Chauvet Cattle Co.Eight-Month Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship in Big Sandy, Montana
The Chauvet Cattle Co. is actively looking to make changes and improvements in the ways we manage and graze our cattle-which will improve the health of the land/soil. Simultaneously, these changes will hopefully reduce labor and improve our personal quality of life. We are working with a holistic management consultant who is helping us implement a mob grazing system on our hay ground.
Meet the mentors
Cheuvet Cattle Co.
Our ranching philosophy:
We are primarily a cow/calf operation. We calve in April/May and ship the calves to feedlots in late October. We calve approximately 400 cows each spring in addition to some replacement heifers. In the past we have put up about 2000+ tons of grass and alfalfa hay, but we hope to reduce the amount of haying and replace it with mob/rotational grazing.
We are a well- established cattle ranch with a strong sense of pride and heritage. We strive to sell quality cattle while at the same time continually improve the health of our land and soil. Sustainability is our goal! We are making efforts to reduce our labor while still producing the quality work upon which the ranch was established 4 generations ago.
Our ranch is transitioning away from some of the mainstream methods of ranching and researching more regenerative agriculture practices. We are excited about employing and working with an individual who is willing to learn and experiment mob grazing right alongside of us.
What activities would the apprentice participate in?
- Start calving first calf heifers (in barn/corral at home) and assist as needed.
- Prepare for range calving.
- Move the main herd to the calving pasture and start checking them several times daily (towards the end of the month.)
- Assist with difficult calvings/perform C-Sections within the veterinary business.
- Calving—processing calves at birth which includes: ear tagging, vaccinating, and castrating. Health checks are performed on the cattle multiple times each day and they are doctored/assisted as necessary.
- Ranch/yard Maintenance– Pruning trees, mowing grass, and cleaning shrubbery out for a successful growing season (spring cleaning).
- Finish calving
- Fertility testing the bulls
- Branding season- calves are branded and vaccinated, etc
- Fencing– prepare all fences for the coming grazing season. This would be barb wire as well as electric fence.
- Yard/ Building Maintenance
- Moving cows to summer pasture.
- Haying- dryland hay crops (grass/alfalfa) with one irrigated pivot
- Mob Grazing- fencing, monitoring grasslands and water, health checks on cattle, moving cattle as determined by grazing plan
- Mob grazing- continued
- Preconditioning calves for fall sale
- Removing bulls from the cows to end breeding season
- Move hay to winter feed ground
September and October:
- Repairs/Maintenance to Ranch- This is the time of year that we repair structures that have failed throughout the year in addition to building new ranch improvements( which might include new water development, cross fencing, repairing corrals.)
- The cattle are trailed and hauled home from summer pasture.
- Calves are shipped.
- Vaccinate and pregnancy check the cows and heifers.
- Bangs vaccinate any heifer calves retained as replacements. Calves will be kept in the corral and fed.
- Start the fall mob grazing cycle
- Finish up any ranch projects before winter sets in
- Clean/winterize and store equipment in shed for the winter
- Winterize all “summer” water lines.
What skills are desired in an apprentice?
We desire for an apprentice to have mechanical and handyman type skills (ie able to make modest repairs.). Additionally, animal handling and equipment operation skills are desired but not required.
Our operation is in a unique position to provide a well-rounded mentorship experience. With Erica being an animal health professional, and Shane’s multi-generational ranching experience, the apprentice would have several individuals from which to learn. Couple this with our holistic ranch consultant, and I believe we are a well-rounded team with several “experts” in numerous aspects of a ranching operation. This team approach helps us better achieve the goals that we are striving to meet. We hope that an apprentice could appreciate this team approach and would enthuastically join our vision.
We strive to be a “blue ribbon” operation and we feel that an apprentice that works with us and desires to perform the same quality work, will naturally acquire with skills and management tools to help them in management positions they seek on other ranches in their future.
Lastly, we recognize the inherent changes that face ranching and agriculture in general. We not only want to change with the times, but also be on the cutting edge of advancements and continually improve in the way we care for our animals, land, and soil. We strive for sustainability in the commodities we produce, and equally important, we value quality of life for ourselves and employees. This mindset helps us to strive for a healthy lands, healthy livestock and a healthy work/life balance, understanding that there will be long, but fulfilling days on the ranch
Shane Chauvet: Shane is the CEO of our family business. He has been actively involved in the ranch since he was a small child following his dad. He has spent four decades on the ranch with the exception of four years of college at MSU Northern. While at Northern, he earned a degree in AOT (Ag Operation Technology) with an emphasis in ag mechanics. Having spent his formative years on the ranch learning from his father, becoming involved in agriculture was an obvious career choice-which, despite its challenges, has been rewarding.
