Redwing Ranch is a working ranch in the process of transitioning the land and operation from conventional grazing to regenerative- and conservation-focused management.
As the climate is changing, we are changing to regenerative grazing. After a history of conventional grazing on these lands, Redwing Ranch is transitioning management practices to those that work with nature by adapting grazing activities to weather and growing conditions and thinking holistically about both the pasture conditions for cattle and the habitat conditions for local wildlife.
Redwing Ranch is located in Huerfano County, in Southern Colorado on the eastern flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Ranging in elevation from ~7,200′ to ~8,600′, the ranch has a variety of habitats and topography that allow for cattle grazing, hay production and supporting wildlife. The lands comprise approximately 500 acres of irrigated hay fields, ~1000 acres of pasture and over 2000 acres of rangeland and ridge-lines, for a total of 3,600 deeded acres and 200 leased BLM acres. A mile of the Huerfano River bisects the ranch and provides senior water rights used for spring and summer irrigation.
Cattle are our tool for improving our pastures and rangelands. Fortunately, that does not mean we need to own them! As such we have begun this reimagined phase of the operation by partnering with other cattle operations and custom grazing their animals. This allows us the flexibility to match the number of animals to the resources and climate patterns of the year, and lowers our overhead and dependance on the cattle market. This first year we started with a smaller herd as we learn how the existing infrastructure will work with planned grazing and frequent pasture moves. We look forward to increasing numbers and seeing the benefits of animal impact next year.
We are excited to invite an Apprentice to join us working with nature and learning every day how to rebuild our soils, rejuvenate our habitats, and invite more wildlife onto the ranch all the while raising happy, healthy beef cattle. Come join a dynamic team and help build a new regenerative grazing operation from the foundation up, a unique opportunity in a beautiful landscape!
Empowering the team, livestock, community, and nature.
Redwing Ranch is a regenerative operation with a healthy water cycle and ever-improving biological metrics. We are interested in scaling and growing at a sustainable rate through holistic planning and proactive decision-making. We have appropriate ranch systems in place that allow us to operate at our true carrying capacity. Through example, our ranch is creating opportunities to partner and grow our local community. All of this is made possible by a happy and empowered team that runs a profitable operation that supports itself.
- We use targeted grazing to manage the lands and keep condition on the cattle.
- We use a grazing plan, irrigation logs, pasture monitoring and GIS mapping tools to prepare for, track and monitor grazing and grassland response on the ranch.
- We use permanent and temporary infrastructure, as appropriate.
- We consider the ecological impacts and benefits in each decision we make for the cattle and land.
- Daily checks on the cattle and the pastures allow us to maintain a healthy herd.
Christy Wyckoff is the owner/operator of Redwing Ranch. As a wildlife ecologist, Christy’s career has focused on wildlife conservation and ecological land management, skills that she is now using to move Redwing Ranch from conventional to regenerative grazing practices. Prior to her move back to Colorado in 2022, Christy was the Deputy Director of the Santa Lucia Conservancy, in Carmel, California, where she led the wildlife research, prescribed-fire and community-fire-preparation programs. She also supervised the land management program which included the Conservancy’s novel conservation cattle grazing program that used cattle for habitat restoration. Christy received her BS in Biology from Stanford University, ‘02, chased feral pigs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville for her MS, ‘07, and delved into the molecular world of chronic wasting disease in elk at Colorado State University for her PhD, ‘13. Over her career Christy has advised and mentored over 40 students (undergraduate and graduate) advancing the careers of young conservation and land management scientists.
Fiona Jackson joined Redwing Ranch as the Ranch Manager at the beginning of 2023. After graduating California Polytechnic State University with a BS in Agricultural Business and a minor in Sustainable Agriculture, Fiona worked on a large commercial cow-calf operation in eastern Colorado for three years where she implemented cell grazing at a landscape scale. She is excited to combine her past experience with Redwing’s vision for rebuilding our soils while producing a quality product. Fiona is enthusiastic about creating longevity in cattle enterprises and believes this can be done when working with nature. Her ability to problem solve and her growth-centered mindset are assets for Redwing as the ranch prioritizes more holistic decision making. She enjoys kayaking and roping when she’s not on the ranch, and is constantly wanting to learn and improve. Fiona is living on the ranch with her puppy, and enjoys having friends and family to visit.
What will an apprentice do?
No day is ever the same and no task too small for any member of the team. Working with Christy and Fiona will include building polywire fence and moving cattle (on foot and on atvs); learning how to, and eventually managing, spring/summer ditch irrigation across the ranch; repairing and building infrastructure such as permanent fence, irrigation headgates, irrigation ditches, out buildings, and roads; learning to use the equipment including skid steer, backhoe and mini excavator; assisting in monitoring and management of pastures (scoring the grazing impact, documenting grazing moves and pasture arrangement, assisting with photo points, species lists, invasive weed management).
This position is best suited for an individual who is energetic, excited to work outside, has an upbeat attitude and is eager to learn, is comfortable working independently and able to follow through on a wide variety of tasks in variable weather and across a variety of terrains. This position will advance your knowledge in regenerative grazing and ecology.
Duties and opportunities include:
- Assisting with annual irrigation of pastures and hay fields on ~500 acres and working with neighbors who share the ditch.
- Daily care of livestock including water management, cattle well-being, salt and mineral supplies.
- Following the grazing plan and adapting as needed.
- Building and repairing permanent barbed and temporary electric fence.
- Moving cattle between pastures by foot or on ATV.
- Assisting with livestock handling and doctoring as needed.
