B Bar Ranch8 - 12 Month Organic Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship in Big Timber, Montana
The B Bar Ranch raises organic, grass fed and grass finished beef in south central Montana. Founded in 1906, the ranch was acquired by current owner, Maryanne Mott, in 1978. Throughout the year, our cattle split their time between our two ranches – our main beef headquarters in Big Timber, MT and the mountain ranch in the Tom Miner Basin, located just north of Yellowstone National Park. Combined, we care for over 15,000 deeded acres and USFS and Montana grazing permits that cover another 20,000 plus acres of rolling hills, grasslands, and mountain meadows in the Greater Yellowstone region. The ranch in Big Timber is in a rural but not remote location near the mountains in Montana, we have been characterized as brutally isolated by a former employee who was raised in San Diego and as pretty developed by an employee raised on a ranch in eastern Oregon.
Meet the mentors
B Bar Ranch
Under organic management for over 25 years, we are a committed to using livestock management and grazing practices which contribute to creating greater biodiversity, building soil health, and providing the best animal welfare possible. We strive to not only improve the natural resources we care for and raise great tasting, healthy beef, but also leave a full range of opportunities on a healthy landscape for those who follow us.
Long term mindset:
At the B Bar, our mindset is long-term. Whether it’s bringing a heritage cattle breed, like our conservation herd of White Park Cattle, back from the brink of extinction or building up the soil health of our rangelands over a decade, we are dedicated to creating a better future. In addition, we know knowledge is power and do our part to share many of the things we’ve learned over the years with others interested in alternatives to the conventional agriculture paradigm. We often hold educational events and ranch tours and do our best to be a positive force in the communities we serve.
High quality beef:
Ultimately, we know high-quality wholesome beef starts with the basics – healthy soil, nutritious forages, clean water, and an abundant diversity of life in the world around us. Using ecologically responsible and humane stewardship practices, we raise beef that leaves the land and our communities better. We believe everyone should be able to feel good about the steak on their plate, the burger in their bun, or the hot dog they feed their kids.
Land and Soil:
In the late 1980s, our team did considerable research to determine which ranch practices and management philosophies best reflect our beliefs and values. Through our analysis we quickly settled on organic management and have been caring for our ranches this way ever since. Our ranch practices focus on creating greater biodiversity, building soil health, and providing the best quality of life possible for our livestock from pasture to plate.
We advance this stewardship by embracing practices like low-stress livestock handling, conserving open space and wildlife habitat, and using ecologically responsible practices which take into consideration the environmental nuances of our landscape. Planned, adaptive grazing methods allow us to use our cattle as tools to enhance rangeland and soil health. Additionally, we regularly apply organic soil amendments like compost tea to our pastures to improve soil health. Our overall goal is to support a healthy, thriving ecosystem which allows our livestock, wildlife, and landscape to flourish to their fullest potential.
What will an apprentice do?
An apprentice would fit into our program exactly as any other ranch employee. We pay living wages, provide educational opportunities with nationally recognized experts and are very actively engaged in the Montana Organic Community. In general, we all participate in the full range of ranch activities and since we are a small group it is very important that we all crosstrain for multiple positions. We all flood and center pivot irrigate, maintain equipment, keep records as needed, work cattle, including pasture moves, gathering, trailing, sorting, processing (we Bang’s test female pasture cattle twice each year) feed cattle, unload trucks, haul cattle to our processor weekly, use and maintain Honda 4 wheelers, fence conventionally and electrically, sort and process beef orders, maintain inventories, operate farm and industrial equipment, and use computers and cell phones extensively to communicate. We both host and attend soil-oriented classes in the region. We also engage in organic weed management which includes burning, spraying roadsides with vinegar products and monitoring weed problem areas. We focus heavily on grazing management and have begun our second year using PastureMapSoftware. We spend time outside in all kinds of weather all year-round as well as sampling beef in stores and telling our story. We are busy but also focus on our work being meaningful and fun.
Required attributes and skills for a B Bar apprentice:
Wes Henthorne, Big Timber Manager has been with the ranch as a manager since 1983 and has handled the evolution of the ranch from mainstream production models to our current business model. He was highly skeptical of our organic transition initially but became intrigued and has become active in the Montana Organic Community. His background before coming to the B Bar was in feedlots and cow/calf beef operations.
