Milton Ranch

Eight-Month Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship in Roundup, Montana

The Milton Ranch is a 15,000 acre ranch located northeast of Roundup, MT on the beautiful rolling Northern Plains. Our current operation supports 500 mother cows which we manage intensively, using electric fence for daily moves. We began studying the principles of Holistic Management in the early 70’s and are still employing ideas of herd effect, high intensity grazing and long recovery periods. We believe in large-scale conservation— the Northern Plains is one of the last remaining grassland ecosystems in the world, and we believe that with the collaboration of neighbors, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other like-minded ranchers, we can leverage our individual power to create real change on this landscape.

Meet the mentors

FAQs

Milton Ranch

Our Ranching Philosophy:

We believe in large-scale conservation— the Northern Plains is one of the last remaining grassland ecosystems in the world, and we believe that with the collaboration of neighbors, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other like-minded ranchers, we can leverage our individual power to create real change on this landscape.

This vision takes a lot of work. We spend a lot of time planning our daily grazing moves, setting up and taking down electric fence with our motorized fence spool, and using low-stress stockmanship to check cattle. Off the range, Bill spends much time facilitating meetings with various working groups to chip away at the Miltons’ vision of a sustainable ranching community in Montana.

Some current projects include:

Rangeland Monitoring Group: A new group of producers, scientists, educators and government agents working to address the question, how can we collect and organize range health data as a means to leverage our shared understanding of how, as land managers, we are positively impacting the Northern Plains?

Winnett ACES: A grass-roots non-profit working to sustain agriculture, community and the environment. The group is currently working on setting up grass banks in Montana to help young ranchers access land.

CM Russell Working Group: A group working with various stakeholders to represent the intersection of environmental, agricultural and recreational uses of the Charles M. Russel Wildlife Refuge, located north of the ranch.

While we do spend a lot of time ruminating and collaborating on larger visions, the Milton Ranch is very much a working family ranch and an apprentice will also gain the “harder” skills necessary to run a 500-pair operation. The apprentice will spend time with Ryan, who loves to share his knowledge on mechanics, infrastructure maintenance, general vehicle maintenance, welding, building, and animal health. 

An apprentice will also gain experience in marketing by participating in calls and meeting with our beef cooperative, Country Natural Beef. Through CNB, we market our animals that we’ve owned all the way up to processing. We currently run our yearlings down in Wyoming, so the apprentice wouldn’t gain skills in yearling management. Our beef is sold through CNB at natural-type grocery stores around the West, including Whole Foods and New Seasons. We participate in by-weekly calls with CNB members as well as financial meetings to make sure we all understand the challenges of the program and can contribute to cooperative decision making.

Check out the videos on our website for a better look at daily ranch activites: https://miltonranch.weebly.com/videos.html

 

Required and Desired Apprentice Attributes

We like to think of our apprentice as having attributes rather than specific skills.  We have worked with totally unskilled interns – some have been quite successful others not.

The attributes we would like in an apprentice include

  • honesty
  • good work ethic
  • collaborative
  • adaptive
  • open to new experiences
  • flexible
  • patient
  • imaginative/creative
  • curious
  • humorous

Required:

  • valid drivers license

 

The Mentors

Bill Milton was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. During his childhood, his father bought a ranch in Montana where Bill spent summers and holidays.  Bill attended Montana State University and transferred to UC Berkeley where he majored in Conservation of Natural Resources.  He met Dana during this time and they married in 1974. Following their marriage they moved permanently to Montana and with the help of his brother Max, bought their first ranch in 1978. They have been ranching ever since. On their ranch they raised 3 children. Their eldest, Moria Perez, is a Paramedic/Fire fighter in Manchester, CT. Their son Cameron is the head golf pro at the Polson Bay Golf Course in Polson, MT, and their youngest son, Morgan, is a chef and restaurant owner in Livingston, MT. Bill is a practicing Buddhist priest and can instruct an apprentice in zen meditation if they wish. Bill loves to cook healthy, delicious dinners and his favorite food is Dana’s homemade bread.

Dana Folsom Milton was born and raised in Berkeley, California.  She comes from generations of artists, poets, writers and naturalists.  Dana is a skilled carpenter, gardener, athlete, financial planner, craftswoman and bread baker. She will help the apprentice understand the financial side of ranching, breaking down budgets and going over monthly controls. She manages a very large garden and is always working on building projects, both of which an apprentice can help with. She can help an apprentice get to know the Roundup community, as she is quite involved with local Roundup events, and has close relationships with neighbors. Dana is a lover of all animals and has a soft spot for birds.

 

Ryan McCleary was born and raised in Roundup, MT.  He came to work for the Milton Ranch part-time in 2003 and full time in 2005.  He has been a loyal and valuable employee. He and Fawne have one teenage son, Kayse. They raise and train horses and Ryan is a dedicated hunter and fisherman. Ryan is a patient teacher and loves passing his knowledge along. He is a skilled butcher and not only makes a mean pork rib, but also loves sharing it.

