Oxbow Cattle Company

8 month cattle ranching apprenticeship in Missoula, Montana

The Ranch

Our livelihood depends on the health and resilience of the land where we graze our herds. We value our livestock and strive to give them the highest standard of care while believing our most important task is good stewardship of the streams, foothills, forests and grasslands where we work. We partner with local organizations to protect our land from urban development, to regenerate creeks and riparian areas, and to reestablish native flora and fauna. We raise grass-finished beef and sell it to various restaurants and grocers in Missoula. We also sell through our F2M, an honor system-based beef store open 24/7 and located at ranch headquarters.

Check out the Oxbow website

 

Regenerative Practices

Regenerating the land is at the core of our mission here at Oxbow. While there are many definitions for the term “regenerative,” we believe it means to leave a place better than you found it. We practice holistic management and make key decisions for our business based on our goals to improve the lands we have the privilege to manage. We rotate our cattle as frequently as possible given water and feed availability. Sometimes this means every day or even twice a day, and sometimes, during a dry year where our usual water sources are dried up, that means moving cows once a week. An apprentice with oxbow will learn that there’s more one correct solution for progessive management. In past years, we’ve purchased and grazed goats for weed management. We use PastureMap for our grazing planning and drought planning and have various monitoring sites on the ranch. 

We are currently working on infrastructure at our Miller Creek headquarters- building a new barn/office, a walk-in freezer for our F2M, irrigation development, and new corrals. We also consider ourselves to be life-long learners and are continually attending workshops to improve our stockmanship, horsemanship, financial planning, understanding of our soils and more.

Map of Brussett, Montana
photo of a Band of Sheep on the Coulter Ranch in Montana

The Mentors

Bart & Wendy Morris

Bart Morris and Wendy Morris started Oxbow Cattle company in 2014. Bart switched to ranching after a long career as a game warden. Growing up in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, he spent much of his childhood working on ranches, hunting, fishing, and just being a Wyoming kid. He believes land stewardship is a great responsibility and takes no shortcuts to help restabilize a creek bed, re-introduce native grasses, and non-selectively graze his cows to promote plant diversity. He has many years of experience working with animals and an even stronger love and appreciation for all sentient beings. He is an excellent horseman and stockhandler and loves to teach and talk about low stress stockmanship as well as natural horsemanship. He loves his community and knows that Oxbow wouldn’t exist without the support of the Missoula community. He also loves his dogs. Wendy Morris loves her dogs too and has been a full time anesthesiologist in Missoula for the past 16 years. Because she’s a doctor, she has a deep understanding of cattle health, including appropriate diagnoses and required medication. Wendy is a highly skilled stock handler and cowboy. Because she grew up ranching, she brings a unique perspective to Oxbow that only someone who has ranched their entire life can bring. Her biggest strength as a mentor will be her insightfulness. She is always paying attention to people’s needs and will be the first to make sure an apprentice is doing ok during a stressful move or day. She is also a plan maker and keeps Oxbow running smoothly. Wendy will be moving to part-time at the hospital in 2022 with the hopes to spend more time with her cows, horses, dogs and Bart. 

Natalie Berkman

Natalie has worked with Oxbow since January 2022 and worked at the Milton Ranch near Roundup, Montana as a NAP apprentice for two years before that. Before NAP, she worked on and managed small-scale, diversified vegetable farms in Colorado and Montana. She decided growing turnips wasn’t for her anymore and switched to raising cows which better aligns with her plans for large-scale land stewardship. Natalie loves being outside and the easiest way to cheer her up is to spend time with cows. As livestock manager, the apprentice will spend the majority of their time with her. Although she is still new to ranching, she has put a lot of work in the last three years to understand the ins and outs of ranching, specifically with intensive grazing. She has also absorbed all information possible from Bill and Dana Milton, Bart and Wendy, and various consultants and neighbors who she’s worked with. Although she didn’t grow up ranching or riding, she loves moving cows with her bonny wee border collie and is starting to feel comfortable and confident in the saddle. 

