Boot Ranch

8 month cattle-ranching apprenticeship in Douglas, Wyoming

The Ranch

We are a family owned cow/calf cattle ranch operating on three different ecological regions surrounding the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming. Our family homesteaded in our valley in 1883 and my father purchased our current headquarters ranch in 1974. Our vision is to create a holistically managed two family operation that promotes our core values. 

Core Values 

  • Respect: We promote respectful understanding of each family member’s priorities, expertise, and goals. 
  • Engagement: We engage everyone involved in the day-to-day ranch operation at a level that cultivates their strengths and encourages constructive struggle with their challenges. Collaboration: We promote healthy, inclusive, non-hierarchical collaboration. Fight, Fight, Fight: We are not meek in character; we fight for what’s right; our voices are bold. Inquisitiveness: We encourage the asking of questions–the whys, whats, and hows. Experience: We are open to and tap into experiences shaped by time, lessons learned, risk, and adventure. 
  • Quality: We instill the highest of standards possible: quality land management, happy animals, and top-of-the-market product. 
  • Integrity: We are true to our authentic selves and value family trust and transparency.
  • Positivity: The glasses we drink from are always half full, not half empty.
  • Humor: We welcome a healthy dose of play and jest; life is too short to be taken too seriously.
  • Gratitude: We are thankful for everything that makes us who we are, and we appreciate everyone and everything in our lives. 

We currently produce 700 calves a year that are sold at 580-800 pounds to operations that require GAP-4 or Grassfed certification. We partner with a grassfed beef finisher and distributor in Colorado and finish a small but growing number of 28 month old grassfed beef for our customers. We produce feed in the form of grass and alfalfa hay and haylage and oatlage for our feeding operation. We are also a dealer for Vermeer haying equipment and pursuing the development of a Savory Hub to help other practitioners interested in holistic agriculture. 

Regenerative Practices

 

We start with our treatment of animals as we view healthy and happy animals as essential to our ability to be economically viable and thus continue our stewardship of the land. The ranch is a member of the Global Animal Partnership and is Step 4 certified. 

We are transitioning to holistic management of the land which includes developing and creating a grazing plan and adaptively managing our pasture rotation based on yearly conditions. We are reinvigorating decades old fencing and developing water and irrigation systems to help our livestock management practices to more intensively and properly graze our pastures. We are developing an inherding program on our mountain range to move the herd around a 10,000 acre parcel to increase the health of range plants and the soil. 

 

The Mentors

Shane Cross

Shane Cross has recently returned to the Boot Ranch to manage it full-time in collaboration with our father, Richard. Prior to returning, he worked as an attorney with Trout Unlimited for seven years with a primary focus on creating partnerships with the oil and gas industry that protected fish and wildlife habitat alongside oil and gas development. Before Trout Unlimited, Shane was an attorney for a large law firm in Denver. He completed law school at the University of Virginia and did his undergraduate work at Stanford University. Shane served on the board of Powder River Basin Resource Council from 2004–2007 and both Richard and Shane maintain close ties with PRBRC and their members. Shane is President of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, active in the Wyoming.

 

Jamie Cross

Jamie Cross is the Executive Editor for Math Solutions, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) that specializes in transforming teaching and learning. She received her Masters in teaching at School for International Training in Vermont and her undergraduate degree at Stanford University. She has produced dozens of educational products focused on moving beyond the traditional form of education (one in which someone stands at the front of the room and talks while students quietly listen) to an interactive form (one in which everyone is engaged in exploration, talk, and discovery of the topic at hand). She is highly skilled at what it takes to actively engage groups of learners, encourage and implement change, and empower individuals. She has given many presentations and has been acknowledged for her outstanding work in developing award-winning products (see http://www.contentincontextstaging.org/2011/index.php/program-speakers/195-jamie-cross)

Richard Cross

Richard Cross has owned and operated the Boot Ranch for more than forty years. He started the operation in 1972, when his late wife Rita Cross and he left his parents’ ranching operation to strike it out on their own. Prior to becoming a full-time rancher, Richard attended college at Colorado State University and then served in the Peace Corps in Chile from 1963–64. He worked with local agriculture communities and to this day says that, “the indigenous communities of Chile had just as much if not more to teach Peace Corps volunteers than the volunteers did to them.” He served a term on the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and served on the board of the Powder River Basin Resource Council (PRBRC—a network of landowners in the region that formed to promote the livelihood of independent agriculture in Wyoming) for 15 years. Richard is active in the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, Converse County Stockgrowers Association, and Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming. 

 

The Apprentice

What will an apprentice do?

Our goal is to create a ranching operation that can support two families and simultaneously transform the ranch into a 20,000 acre Holistic Management space that offers educational and experiential opportunities to landowners and students while building a community invested in regenerative land. We typically operate with four to five employees – including my father and myself. 

We are interested in an apprentice for three reasons. First, an apprentice helps us take a step toward our goal of providing experiential opportunities and building a community invested in regenerative land. Second, we value new blood and ideas and feel we can learn about the desirability of our management and products from the life experiences of an apprentice. Third, we would enjoy the opportunity to develop a team member for our agriculture operation. 

The apprentice would work primarily under my mentorship (Shane) but also receive guidance from our employee Ryan (especially with respect to machinery and maintenance) and my sister Jamie (with respect to marketing and development). 

