Diamond D Angus

8 month cattle ranching apprenticeship in Valier, Montana

The Ranch

Mark DeBoo is the third generation DeBoo raising functional Angus cows. My story starts in the 1950s with my grandparents, Charlie and Mary, who were the only registered Angus breeders in the Golden Triangle area of Montana at that time. At that time, my grandfather owned a bull called Pattern of Wye, who became instrumental in shaping the future for Diamond D Angus. In 1972, my grandfather’s life was cut short after having hip replacement surgery. My dad and mom, Don and Janet, were married in 1957 and started raising cows on shares with my grandparents, on a small ranch 10 miles southwest of Valier. They raised 7 kids on this small operation. Needless to say, everyone learned how to work and be very thrifty and efficient. That also included the cows. In 1962, Mom and Dad bought their first registered Angus heifers and continued raising commercial cattle. Due to the influence from Pattern of Wye, Dad learned that all cows were not created equal. In the 1960s, most cattle were very short and blocky; they would have been a frame score of one or even less. The Wye cattle were a larger frame for that time. The industry trends changed in the late 60s and early 70s to larger cattle and the Wye cattle became very popular. The trend continued to go larger and larger framed in the late 70s and 80s. It did not take Mom and Dad long to understand that the direction the industry was headed was not the path they wanted to be on. They decided with the influence of the old Pattern Bull, they would once again go to the Wye herd for their genetics and they spent many years selling bulls private treaty to repeat commercial buyers. After working 6 years as a mechanic for John Deere, I moved back to the ranch in 1988. We had our first production sale in the spring of 1989 in an old barn. Looking at it today, I still wonder how we did it.  At that time, we were selling about 50 bulls at the sale. We continued to line breed for functional, maternal and efficient traits. This was not a popular or easy path to be on at the time, but I am still completely convinced it was the proper path to take. In 2006, we had our first fall production sale where we sold long yearling forage developed bulls. Now we sell our genetics all over the US, Canada and Argentina. My wife Cathy and I sell about 130 bulls and 100 bred females at our sale every fall. This is our 16th annual Sire Directory offering our time-tested line bred genetics.

We run 360 registered Angus cows on approximately 1000 acres of irrigated hay ground/pasture and 2000 rangeland acres.  Historically, we calved in January, grazed rangeland during the growing season, made lots of hay on irrigated ground and fed hay half the year.  We have since moved to spring calving (calves expected May 19, 2021), develop our bulls on forage, graze irrigated land, allow rangeland long recovery periods, make less hay and are working toward year ‘round grazing.  We sell 100 bred females and 100 forage developed bulls at our annual sale in November.  

Grazing on green grass begins in early May.  Calves are born in the second half of May and June.  Irrigating water is available about May 15.  We make a single crop of hay in early July.  Breeding season runs from the middle of August through the end of September.  Preparing for the sale occupies time in October and November.  We try to get many of the sale cattle delivered before Christmas.  Calves are weaned and cows worked in January.  Freeze branding calves takes place in March or April.  Daily cow moves, infrastructure development, feeding bulls and maintenance are ongoing tasks throughout the year.

The Mentors

Jim Spinner & Mark DeBoo

Mark DeBoo is the owner and mastermind behind Diamond D Angus.  He credits his father and grandfather for teaching him to maintain a steady course when it comes to breeding functional cattle.  They had seen the industry chase different extremes which helped them realize the most important economic traits are moderate size and longevity.  Feed and cow depreciation are the two biggest costs commercial producers face.  DDA cows utilize forage resources very efficiently and often produce twice the number of calves in their lifetime than the national average.  Mark is responsible for breeding decisions/strategies, marketing, irrigation and mechanical troubleshooting.
Jim Spinner, cattle manager, began managed grazing in the late 1990s.  Apprentices spend a majority of their time with our cattle and grazing manager, Jim Spinner. Having already made most of the “beginner’s” mistakes, he isn’t afraid to change things that aren’t working or are inefficient.  A life long learner, he sought training from experts like Jim Gerrish and Bud Williams.  He finds good grass management, soil health regeneration and good stockmanship very rewarding.  Jim’s wife Jess and their 3 children (14, 12, 10 years old) often accompany him during the summer time. and are a big part of his life on and off the ranch.  The family enjoys waterskiing, camping, fishing, hunting and horses together as soon as the work day is done.

 Apprentices also assist ranch owner, Mark DeBoo, with equipment maintenance, haying and center pivot irrigation systems.  On days when we need a larger crew (working cattle and sale day, for example), apprentices work alongside our friends and families.  Many of those people have valuable experience to share, as well.







The Apprentice

What will an apprentice do?

We have hosted interns for 6 years.  Apprentices can expect to gain experience in some or all of the following:

  • Managed grazing – daily moves with temporary electric fence;  forage estimation to determine sizes of daily paddocks and budget annual forage supply;  monitor grazing aftermath and effect on pasture regrowth
  • Develop grazing infrastructure – build fence and stock water systems to facilitate grazing management and reach a goal of grazing year ‘round;  participate in decision making processes related to infrastructure development
  • Cattle management – identification and record keeping at calving;  semen testing bulls;  checking natural heats for artificial insemination;  pregnancy checking;  collect hair samples for DNA analysis;  live animal carcass ultrasound;  computerized records
  • Center pivot irrigation – operate and maintain 7 pivots on the ranch;  every pivot is grazed at least once a year
  • Stockmanship/low stress cattle handling – we strive to handle cattle quietly and efficiently;  corrals are modified as needed with portable panels to meet current needs;  participate in discussions related to handling and animal flow
  • Animal health – good grazing management and healthy soils lead to healthy animals;  alternative treatment/prevention of common health issues (pinkeye, internal and external parasites); administer select vaccines;  treat individual cases as necessary
  • Annual sale – handle cattle for sorting and video footage of sale animals;  assist with bull evaluation;  production of sale catalog;  customer service during the sale   
  • Equipment operation – tractor, skid steer, front end loader, ranch pickup, UTV/ATV, swather, baler, pipe ripper
  • Maintenance – machinery, fences, water systems, buildings, grounds and landscaping

