The ranch is in a remote location in North Central Montana from some hills you can see landmarks from 5 different counties. It is composed of privately owned land as well as private leases and BLM. We are 50 miles south of Malta Montana and 195 miles north of Billings Montana. We are along the Missouri River Breaks and are quite remote. The closest town is the town of Zortman which is a small little town containing only a bar, cafe, and a gas station.
Our first and primary goal is to produce beef in a sustainable manner while bettering the land by improving native grasslands and soil conditions. The ranch is primarily a cow-calf operation with some stocker cattle. We do not have any annual crops due to our harsh semiarid environment. We keep the soil covered with ample perennial vegetation. We do harvest hay for severe winter feeding. The cows are usually grazed year round and moved through 90 permanent pastures. The cattle are usually rotated 150+ times per year. Currently, the cowherd is 650 head with 200 replacement heifers.
Part of our business is raising breeding stock for other ranchers. We sell red composite low input bulls and females out of the top of our herd in an annual production sale. The remainder of our production is sold in the beef commodity market at 700+ lbs. The ranch has implemented an extensive artificial insemination (AI) program where we breed 500 heifers and cows a year. In the last 26 years, we have AI-ed approximately 8000 head of heifers and cows. The ranch also has an embryo transfer program to multiply superior genetics. Every animal is identified, weighed and recorded every year. We are working with Allied Genetic Resources to DNA and calculate expected progeny difference (EPDs) on this composite herd.The other activities that the ranch does every year include a grazing plan, grazing records, range monitoring, rotating livestock in the growing season on a weekly basis, on a two week basis in the dormant season, using mineral/supplements, herding and offsite water i.e. tankers to distribute livestock on the range. The ranch does make hay on some of the riparian areas (ephemeral streams). We build and repair infrastructure on the ranch that include reservoirs, water wells, pipeline, buildings and ranch machinery.
The ranch does all the general animal husbandry working closely with our local veterinary. These activities would include doctoring, feeding and monitoring cattle. Interns would help with data collection, calving, branding, bull testing, AI program, bull turnout, preconditioning, weaning, pregnancy testing, performance testing bull calves and shipping cattle. We are trying to improve our soil fertility through monitoring, bale grazing, composting, building beaver dam analogs (BDAs) to improve conservation on our riparian stream channels and experimenting with vermiculture. The ranch works with several organizations and agencies to improve all our soil, range and wildlife resources. We do not use horses on this ranch, mainly 4-wheelers, occasionally we ask our neighbors with horses to help.
We use moderate intensive grazing moving the cows every 7-10 days. We have just started a winter grazing program, using bale grazing on hay meadows. We do plant and bird surveys every year and invite the Montana Conservation Corp out for a week annually to add Beaver Dam Analogs. Work with World Wildlife Fund in their RSVP program, Native and their Carbon Sequestration program, and work collectively with Winnett ACES. We utilize Bud Williams Low Stress Livestock Handling. We use no commercial fertilizers on our hay meadows, using compost instead. We are working on our own vermicast and we are using this carbon increase on problem areas like saline sleep and bareground areas along with on our hay meadows. We use natural fly control on our cattle to avoid broad spectrum insecticides to increase beneficial insects.
Dale and Janet
Dale Veseth (61 years) Have ranched on the family ranch since 1990 as part of the management team. Have a BS and MS degrees in animal science at Montana State University, Executive director of the non-profit Montana Beef Performance Association in the late 1980s. I am active in many conservation organizations: a founding member in the Matador Grassbank and the Rancher Stewardship Alliance (RSA). I have worked with the Montana Chapter of the TNC as a director and they hold an easement on the ranch. We are entering into a carbon contract with Native Energy and the ranch is in the RSVP program with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The areas I specialize in include range management planning, recordkeeping, calculating carrying capacity – financial and ranch management, cattle – genetics, husbandry and nutrition.
Janet Veseth is married to Dale, has a BS in Nursing. I am responsible for the household management, office management and the work that gets done there including the office records, bookkeeping, organization, quite a bit of the range monitoring, planning and delivery of meals on cattle working days. I help with calving, moving cows, working cows and almost anything else Dale needs help with to keep everything going on the ranch. This is only part of the definition of a ranch wife.
Other People on the Ranch
Jim and Shellee Steele work on the ranch full time for several years and he would be in supervisory role. His background includes fence contractor, mechanics, livestock pipeline & well drilling, wildlands firefighter. His specialties on the ranch include fire chief, fence and corral construction, electrical systems, welding – building and repair, mechanical repairs, He calves the mature cow herd, and is leading the vermiculture project.
Lewis Baeth has worked on the ranch for several years. He is Janet’s brother and his family lives in Manhattan, MT. He would be in a supervisory role for the ranch. He is an engineer by education and training. Louis grew up working in the family heavy equipment construction business. His specialties on the ranch include heavy equipment operator, dirt work construction engineer, irrigation, farming and reseeding projects, grass seed harvest, online buys/sales and research, computer and spreadsheet tech, and mechanics.
Will Baeth – (17) Nephew – Lewis’ son has worked on the ranch for several years. Has both a good aptitude for both livestock and mechanics.
What will an apprentice do?
- Calving Cows in the spring
- Moving and working Cattle
- AI Program- ranch breeds 500 head a year.
- Preconditioning cattle in September
- Weaning cattle in October
- Fencing -Mostly permanent barbed wire, and permanent electric some polywire maily for winter grazing on hay meadows
- Learn and help with cattle’s protein supplement program.
- Will have opportunities to learn Plant and Bird ID
- Starting the ranch on a grazing ap to help them establish easier records
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
To be able to live in a very remote location, must be able to drive a standard transmission vehicle, must be a self-starter that can work unsupervised, must have respect for other people, works well with others, must be dedicated and expect to work some long hours, is good at following instructions.
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: Ideal start date is the first week of April
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 Months
Stipend: $1,000 plus food, utilities, and use of ranch vehicles and fuel except for personal apprentice time. The apprentice will be invited to take part in any educational days at RSA or any other organization that the ranch supports. They would be able to accompany me to meetings I attend including RSA, ACEs, TNC Matador Grassbank, WWF -RSVP, Resource Management Group (RMG) and Northern Agriculture Research Center (NARC) advisory council.
General work hours: Generally start the day between 8 am and 9am and work until 6pm or 7pm. Some days may be earlier and run later, but we will make up for that at the end of the week.
Housing: Apprentice will live in a prefab house that has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a livingroom and kitchen. We just put in a new heating system and will have all the large appliances available. If an apprentice would like small appliances or specialty items they will need to bring their own. Apprentice will have a washer and dryer in the house as well as fiber optic internet.
Internet availability: WiFi will be available in the bunkhouse.
Time off: Apprentice will generally receive Sundays off, may have some weekends off depending on what the week looked like.
Pets: Yes– if they are controlled around livestock and don’t cause a threat to other humans or pets. Jim has two dogs and Will has one.
All the fun stuff: Smokeless tobacco is fine, we do not allow smoking of any kind due to high fire risk. Alcohol is permitted, but we ask that you drink responsibly. You may bring firearms with you if you so choose but they need to be used in a safe and prudent manner.
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 Workmen’s Compensation to cover injuries that occur while on the job, though we strongly encourage safe behavior at all times and hope such an incident will not occur.
Ranch Vehicles: Apprentice will be able to use ranch vehicles and fuel except for personal apprentice time.
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 specialty items, TV, computer, pillow, coffee maker.
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.