I envision an apprentice engaging in the following activities: 

  • Calving. Checking and monitoring cows for body condition and stages of pregnancy, eventually learning to identify signs of labor. Sorting cattle to appropriate areas for monitoring. Helping with assisted births, prolapses and other complications. Nurturing newborn calves in the form of warming, subcutaneous fluids, bottle feeding and assisting with nursing.
  • Feeding. During the winter months a large part of our operation is feeding cattle. This includes providing salt/mineral to pastures, operating and maintaining hay processing equipment, and operating and maintaining feed mixers and caking vehicles. An apprentice will learn to observe and monitor the health of the herd during feeding operations and in different stages of the production cycle. The apprentice may also take part in development of feed rations through feed testing and feed programs. I will also involve the apprentice in ecological monitoring of pasture sites for development of the Savory Hub. We hope to teach the apprentice to use the most valuable tool we have discovered for management of a farming and ranching operation – their eyes.
  • Livestock handling and pasture rotation. The apprentice will engage in a variety of handling practices – from administering in field medication to processing cattle through corrals and chutes. Sorting cattle in pens. Moving and rotating herds between ranches and pastures via horseback and/or motorized vehicles. The apprentice will learn and perform fence maintenance and fence building – barbed wire, wood and steel post, panels and electric.
  • Haying. The apprentice will learn and engage in irrigation of about 800 acres by gated pipe and pivots. The apprentice will learn how to move and manage water and eventually have responsibility for certain fields. The apprentice will also learn and be responsible for operating and maintaining haying equipment – most likely a rake and tractor and a loader to stack hay.

 

What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?

 
  • Ability to drive machinery, willingness to work around livestock, strong work ethic, good sense of humor. 

What skills and traits are desired in an apprentice?

 

  • Basic mechanical experience, livestock experience, prior horseback experience.

Nuts & Bolts

 

Start Date: February 1 (calving begins) – November 1 (second round of post weaning vaccinations administered). 

Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months

Stipend: $1000/month

General work hours: 

Housing: Bunkhouse – 1 bedroom, 1 bath, combined kitchen and living room. Only 1 person stays in bunkhouse and that would be apprentice. Primarily wood heated in winter.

Laundry: The apprentice house does not have a washer or dryer. There are laundromats in the surrounding community and we have had employees share washers and dryers at another house in the past.

Internet availability: Wifi is available in housing

Cell Phone: Verizon service is good at headquarters. AT&T works better on the south slope. In general, you will have access to a cell signal for 75-85% of your work month. We do have radios that we use if we need to communicate in areas with no cell service.

Time off: We typically allow Sundays off and are flexible on leave required. That said, during calving season, moving cows to the mountains and weaning, we have to shift the day off to a different day of the week.

Visitors policy: Visitors will be allowed but the apprentice needs to consult with Shane about timing, duration etc. 

Food: The apprentice would be encouraged to cultivate a garden and we would provide assistance with cultivation. We could also provide ¼ to ½ beef and we have a few shared meals a month.

Pets: We have permitted a reasonable number of pets in the past – 1 -2 dogs. We will board one horse if it is used for ranch work.

Tobacco and alcohol use: No tobacco use is permitted. Legal and appropriate alcohol use is ok outside of work hours.

Guns: Apprentice is allowed to bring guns to the ranch but generally, guns are not a part of our ranch culture.

Health insurance: The ranching lifestyle has inherent dangers. While personal health insurance is not required to participate in the apprenticeship program, it is strongly encouraged. The Boot Ranch provides a health care stipend so the apprentice can purchase health insurance on the open market. 

COVID-19 policy: Cooper Creek Ranch expects any apprentice to use common sense when in public including wearing a mask when it is required by businesses and/or local and state regulations. We also expect our apprentice to practice social distancing as much as possible when in public. With the assistance of Quivira, we will monitor the COVID situation in our community and may ask the apprentice to take additional precautions depending on current transmission rates. We ask that persons traveling or potentially exposed to COVID be upfront and honest so we can manage proximity to our father who is elder and at risk.

Ranch vehicles: The apprentice will be allowed to use ranch vehicles for all ranch work activities. There are vehicles/equipment with manual transmissions. We will provide training on tractors.

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.

Additional items an apprentice should bring: The apprentice should bring bedding and towels and any personal items.

Living at Boot Ranch: The Boot Ranch lies on the North and South slopes of the Laramie Mountains in Wyoming. Headquarters is located 12 miles West of Douglas, Wyoming, adjacent to Natural Bridge State Park. The town of Glenrock is fifteen miles west of the ranch, and Casper, the second largest town in the state is about a 45 minute drive. Both Douglas and Casper have a variety of community events and organizations. Casper has a college that offers evening classes on agricultural and non-ag related topics (e.g. I have taken a horseshoeing course there in the past). The Laramie Mountains provide a variety of summer recreation opportunities including climbing, mountain biking, fishing and hunting, and there is a small ski hill, Hogadon, less than an hour from the ranch. Douglas is centrally located to the Rockies with Denver, Sheridan, Fort Collins, Lander and Jackson a few hours drive away. 

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.

Specific challenges an apprentice could help with: We are looking for ways to increase our marketing of grassfed beef direct to consumer and to help develop our marketing visibility.

 

 

Applications for 2021 will open on November 1, 2020

If you have any questions about Boot Ranch, please email NAP Northern Coordinator Alexis Bonogofsky at alexis@quiviracoalition.org

 

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