 

 

The Apprentice

What will an apprentice do?

An apprentice can expect to:

  • Assist with calving our mother herd (100+- cows)
  • Build electric poly-wire fence 
  • Fixing permanent barbed wire fencing
  • Understand grazing management: calculating ADA’s, assessing cattle behavior, forage assessment, when to move, how big of a paddock to build, mapping the move on Pasture Map
  • Cattle moves: we use horses and dogs for most of our cattle work but also move cows on foot.
    • Studying and practicing the principles of low stress livestock handling
  • Cattle health assessments: looking for sick animals, monitoring recently doctored animals
    • Bart and Wendy rope sick animals and the apprentice will learn how to do ground work and administer medication
    • Help with our beef business: we check our F2M store every day and spend every other Wednesday afternoon pricing and sorting beef in our F2M
    • Occasional beef deliveries around Missoula 
    • There could be more possibilities to become involved in the beef business depending on the apprentice’s interests. 
    • Loading and hauling animals (the apprentice will become very comfortable hauling stock trailers) 
  • Assisting with infrastructure projects around Miller Creek (operating tractors, skid steer, etc) 
  • Flood irrigation in the Spring
  • Participate in our head and heel brandings in July 

 

What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?

    • Valid Driver’s License

What skills and traits are desired in an apprentice?

We want an apprentice with experience in and a passion for regenerative ranching, a love of all living beings, a love of being outdoors for both work and recreation, someone who takes accountability for their actions, is honest, has a desire to learn, has a good work ethic, and someone with experience riding horses.

 

Photo of Casey coulter with cows

Nuts & Bolts

 

Start Date: April 1, 2023

Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months

Stipend: $1000/month

General work hours: An average day at Oxbow is from 8 am – 6 pm. Sometimes we have very long days, especially during calving when we have to check animals before last night, and are running back and forth between the two main properties. It is not unusual to get home around 8 or later during the busy season. We really strive to finish work by 5 or 6 and are getting better at accomplishing that. We also believe in having weekends off. We usually alternate who’s “on-call” for a weekend, with their only required duty checking the F2m. However, Natalie likes to check cows and have slow workdays to herself when she’s on call, and Bart and Wendy like to do projects around Miller creek when they’re on call. 

Housing: We are not positive about what our housing situation will be yet, but the plan is to buy a camper and park it at Miller Creek where there will be electricity and water hook-ups.

Laundry: TBD – will be shared.

Internet availability: In apprentice housing 

Cell Phone Provider: All carriers 

Time off: The apprentice will have weekends off with 1-2 “on call” weekends per month.

Visitors policy: Visitors are welcome as long as discussed in advance. We encourage visitors to come on days off. 

Food: $100/month beef stipend provided

Pets: This will be a case-by-case conversation to ensure the best outcome for both parties.

Horses: Yes, and experience is desired

Tobacco, alcohol & cannabis use: No tobacco or cannabis permitted at all, and alcohol allowed after work hours but must the apprentice must not be hungover or otherwise incapacitated while on the clock, including on-call weekends. 

Guns: Guns are allowed but must be disclosed and safely secured.

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 ranch 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.

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

Additional items apprentice should bring: The apprentice should bring any personal items, bedding, towels and work gear. 

Living at Oxbow Ranch:  Oxbow headquarters (Miller Creek) are located within the city limits of Missoula, MT. Missoula is the second largest city in Montana with all the amenities of a hip, small city. Oxbow is about 20 minutes from downtown missoula. From April-December, most of our animals will be at the Saphhire Ranch–  our main lease south of Lolo in the Bitterroot valley. We will still meet at Miller Creek most mornings, where our shop, f2m and corrals are located. Missoula is a college town, known to be the “hippest” city in Montana with many good restaurants, concerts, small farms and the like.

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 a late March or early April orientation, participate in supplemental education provided by Quivira Coalition, attend in-person land health workshops 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.

Apply Now!

Applications for a 2023 apprenticeship will be accepted through December 15, 2022

 

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