wranglers, cooks, guest services, etc.) from all across the country. Most seasonal employees are between the ages 20 and 30. There are typically concerts every week in the valley, a few rodeos during the summer, and lots of recreational opportunities in the area, i.e., hiking, fishing, hunting. The ranch is adjacent to public lands with lots of hiking trails. The Yellowstone River borders the ranch and provides ample opportunity for fishing and recreational floating. Yellowstone Park–the world’s first national park- is 25 minutes south and provides year round wildlife watching, hiking and access to educational opportunities.
Quivira Coalition Activities: This apprenticeship is offered through Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program. The full cohort of apprentices on regenerative ranches and farms across the west will attend an April orientation, participate in supplemental education Zoom calls, complete skills checklists with their mentors, and attend the annual REGENERATE Conference in November. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship that will be posted in the New Agrarian Voices blog on the Quivira website.