We are located in Southeast Idaho near the town of Blackfoot. We are a family ranch first established in 1904 by homesteader Joe Pratt. Though we are surrounded on all sides by large scale agriculture, we still have a largely natural landscape of rolling sandhills and grass/alfalfa fields. We flood irrigate and enjoy the tree-lined canals that this promotes. We are holistic management trained, and focus on low-stress stockmanship with help from a good bunch of border collies. Good horses, soil health, biodiversity and lifelong learning are some of the tenets we hope to foster with others through the apprenticeship program.
The valley ranch is about 1,000 acres of dry sandhills and irrigated pasture. The cattle herd spends the winter here on feed harvested nearby. We also keep some weaned calves over the winter in a small feedlot at ranch headquarters. We calve in March and April and in May walk the pairs to summer range about 45 miles away to the Blackfoot River Mts. We wean calves in October and walk the cows home in November/December. We are long time members of a grazing cooperative in the summer utilizing both public and private lands.
We market through Country Natural Beef and follow their guidelines around cattle welfare and treatment protocols. We also sell a small number of grass-finished animals direct to local consumers.
- We plan grazing to provide plant recovery to the best of our ability.
- We utilize temporary and permanent fence to address time and timing of grazing.
- We are continually developing our observational skills, and learning about the variety of plants and animals that call our ranch home.
- We foster heterogeneity in our pastures to allow for wildlife to flourish.
- We advocate for soil health, wise water use, and are active in advocacy and education in our community.
Mark & Wendy Pratt
Our biggest asset on the ranch is our people.
Mark will be the main mentor. Besides being a managed grazing and soil health enthusiast, Mark is active in organizations throughout the state to promote our industry. He is past Idaho Cattle Association president, is on the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission and is a member of the Governor’s Recreation Task Force. Mark’s super-power is reading cattle and paying close attention to their health and wellbeing. He is also excellent with horses. He taught high school agriculture for 12 years and relates well with young people.
Wendy serves on the local and state soil and water conservation board and writes and speaks on behalf of conservation ranching. Her blog: the pastoral muse, has been active for some 12 years now.
Their son Seth and his wife Leah live on the ranch and help us after hours. Seth works from home for an agriculture company. His border collies, Elsa and Ruby, are two of the most valuable employees on the ranch. Leah keeps track of their two kids, Emma and Ruth.
Their daughter Anna and her husband Cole also live on the ranch. Cole works remotely as well, but helps during calving and any time we need his excellent horsemanship and roping skills. Anna stays home with their one-year-old Lou but helps with the cattle when she can and leaves Lou with grandma.
These four young people have a wealth of education, curiosity, passion for agriculture, and a love of the land and legacy that is invaluable.
What will an apprentice do?
A typical day in March includes feeding the herd, strawing the yearlings, providing assistance to calving cows, cleaning the barn, and checking heifers. April means starting the irrigation ditches, first by burning, then by pitching the debris as the flow starts. Calving is on-going, as is feeding. Calf health is monitored closely during this time. By May the irrigation streams are flowing and we’re moving them once or twice daily by moving dams, opening and closing headgates, and monitoring the flow. We are repairing fence in the mountains in preparation for the move to the range. The herd leaves for the mts. in two bunches which takes about a week. In June, July and August we travel back and forth from the valley to the higher range ground. We ride to monitor health and change pastures in the mountains. In the valley we harvest hay with assistance from neighboring custom harvesters, conduct weed control by spot spraying with herbicides and cutting individual plants for a couple of weeks spring and fall, and weed whack ditches to keep the irrigation water moving. We are moving yearlings throughout the summer on home pastures. In September we have time for maintenance of facilities, vaccinating and preg checking, and more pasture evaluation as necessary. Every day monitoring of drinking water for the herd is critical.
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
- interest in regenerative agriculture methods
- interest in cattle care and handling
- a sense of curiosity and eagerness to ask questions and listen!!
- good work ethic and pride in a job well done
- see the job through to completion
- understands the flexible schedule that natural systems demand
- can do moderate to heavy lifting, hiking, etc. in adverse weather
Skills that an Apprentice would expect to acquire:
- fencing and corral repair
- fencing installation – electric and permanent barbed wire
- feeding cows
- starting ditches in the spring by burning, then pitching debris
- flood irrigation, using a shovel, setting dams, monitoring flow
- a little hand-line sprinkler irrigation, maybe pivot
- operating a tractor
- moving electric fence
- water trough maintenance and monitoring
- moving cattle on horse, 4-wheeler and on foot
- learning how stock dogs are used to move cattle
- horsemanship safety
- cleaning saddles and tack
- operating a weed eater
- operating a backpack weed sprayer
- operating a chainsaw
- vaccinating and other processing tasks, putting cattle thru a chute, applying insecticide
- rangeland evaluation, grass readiness, riparian health
- how to evaluate cattle health
- social skills to work with agencies, other grazing cooperative ranchers, multiple family generation
- invasive plant management
- good cattle handling basics
- calculating animals days/acre and recovery time
Applications for the 2024 season open November 1st, 2023.
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: Preferably February 20, but we can be flexible
Length of Apprenticeship: Thru October 31
Stipend: $1800/month paid once a month
General work hours: 7-7 summer hours with mid-day lunch and break
Housing: We have a 2 bedroom house just a short walk from our home. It has a washing machine and clothesline, refrigerator/freezer. It has big shade trees so it’s cool in the summer. We are currently remodeling the bathroom and one bedroom.
Laundry: Available in your house
Cell Service: Yes
Time off: One day per week, some flexibility here for special occasions
Visitors: We allow visitors from time to time if we know ahead of time and they don’t interfere with the work schedule.
Food: all the beef you can eat
Pets: Any pets will need to be outdoors. Dogs will need to be tied up.
Horse Use: We have a ranch horse you can ride if you want, but it isn’t necessary.
All the fun stuff: No smoking in the house, no drinking on the job.
Guns: Talk to us on this one
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. We carry Workman’s Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job.
Ranch Vehicles: Apprentice will use ranch vehicles for work, to include trucks and 4-wheeler.
Personal Vehicle: A personal vehicle is recommended for time off and to get to town for activities/errands.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: Hiking boots for summer and insulated muck boots for spring weather are a must. If you want to ride you’ll need slip-on riding boots. You will need lined leather or weather proof gloves for spring work and unlined leather ones for summer. We have a good ranch supply store close by so items can be acquired here. Also, a good pocket knife. Warm clothing for calving and feeding are needed, insulated coveralls would be great, but some wool pants to go over jeans would work. A knit cap for sure. Also bring lighter jackets for summer evenings. It gets hot, in the upper 90’s, in the height of summer. Bring sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. We have kitchen items, but there’s a good thrift store close by for items like these. We have bedding and towels if you need them or you can bring your own.
Living at The Pratt Ranch
- Grocery shopping: There is a Walmart and a smaller local grocery store 15 mins from the ranch.
- Dining: There are good dining options and fast food 15 mins away in Blackfoot.
- Entertainment: We’ve got great options for hiking, climbing, fishing, mt. biking etc. not far from the ranch. Idaho Falls is a half hour away, it has social events throughout the summer.
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 Zoom calls, complete skills checklists with their mentors, and attend the annual REGENERATE Conference in November. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship that will be posted in the New Agrarian Voices blog on the Quivira website.