Milton RanchEight-Month Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship in Roundup, Montana
Milton Ranch, a family owned and operated business, lies within the Musselshell Watershed in central Montana. Though not always in the same place, the Milton Family has been involved in ranching since 1956. The home ranch is mostly a grass-based enterprise applying a holistic management approach since the mid-eighties. The home ranch supports about 450 cows. We partner with a ranch in Nebraska-Wyoming to manage our yearling grass cattle, and first calf heifers (around 130 animals) We also are members of Country Natural Beef Coop, who market our cattle that are finished in Merino, Colorado.
Meet the mentors
Our Ranching Philosophy:
We practice regeneration on the ground and we practice regeneration with people. The ranch itself applies a fairly aggressive approach to time controlled and high stock density grazing practice involving frequent moves to optimize plant rest and soil cover impact. The ranch has monitored for many years in cooperation with BLM, FWPs, and NRCS using a third party consultant. Bill has been involved for three years with an effort (Rangeland Monitoring Group Project) to formalize a community-based approach to land health monitoring that involves ranchers, professionals, agencies, NGOs, and Montana State University.
An apprentice would be involved in all phases of the ranch operation including the ranch planning team, finance, genetics, grass and grazing management, monitoring, marketing, garden, and government, NGOs, and community relations. Bill actively facilitates and participates in a number of community-based landscape collaborative efforts, and an apprentice would be encouraged to participate in these various circles.
Desired & Required Apprentice Skills and Qualifications:
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
- good work ethic
- open to new experiences
- valid drivers license
Note: Our team (Dana, Bill and Ryan) are experienced in working with team members with ADHD behaviors. We would not be adverse to taking an apprentice with ADD or ADHD.
Bill Milton was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. During his childhood 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 the Conservation of Natural Resources. He met Dana during this time and they married in 1974. Following their marriage they moved permanently to Montana and in 1978 bought their first ranch. 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.
Dana Folsom Milton was born and raised in Berkeley, California. She comes from generations of artists, poets, writers and naturalists. Finding out in her forties that she had an extreme learning disability she tackled college. Dana graduated from Rocky Mountain College in 1969 summa cum laude with a B.S. in psychology. Her honors project was the development of the Musselshell/Golden Valley Victim Witness Assistance Program for which she served as the advocate for 6 years during which she was honored with the Victim Advocate of the Year award from the Attorney General. Health reasons forced her to resign and she has been working on the ranch ever since.
Ryan McCleary was born and raised in Roundup, MT. He came to work for the Milton Ranch part-time in 2003 and fulltime in 2005. He has been a loyal and valuable employee. He and Fawne have one teenage son, Kayse. He and Fawne raise and train horses and Ryan is a dedicated hunter and fisherman.
Skills that an apprentice may learn include:
- Temporary and permanent electric fencing for livestock
- Monitoring range health
- Infrastructure maintenance – water, corrals, buildings, vehicles
- Managing high stock density livestock grazing
- Participating/organizing collaborative community groups including conflict resolution
- Ranch financial management
- Basic vet skills including humane treatment of animals
- Wildlife and plant monitoring
- Marketing through Country Natural Beef (CNB), a large natural beef cooperative
Other possible skills (if interested) include
- Organic gardening
- Bread baking
- Instruction in Buddhist Meditation
Start Date: April 2020
Length of Apprenticeship: 6 – 8 months
General work hours: We are flexible on start and stop times depending on the time of year. In summer we may start earlier and finish earlier than in winter.
Housing: The Milton Ranch is currently working on appropriate housing for an apprentice.
Food: We grow a large garden and slaughter our own meat. Our apprentice would have access to this production. We can either provide a food stipend or include our apprentice’s food needs in our shopping list for Billings (a 3 hour round trip). 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: Our main house in the headquarters has high speed Internet. Access to that Internet will not be a problem. Cell phone service depends on the chosen provider and location. The headquarters has cell phone service.
Scheduled Time Off: We will schedule a regular day off every week with flexibily 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 inbuildings, 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.
The Milton Ranch will not be accepting applications for the 2021 season. They will be keeping their 2020 apprentice for a second year. Check back in October 2021.
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