Mihail Kennedy grew up in the restaurant business in Billings, Montana. From a young age he was interested in where food came from and spent a great deal of time with a local ranch family that sold beef to his parents’ restaurant. In high school he worked on this ranch doing odd jobs, fencing, and whatever else he was asked to do. In college he worked at ZooMontana while completing his degree in environmental studies and this is where he fell in love with ecology. After graduation he went on to work as the environmental restoration manager for Montana Audubon, charged with restoring an old gravel mine to various native ecosystems. As rewarding as the work was for Audubon, his restaurant background was still calling. At some point it became clear to him that the best use of his restaurant and ecology backgrounds was in raising food and when the opportunity to work at B Bar arose, he jumped at the chance. Mihail approaches agriculture with his ecology background and believes that without a healthy functioning ecosystem, you can’t raise high quality food. Throughout the last five years he’s been able to learn a great deal about regenerative agriculture and see the results of these processes as he manages the day to day physical operation of the ranch. He’s always learning and is excited to try new things even if they seem a bit daunting at first. Ecosystems are in a constant state of flux and therefore one needs to be able to adapt their management to the present and future conditions. Every day is a new puzzle.
What will an apprentice will learn?
- Low Stress Livestock Handling
- Basic composting slaughter waste
- Soil sampling
- Pasture Map for grazing planning, records and analysis
- Customer Service at Retail and Wholesale Levels
- Inventory Management and Records
- Adaptive Grazing techniques using electric fence
- Bale Grazing
- Equipment operation for water management, no till seeding, ditching, feeding cattle and material handling
- Center Pivot Sprinkler operation and maintenance
- Flood Irrigation
- Birth to Plate Organic Grass fed and Grass Finished Beef Production
- Organic Weed Control and other Organic Practices
Start Date: Flexible (Spring 2020)
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months minimum with 12 months a more realistic minimum to see a full annual cycle of the operation.
Stipend: B Bar provides a $2000.00/month stipend to apprentices.
Housing: Updated furnished mobile home which may be shared with another employee. Both mobile homes are 3 bedroom, 2 bath, full kitchen located on the ranch. All utilities including water, gas, electricity, landline & internet are provided. It is expected that the house and personal spaces will be kept clean and organized.
Laundry: Washer and Dryers are in all housing
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 provided in partnership with Holistic Management International, and attend the annual Quivira Conference, hosted with Holistic Management International and the American Grassfed Association, in November. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship; these reports will go through the NAP Coordinator at Quivira, and be posted on the Quivira website.
Time off: We try to do what’s seasonally necessary on weekends and provide a full weekend off every third weekend. 0.5 -1.5 days for 2 weeks then a full weekend off the third week. One full week off after 8 months.
VIsitors: We provide ranch housing for ranch employees including apprentices. Guests are generally welcome but must not be disruptive to the ranch schedule or other employees.
Food: Beef from the ranch will be provided. Gardening is encouraged seasonally.
Pets: Dogs and Cats are OK. Horses negotiable but unlikely.
All the fun stuff: Ranch housing and enclosed work spaces are all smoke free. Legal and appropriate alcohol use is OK … almost always outside scheduled work hours. We have a one and done DUI policy and being at work under the influence of any intoxicant is grounds for immediate termination. We cannot tolerate compromising the safety of others on the ranch.
Health insurance: Health insurance included on B Bar Ranch’s health insurance plan.
Ranch vehicles and equipment: We will train you to operate vehicles and equipment on the ranch including pickups, pulling trailers, operating 4 wheelers, tractors, loaders, backhoes and stationary equipment. If you have experience, the training period will be short, if not, we will help you achieve our desired level of competence.
Personal vehicle: While apprentices will not be asked to use a personal vehicle for work purposes, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle on their days off in order to run personal errands such as purchasing groceries and for travel.
Laundry: Washer and Dryers are in all housing
Additional items for an apprentice to bring: We are on the east slope of the Crazy Mountains in the Chinook Zone. Temperatures can change dramatically during the course of the day so layered clothing is a great idea so you can adjust for comfort as the day progresses. Sturdy footwear, muck boots, hats, sunscreen and gloves all see a lot of use. We provide irrigation boots and your first pair of fencing gloves. Cell phone coverage on the ranch is generally good and we text and call each other as necessary.
Living at the B Bar Ranch: The B Bar Ranch is located approximately 20 miles north of Big Timber, Montana, 80 miles from Bozeman and 100 miles from the largest city in the state, Billings. Big Timber has a mid size Grocery Store and a variety of small businesses including a good restaurants and bars, hardware store, auto parts, store, and soon to include a brew pub which is under construction. Livingston is about 55 miles from the ranch and is a bigger small town with a large chain grocery store and a John Deere dealer. Bozeman is the fastest growing city in Montana and has a very trendy Main Street with a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and theaters. There are frequent live music performances. Bozeman is also home to Montana State University and we cooperate with several faculty members on a variety of projects.
We are close to Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Absaroka Wilderness, and abundant public lands for fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking and camping.
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