FAQs

Skills that an apprentice will learn include:

  • Animal Management 
    • Calving heifers: gathering every night to bring into corrals, nightly checks, assisting with difficult births, ear tagging, banding
    • Calving cow herd (our cows calve on the range and don’t need assistance other than daily checks to monitor for bum calves, etc)
    • Basic health + doctoring,
    • Low stress stockmanship, both on the range and in corrals
    • Since the majority of our work involves electric fence, we do all our work with a truck and on foot. We do not use 4 wheelers to move cattle and we do not have horses. However, Ryan is a skilled horse person and so are our neighbors. While this is not the place for someone who’s main priority is learning horsemanship, there are opportunities to ride and learn from others.
    • Genetic selection, learning what kind of cow we want in the herd
    • Understanding of nutritional needs (mineral, protein etc)
    • Exposure to stock dogs, we have three

    Land Management 

    • Setting up and taking down electric fence for daily moves
    • Grazing planning, including calculating Animal Days per Acre, calculating paddock sizes based on multiple variables throughout the season, pre and post graze assessments, keeping records on MAIA app
    • Working with BLM agents (40% of ranch is public land)
    • Plant identification and basic ecology, biology and geology of the region
    • Monitoring, including birds, plants and soil
    • In-depth understanding of mob grazing/high intensity grazing

    Business/ Finances 

    • Participation in Country Natural Beef bi-weekly calls
    • Thorough understanding of ranch budget, including going over monthly controls and seasonal costs of production
    • Exposure to Quicken (how we pay bills, etc)
    • Exposure to basic Ranching for Profit principals

    Tools & Equipment 

    • Troubleshooting electric chargers
    • Understanding our 15-mile water pipeline system, including tanks, wells, pumps, and floats
    • Basic vehicle maintenance
    • Constructing high-tensile permanent fences
    • Digging holes and setting posts
    • Disassembling barbed wire fences
    • We do not put up our own hay or irrigate; our operation is lightly mechanized

     

Start Date: March-April 2022

Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months 

General work hours: We start the workday at 6:30 am during the summer months and 7 am in the spring/fall. We tend to work longer days during the spring and early summer as that is our busiest time of year. While we always get a full day’s work in, we take breaks as needed during the day.

Stipend: $1,200/month plus $200 food allowance

Housing: We renovated an old cake shed in 2020 for our apprentice. The cabin has running water, electricity, shower, toilet, heater and a stove! It is cozy and a good sized “tiny home.” We think it’s pretty cute.

Food: We grow a large garden and slaughter our own meat.  Our apprentice would have access to this production.  We provide a food stipend but apprentice will have access to ranch meat and will often eat with us if desired.  Roundup has two grocery stores but little access to organic vegetables.

Laundry: There are laundry facilities in the main house or the guesthouse – a schedule can be arranged.

Internet and cell phone service: Internet access is available in the apprentice’s cabin. Cell service is spotty all over the ranch, with AT&T having the best coverage.

Scheduled Time OffWe will schedule a regular day off every week with flexibility for both the ranch and the apprentice.

Visitors: We have no problem with short-term visitors as long as scheduled or required work is addressed.  We would like to know in advance numbers and dates. Long-term visitors would have be a topic for the team to discuss.

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.

Pets: Yes, as long as the animals are well managed and controlled. Dogs/cats/horses. 

Tobacco and Alcohol policy: Ranch housing and enclosed work spaces are all smoke free. Legal and appropriate alcohol use is ok outside of work hours. Smoking is not allowed in buildings, and very regulated on the ranch. No one currently smokes on the ranch.

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.

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 Milton Ranch: 

Milton Ranch is located 17 dirt road miles northeast of Roundup, Montana.  Roundup is a small town of 3,000 – in it’s hay day of coal mines the town topped 10,000.  It is said that Roundup has an equal number or churches and bars (I think the churches are ahead now).  The town has a library, tennis courts, swimming pool, active shooting club, sure the Milton Ranch apprentice would have access to the other Quivera apprentices as well as the two Big Sky Watershed Core interns.  Our experience and observations are that Roundup does not have much to offer socially to the 20-30 year old age group.  

Billings, Montana is 1-½ hours away from the ranch and has just about everything you would expect from the 2nd largest city in Montana.  Billings boasts an international airport (flights to Canada), restaurants, music, movies, a museum, and two colleges and is a medical hub for Montana and the surrounding states.  There are two National Parks (Yellowstone and Glacier) within an eight-hour drive. There are several large mountain ranges within a three-hour drive for outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, downhill and cross-country skiing. 

 

 

Applications for the Milton Ranch will open on November 1!

2020/2021 Apprentice

Natalie Berkman, Apprentice

“Most importantly, I fell in love with our cattle, sitting and observing, watching them until sunset. These experiences led me to this apprenticeship, where I hope to continue to grow roots in Montana’s ranching community and build an enduring relationship with my mentors. I want to learn about the complexities of our land ecosystems and listen to the stories of people dedicated to bringing our land back to life. Storytelling holds a lot of power to effect change. I want to create my own narrative of land and love to contribute to the growing story of good agriculture.” – Excerpt from the New Agrarian Voices Blog