The Veebaray is a scenic 16,000 contiguous acre rangeland cow/calf operation located between the Missouri River Breaks and the North Dakota badlands. The ranch has been passed down through the founder’s family for over 100 years. Long term strategic planning and major decisions are overseen by the Board of Directors with input from an onsite ranch manager.
The Veebaray Ranch utilizes holistic management practices in partnership with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and NRCS. We are also part of the Ranch Systems and Viability Planning program of the World Wildlife Fund. The terrain is primarily rangeland that is a varied mix of rolling hills, wooded coulees, draws, and rough outcroppings. The ranch also includes approximately 150 acres of dry cropland and another 250 acres of farmland that is in the process of being reverted to rangeland with a mix of native grasses. The varied habitat supports healthy populations of upland gamebirds, mule and whitetail deer and pronghorn antelope. Occasional elk, and moose are also to be found in the more remote portions of the ranch.
We raise cattle, but are really in the solar energy business. Every acre of the ranch is a solar panel to capture sunlight, soak up rainfall and grow grass. Healthy soil grows more grass, increases water holding capacity and captures more solar energy. We attempt to graze in a way that positively reinforces this cycle, improving the land for future generations. We plant diverse cover crops for additional grazing and soil health benefits.
An apprentice will work alongside the ranch manager, his family, occasional day help and private contractors to achieve the ranch mission of producing high quality livestock in a sustainable and profitable manner. Intensive grazing management is critical to reaching that end and much of our current focus is on supporting infrastructure – permanent/temporary electric fence; permanent/portable water systems; portable handling facilities. Apprentices participate in the plan, design and build phases of infrastructure development. Year ‘round grazing requires planning and regular monitoring of growing conditions for best results.
In cooperation with MT FWP, we utilize the Gus Hormay pasture rest/rotation system to spread livestock impact on different acres at different times of the year and improve wildlife habitat. Apprentices participate in the development and implementation of grazing, supplementation and drought plans. Profitable livestock production requires intelligent budgeting and marketing.
The Board of Directors and manager are all Ranching For Profit School graduates and we participate in the RFP Executive Link program. Apprentices are exposed to RFP principles and planning techniques. Our cattle are enrolled in third party verified programs (Source and Age Verification, Verified Natural Beef, Non Hormone Treated Cattle, etc) to produce a quality product and receive a premium in the marketplace. Apprentices participate in record keeping and auditing processes to maintain compliance. We are big fans of low stress animal handling (stockmanship) as taught by Bud Williams, Whit Hibbard, Steve Cote and others.
Jim & Jess Spinner – Manager, Veebaray Cattle Co.
Jim and Jess began their managed grazing journey in the late 1990s with bison. As their experience (and family) grew, their vision became more intensely focused on soil and pasture response to high density, short duration grazing with cattle and portable electric fencing. They have experience in high rainfall environments (WI), arid rangeland (MT) and center pivot irrigation grazing systems. For many years, they sold grass fed beef and developed grass efficient genetics. Jim was exposed to Bud Williams Stockmanship nearly 20 years ago and is still actively improving his handling skills. Not knowing any other way to handle stock, his family is tremendous help on cattle working days.
What will an apprentice do?
Apprentices will gain stockmanship experience on the ranch (regular pasture moves, gathering large pastures, animal handling events) and through Quivira sponsored workshops. Daily tasks include moving temporary poliwire fences, checking cattle, monitoring grass growth, permanent fence maintenance, equipment maintenance, etc. Seasonal tasks include calving, cover crop seeding, branding, bull turnout/removal, fence line weaning, pregnancy checking, shipping, winter feeding as required. We perform work with whatever tool appropriate to the task – machine, horseback or on foot – and as governed by individual comfort levels. As apprentice skill and confidence develops, they take on greater responsibility and ownership.
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
- Valid Driver’s License
- Open mind and willingness to learn
- Sense of humor
- Enthusiasm for regenerative agriculture
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: March through December 2023
Length of Apprenticeship: 8-9 months
General work hours: Check back soon for more information.
Housing: “The Condo”. Older, but comfortable private house located at headquarters approximately ¼ mile from other residences.
Laundry: A washer and dryer is included in house.
Internet availability: Wi-fi is available in housing.
Cell Phone: Cell coverage is pretty good on most of the ranch. Verizon is the preferred provider. There are places on the ranch with no cell service.
Time off: 1-2 days off per week, depending on seasonal workload. Apprentice and manager off times will not always be the same days to allow some personal space and ensure essential duties are covered.
Visitors policy: Generally, visitors are welcome as long as they stay safe, don’t endanger the livestock and act respectfully and they don’t interfere with work performance.
Food: The ranch will provide beef. Shared meals will be regularly offered.
Pets: Working horses or dogs may be allowed. Let’s discuss it.
Horse use: Horses are used occasionally to move cattle.
Tobacco and alcohol use: No smoking or spitting in ranch buildings or vehicles. Always be cautious of fire danger if smoking. Legal use of alcohol during non-work hours that doesn’t impact work performance is acceptable.
Guns: Guns are allowed but must be disclosed to ranch manager.
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.
Ranch vehicles: Apprentice will drive ranch vehicles during work hours. All vehicles are manual transmission.
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.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: The apprentice should bring any personal items, bedding, towels and work gear.
Things an apprentice could help figure out: check back soon for more information here.
Living at Veebaray Ranch: Check back soon for more information.
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 by Quivira Coalition, 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.