- Assisting with regular monitoring and data collection of pastures and livestock for decision making and planning.
- Assisting with the repair of infrastructure and buildings as needed, including but not limited to fencing, livestock water systems, out buildings, residences, roads, irrigation ditch maintenance and use.
- Mowing around buildings and conducting targeted fuel maintenance.
- Using and conducting basic regular maintenance of heavy equipment.
- Participation in weekly staff meetings (WITB).
- Opportunities to participate in planning meetings (WOTB).
- Additional responsibilities as needed and per request.
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
- Physically capable of, and willing to commit to, long days and physical labor.
- Clear communication and ability to ask for help when needed.
- Good organizational skills and dedication to responsibilities.
- Problem solver willing to identify and address problems.
- Demonstrated competence with smartphones, Microsoft Office, Google Suite, digital record keeping and the use of other technology tools.
- Ability to manage professional and healthy relationships with co-workers, partners, and neighbors.
- Safety conscience with a good record of safety practices and willingness to use PPE and follow safety protocols.
- Resourceful, interested in new grazing and land management concepts and has a desire to learn new skills.
- Has honesty, integrity, intellect, work ethic and passion for the work.
- Willingness to live on the ranch full time (conditional on employment) and have a flexible schedule for adapting the work week.
- Clean driving record and legally able to work in the United States for any employer.
Skills that an apprentice would expect to acquire:
- Experience with regenerative grazing concepts & practices
- Low stress stockmanship
- Ditch flood irrigation
- Ecological concepts of disturbance regimes and managing for complexity & resilience
- Infrastructure maintenance and repair
- Experience and instruction on safe and effective use of operating equipment (skid steer, backhoe, mini-ex)
- Experience using GPS and GIS in the field and in the office
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: Ideal start date is March 4, 2024 and the ideal end date November 1, 2024.
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months, however we may be able to accommodate different start/end dates.
Compensation: Pay is hourly at $15/hour and an average 40 hour week. Housing is included.
General work hours: The workday generally begins at 7 or 8 am, depending on the task and who you are working with. The routine is to check cattle first (if we have cattle on the place that month). April-July is generally the irrigation season (moisture dependent) so those months include daily, and sometimes hourly, moves of water across the irrigated pastures. The grazing plan guides the schedule for cattle moves and new temporary fence construction, but typically the cattle move every 3-5 days. Infrastructure and land management are never ending objectives that keep us busy the rest of the day! In general the day wraps up around 4:30 but depending on the events of the day it can be later. General work schedule of 5 days a week with uncertain and changing hours dictated by livestock and operational needs, will include most weekends.
Housing: On-ranch housing for the duration of the position, and contingent on employment. Furnishings will be provided. The provided housing will be a room in the Headquarters House, located in the heart of the ranch. The historic building has been recently remodeled, has laundry and a fully supplied kitchen and is a shared space with our office, and housing for other staff and interns.
Laundry: Available in the housing area.
Internet: Starlink wifi is available in the house.
Cell Service: Service is variable across the ranch, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are all have about the same amount of coverage in different locations of the ranch.
Time-Off: The work week will be 5 days a week but will include some weekends, so days off will vary. Personal time off is important to our team so we will work with you if you need time off for a trip or visitor.
Visitors: We love guests, and Apprentice will be allowed to have visitors, however, all visits should be cleared with the Mentor prior to the visit and guests will be required to sign the liability waiver. Guest accommodations will be dependent on the occupancy of the Headquarters House.
Food: In general, no food or meals are provided (30 minute lunch break during work day for you to return to your housing and cook/eat). Some beef cuts will be shared and group meals happen spontaneously.
Pets: Well behaved dogs are negotiable, with a damage deposit. (Must be able to followvoice commands, is trustworthy off-leash and will not harass livestock or other staff dogs and barn cats). Sorry no cats.
All the fun stuff: Absolutely no smoking allowed, indoor or outdoor. Vaping of tobacco and cannabis outside of buildings, and drinking in moderation are permitted in your off time.
Guns, Fishing & Hunting: Requires valid license and permission from Christy Wyckoff. Permission granted on a case by case basis. Guns must be properly and safely stored.
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 Workers Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job.
Ranch Vehicles: Apprentices will have use of use of a shared ranch vehicle, UTV or ATV in coordination with other staff members. Employees will not be required to use a personal vehicle for ranch work. Ranch vehicles are for ranch use only.
Personal Vehicle: A personal vehicle is required to get to town for free time & errands.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: Good footwear – cowboy boots and/or hiking boots are recommended for work in the fields and corrals. For irrigation we recommend muck boots or mud boots. Leather work gloves for fencing etc are also important to have. We are up in the mountains so the weather can swing from snowing to sunny in a couple hours so layers are critical including jackets that you don’t mind snagging on barbed wire and others that will keep you dry in the snow or rain. A couple of hat options are also recommended, broad brimmed hats for sunny days and baseball caps for those windy days. Quality sunglasses are important for protecting your eyes at elevation. If you have certain kitchen/house items you like, we recommend bringing them. Bedding and bathroom towels are provided, but bring your own if you like.
Living on Redwing Ranch
- Grocery shopping: There is a Safeway & Fresh Choice in Walsenburg, about 45 minutes east, and there is a small local market in Westcliffe about 45 minutes north.
- Dining: All restaurant options are in Westcliffe or Walsenburg.
- Entertainment: Gardner has a bar but not much of any other businesses, entertainment out here includes hiking and recreating on the ranch or surrounding public lands, or creating your own entertainment.
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.
Apprentice housing that is currently being remodeled: