Chauvet Cattle Co.

8 month cattle ranching operation in Big Sandy, MT

The Ranch

Chauvet Cattle Co. is a fourth generation family cow-calf operation located just outside of Big Sandy in Northcentral Montana. Our ranch site is located on the flatlands with our spring and summer pastures in both the foothills of the Bear Paw Mountains as well as the terrain near the Missouri River breaks.

Chauvet Cattle Co. is actively making changes to improve plant diversity and soil health through the use of managed rotational grazing and cover crops.   Simultaneously, these changes will reduce labor and improve our personal quality of life.  Shane and Erica are both Ranching for Profit graduates and actively using the concepts learned to improve the ranch.  

Erica is a licensed and practicing veterinarian and operates a large and small animal veterinary business from a clinic on the ranch, newly remodeled in 2019. 

We have a full scale meat processing facility on the ranch where we can process our wild game and our ranch-raised beef.  

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 and inputs, while still producing the quality work upon which the ranch was established four generations ago.  We are moving away from conventional agriculture techniques and replacing them with regenerative practices.  We strive to have excellent working relationships with neighbors, government agencies and the community.  

 

Regenerative Practices

Last year was our first year MOB grazing a portion of the ranch.  We were excited and impressed with the results and are looking to expand these grazing practices to other areas of the ranch.   

Soil health is rising to the top as one of our main focuses and priorities.  We are rejuvenating poor producing grass fields by starting to implement cover crops into the rotation.  Our end goal with this rotation is a diverse stand of healthy, native grasses.  Shane is continuously looking for ways to protect the creeks and riparian areas on the ranch by developing water lines and installing stock water tanks.  We are actively working with several individuals and agencies to help educate and guide us in our ranch transition towards more regenerative agriculture practices.  Our three young children love gardening and we would love an apprentice with an interest in gardening with them!

The Mentors

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. We work with other individuals and agencies who have extensive experience in helping us reach our goals and I believe we are a well-rounded team.   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 enthusiastically 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 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 land, 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 Chemistry 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 7yo twin girls and 4yo 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 a 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 a lighter work load and more time with Shane and our children.

The Apprentice

What will an apprentice do?

March:

  •     Start calving first calf heifers (in a barn/corral at home) and assist as needed 
  •     Prepare for range calving
  •     Move the main herd to the calving pasture and start checking them twice daily
  •     Assist with difficult calvings/perform C-Sections within the veterinary business 
  •     Varmit (prairie dog) control  

April: 

  •     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 for a successful growing season (spring cleaning).

May:

  •     Finish calving
  •     Fertility testing the bulls
  •     Branding season- calves are branded and vaccinated, etc
  •     Fencing– prepare all fences (barbed and electric) for the coming grazing season. 
  •     Plant the family garden  
  •     Plant cover crops  

June:

  •   Prepare summer water systems
  •   Yard/ Building Maintenance 
  •   MOB grazing-fencing, monitoring grasslands and water, health checks on cattle,      moving cattle as determined by grazing plan
  •   Haying- dryland hay crops (grass/alfalfa) with one irrigated pivot
  • Weed management- by hand and with some chemical

July: 

  •     Finish Haying
  •     Mob Grazing- continued
  •     Move cattle to summer mountain pasture

August: 

  •     Mob grazing- finishes
  •     Preconditioning calves for fall sale 
  •     Removing bulls from the cows to end breeding season
  •     Move hay to winter feed ground
  •    Start ranch Repairs/Maintenance and make Infrastructure Improvements- this is the time of year that we make repairs and building new ranch improvements ( which might include new water development, cross fencing, repairing corrals, etc)

September and October:

  •     Repairs/Maintenance to Ranch- continued
  •     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.  

November:

  •     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.

*Throughout all of these months, Erica’s veterinary business is open and seeing large and small animal patients for medical workups and surgery.  The right apprentice will be welcomed and encouraged to assist Erica and learn veterinary medicine!  Some of the skills and apprentice will learn and observe might include but not be limited to: calving dystocias, bovine caesareans, pregnancy checking cattle, establishing vaccination protocols, fertility testing bulls, dog/cat spays and neuters, small animal preventative care appointments, small animal restraint, dental cleanings,  blood draws, lacerations, porcupine quill removal, rattlesnake bites,  and general veterinary emergencies. 

 

What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?

 

A valid driver’s license and clean driving record are required.  Due to the constant variance in ranching and weather in Montana,  the ability to go-with-the-flow is critical!  Our apprentice will need a sense of humor and have a desire to learn and engage in ranch activities.  Our 7yr old twin girls and 4 yr old son are oftentimes a part of our daily operations so patience with children is required.  A willingness to watch the children and perform light domestic duties (when Erica is attending to a vet emergency or helping Shane on the ranch) is essential.

Our apprentice will need to be able to make basic observations about livestock, pastureland and general infrastructure as well as possess the ability to learn and mature through constructive criticism. 

What skills and traits are desired in an apprentice?

 
  • We desire for an apprentice to have mechanical and handyman type skills (ie able to make modest repairs and use hand tools). Additionally, animal handling and equipment operation skills are desired but not required.

Nuts & Bolts

 

Start Date: March 1-15, 2021

Length of Apprenticeship: 9-9.5 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 5:30-6 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. While we take an active role in helping our apprentices learn regenerative agriculture, we believe it is equally important to teach them life skills- one of which is saving and investing.  We will encourage and mentor the apprentice in forming their own retirement account and will make a matching contribution (at the end of full contract length employment) of up to $200/month for 9 months to get them started!  (This is a potential $1800 bonus!)

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 private bathroom/laundry room. The apartment was remodeled in 2019. The utilities are covered by the ranch, but we expect the apprentice to be conscientious about utility usage. The housing is for the intern only.

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.

Internet Service: High speed internet is provided free of charge in the apartment and a smart TV was purchased in 2019 for the apartment.   

Time off: Sunday will be a day off from work unless we are working in a busy season. Additionally, we try to end the workday early on Saturdays whenever possible. We realize everyone needs time away from work. 

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.  All guest visitation will depend on current COVID-19 conditions.  

Food: 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. Additionally, the ranch will provide 6 lbs of hamburger monthly and fresh vegetables from the garden.  

Pets: Dogs and cats 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 and spitting tobacco in vehicles and ranch buildings is not permitted. Legal and appropriate alcohol use is permitted outside of work hours and must not interfere with apprentice’s 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.

COVID-19 Policy: Chauvet 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. Shane’s parents live on the ranch and are elderly so are at high risk. We also expect honest and transparency if the apprentice knows they have been exposed to Covid. 

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. 

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.

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.

 

 

2020 Apprentice

Megan Schmidgall, Apprentice

“I believe that, I, as most, are better workers when the whole of the operation is understood rather than just doing as told. That is what I wish to gain from this apprenticeship. A view of what ranching is completely, a total emersion into its lifestyle.  I see this as a chance to share in the joys and sorrows of the men and women who run cattle so that I can discover if this is the kind of life I wish to lead and a lifestyle that is truly fitting to my character.” – Excerpt from the New Agrarian Voices Blog

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