Young people entering agriculture are critical to keeping rural landscapes and communities intact.  Regenerative agriculture has a particularly attractive and compelling story that can influence the next generation of farmers and ranchers.  We feel sharing that vision is part of our commitment to regenerative ranching.  When schedules allow, we visit other regenerative ranches for even broader exposure.  In addition to on the job learning for our apprentices, we include them in family activities including meals, sightseeing, waterskiing, fishing, camping and horseback riding.  We tend to work hard and play hard.



What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?


    • Valid Driver’s License
    • Open minded with a willingness to learn and not afraid to share ideas
    •  Sense of Humor is a must
    • ALL ranch pickups have standard (‘stick’) transmissions, so folks should have prior experience operating a clutch.
    • There is a lot of walking to do all the poliwire set up and take down on foot, carrying reels and posts.  Salt and mineral comes in 50lb bags. An apprentice should be able to walk, pickup 50lb bags to load the truck, etc.  We weigh calves at birth and some of them will be over 90lbs.  Every so often there is incentive to get out of a mad mama’s way quickly, too.  

What skills and traits are desired in an apprentice?


  • General knowledge of machinery maintenance
  • Some farm machinery experience 
  • Some experience around large animal
  • The most important things an apprentice can bring with them are a positive attitude, team player mentality and an interest in grazing cattle.  We enjoy people that are courteous and willing to help get any job done whether that be daily chores, fencing, working cattle, making hay, machinery repair, home maintenance or yard work.  Previous experience (for example, tractor w/loader, making hay, livestock handling) is a plus, but it is easily taught to people that really want to learn.  

Nuts & Bolts


Start Date: April/May through November/December,

Length of Apprenticeship: 8-9 months

Stipend: $1000/month

General work hours: Typical work week is 7:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday, half day Saturday, Sundays off after the morning cattle move.  However, there are seasonal responsibilities (calving, AI breeding, haymaking, cattle working days) that can and will alter that schedule.  We try to be flexible as long as the work gets done when it needs to be done.  We have talked about a rotation schedule for weekends off, but have not officially implemented anything as of yet.

Housing: We provide apprentices with separate, comfortable living quarters on the ranch with paid utilities and internet. This space also serves as the kitchen and office at sale time which requires apprentices to bunk with other personnel temporarily.   The apartment is adequately furnished for sleeping, relaxing and cooking.  

Laundry: Apprentice housing has a washer and dryer and is occasionally used by other personnel.

Internet availability:   Internet available in housing!

Cell Phone: Work cell phone provided.

Time off: Typically 1 to 2 days/week.  Typical work week is about 45 hours.  We attempt to rotate weekend duties whenever possible and are flexible as long as work is getting done on time.

Visitors policy: Guests are welcome if they can follow the same rules and not interfere with job duties. 

Food: We provide ranch raised beef and the opportunity to join in shared meals.  We are discussing the possibility of a food stipend.

Pets: Pets and personal work animals considered on a case by case basis. 

Tobacco and alcohol use:  No smoking or spitting in ranch buildings, vehicles or equipment.  Dispose of cigarette butts appropriately. Legal alcohol use is permitted outside of regular work hours as long as it does not interfere with job duties.No illegal activity or substances tolerated.

Guns: Firearms are allowed.

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:We are pretty relaxed on the ranch, but even our small part of the world has been affected by Corona virus.  We are often outside and distanced due to the work at hand.  When we are in close quarters (for example, under the hood learning to change oil), please be courteous not to breathe, cough, sneeze on each other.   If you’re not feeling well, please let us know so we can avoid any potential spread.  In town, please follow the policies set by individual business owners without a fuss.  We don’t mean to be unwelcoming, but have our own families with both young and old people to think about, so will probably exercise caution around an apprentice for a couple weeks before sharing meals and confined spaces. With the help of Quivira, we will monitor cases and may change our protocol depending on virus transmission rates.

Ranch vehicles: Apprentice will drive ranch vehicles during work hours. All vehicles are manual transmission.

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 any personal items.

Living at Diamond D Angus Ranch:

Valier (12 miles) is a small town with limited services including gas station, hardware store, grocery store, auto repair shop and camping along the shores of Lake Frances.  Dining opportunities in Valier are a cafe and bar/grill.  Dupuyer (8 miles) has a popular restaurant, Buffalo Joe’s.  Conrad (25 miles) has a bigger grocery store and movie theatre.  Great Falls (75 miles) is the nearest big city with nationally known stores (WalMart, Scheels, SuperOne Foods, Home Depot, etc) and a wider variety of dining options.  
You can fish for trout, perch, walleye or northern pike within 25 miles of the ranch.  Access to the mountains and national forest is about 25 miles west of the ranch.  Glacier National Park is about an hour’s drive, but all of the entrances on the east side of the park are currently closed due to COVID.  At this time, entrance to the park is from the west entrance, about 2.5 hours’ drive.  This is a beautiful mountain drive with national forest and fishing access along the route.

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.


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