Erica Chauvet: I grew up on a Montana cattle ranch, which like Shane, has undoubtedly formed me into the person I am today. I cherish the ranching lifestyle and coupled with my love of animals and medicine, made the career choice of veterinary medicine. I earned my undergraduate degree in Chemisty from Carroll College in Helena, MT and followed that with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Washington State. I have been in practice since 2007 and enjoy both the large and small animal aspects of medicine and surgery. We recently remodeled a ranch building in 2019 into a veterinary clinic. Besides the ranch and veterinary business, I stay busy with our 6yo twin girls and 3yo son. I help out with my family’s ranch as time allows.
I was raised on a traditional cow/calf operation, but after attending a Ranching for Profit School in January of 2019 and working with our Holistic Management Consultant, am very excited to learn and employ different grazing techniques on our ranch. I am energized to witness the long-term improvements that these changes will bring to the grass, soil and animal health. Equally important, I desire for a lighter work load and more time with Shane and our children.
Start Date: March 15, 2020
Length of Apprenticeship: 7 – 8.5 months
General expected work days and hours: Depending on the season we strive to work six days a week taking Sunday off. Most days the apprentice will start between 7-8 am but some days may start as early as 6 a.m. We usually finish the workday around 5:30 pm. This position does not allow time for a second job.
Stipend: $1,000/month. The apprentice will be put on the payroll as a W-2 employee with workers compensation insurance provided by the ranch and administrative and working conditions in full compliance with local labor laws.
Housing: The lodging is apartment-style housing located right on the ranch. It is a two story apartment equipped with a private entryway, two bedrooms, a kitchenette and dining area as well as a bathroom/laundry room. The apartment was remodeled in 2019. Internet service will be provided in the apartment. The utilities are covered by the ranch, but we expect the apprentice to be contentious about utility usage. The housing is for the intern only.
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
Time off: Sunday will be a day off from work unless we are working in a busy season. If the apprentice does work on Sunday, they will have a day off during the week. We strive to be flexible on this as we realize everyone needs time away from work. Additionally, we try to end the workday early on Saturdays whenever possible.
Visitors & Family policy: Visitors are welcome to the ranch but must be discussed in advance. We want open communication with the apprentice about family and visitors so we can work together to maximize the apprentice’s time with their guests.
Food: The ranch would provide a $180 grocery stipend each month along with 6 lbs of hamburger. Our local senior center cooks hot, home-cooked meals with generous servings on Monday-Friday. We eat at the senior center many days and would be happy to purchase a weekday meal for the apprentice as well. The meals can be eaten at the center or prepared for takeout.
Pets: Animals are permitted on a case by case basis.
Tobacco & Alcohol: If smoking or chewing tobacco, all employees must be respectful of ranch equipment and surroundings. Smoking in vehicles and ranch buildings in not permitted. Alcohol is permitted as long as it does not interfere with their work.
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 farm carries Workman’s Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job. But if the apprentice is injured on his or her day off, gets sick, or has or develops chronic conditions like allergies, these types of issues should be covered by personal health insurance.
Ranch vehicles: We will provide vehicles for work use. A valid driver’s license for use of work vehicles is required.
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. Is this correct? Yes
Laundry: Laundry facilities will be located in the apartment.
Apprentice should not need extensive household items as the apartment is stocked for a single individual.
Living at the Chauvet Ranch: Our ranch headquarters are located within walking distance to Big Sandy (population 600). Big Sandy is a small town but offers several amenities. We have a grocery store, bank, library, swimming pool, 5 churches, 2 bars/restaurants, a deli/coffee shop, active K-12 school, 2 fuel stations, auto parts store, CrossFit Gym, pharmacy, post office and a medical center. We are 35 miles to Havre (population 10,000) and 77 miles to Great Falls (pop. 60,000). Great Falls has an International Airport. We have a neighboring ranch five miles from our headquarters that has an intern program. They employ many young agricultural students as well.
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