Wolf Cattle CoEight-Month Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship on Colorado's Western Slope
Wolf Cattle is predominantly a cow/calf operation located between Ridgway and Telluride Colorado. The ranch ranges from irrigated meadows at 7000’ to a mountain range over 10,000’ in elevation. Like many ranches throughout the United States, Wolf has gone through a paradigm shift moving towards regenerative, closed, low input systems that improve soil and overall health. As a constant work in progress, they strive each day to build a positive learning environment where each employee is encouraged to find new ways to reduce inputs and add long term value to the land.
Meet the mentors
Historically they grazed a large herd of mother cows, however due to high inputs and changing times the ranch sold every cow and decided to lease all the range land and sell hay, mostly to southern markets. In 2015 the ranch took an aggressive approach to end shipping hay (valuable topsoil) and purchased a Red Angus-based cow herd which they plan to grow until they find optimal capacity. The jury is still out as to which no-till crops fit the system and environment but they are continually pushing the envelope to find what fits this environment. For the past two years, they we have been able to graze all of their irrigated pastures and have been very pleased with the response of the legumes, mostly red clover, and look forward to finding new ways to improve nitrogen in the soil.
Over the past three years Wolf Cattle eliminated all chemical fertilizer, and purchased a no-till drill to improve nitrogen fixation, bio-tilling, and overall bio-mass. They have also experimented with various annuals in an effort to increase bio-mass to exposed soil on non-irrigated pastures.
The cattle are now calving in sync with nature with a calving goal of June 1st. The ranch has virtually eliminated pour on’s in an effort to improve dung beetle population and the cattle have been used for weed management. Herd health has been greatly improved by using Bud Williams’ low stress stockmanship and maintaining good nutrition for the animals with rotational grazing.
The use of chemicals have been greatly reduced and almost eliminated. Milestone is no longer allowed on the ranch and any use of sprays is now discussed first to see if all other options have been considered.
The mentors at Wolf Cattle are Joel and Hannah Northey, and Bill Veach.
Joel Northey’s personal adult history involves 20+ of years of working for many different ranches from Southern New Mexico, SW Colorado, NW Nebraska, and NE Wyoming. Somewhere in between he attended CSU for an Animal Science degree where he was iinspired by a guest speaker from a large holistic ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, a ranch Joel would shortly end up working for. This is where Joel feels he obtained his real education. Eventually he transferred to a sister ranch in NE Wyoming where he managed another 30k acre unit with about 1500 head of cattle. In 2014 he was fortunate to be given the opportunity to manage Wolf Cattle. Joel felt this ranch was dripping with potential for an individual with a passion for regenerative agriculture.
Hannah has spent the past 20+ years working with Joel as time allows while raising their three sons. She’s from a fifth generation ranch family and was raised around Cloudcroft NM where her ancestors settled in 1887. Hannah has been involved in various trainings with HMI and has attended many soil health conferences, continually finding new ways to improve the land. Hannah’s history involves everything from calving and tractor work to cooking for large brandings and detailed record keeping. As with most ranch families everyone wears whatever hat is necessary at the time, and Hannah is no exception.
Bill Veach manages the Little Cone part of the ranch during the summer months and builds saddles in the winter. Bill has been with Wolf for 13 years and has spent his entire life living the dream. He previously managed the TY in Utah for 10 years, a ranch that at one time covered almost a million acres. Before that he worked for the TO in Raton NM which ran 5000 mother cows and spent several years at the RO outside of Prescott Arizona where he followed the wagon. Bill is rich in history and a deep well of knowledge with horses, cows, grass, soil and much more.
This apprentice will work closely six days a week with mentors Joel, Hannah, and Bill. This is a great opportunity for an apprentice with a positive attitude and a great work ethic who wants to learn while doing. The Apprentice will be involved in everything from routine irrigation, to care of first calf heifers, including calving, herd health, designing a grazing plan, branding, pre-conditioning, and installing cross-fencing. Wolf Cattle is also working with Green Cover Seeds and has done some No-Till test sections in-order to improve bio diversity, improve nitrogen fixation, reduce compaction, and improve overall soil health. This may involve some long days in a tractor.
This is a full-time, intensive education and professional training program requiring fifty to sixty hours a week, sometimes more and sometimes less. One of the joys as well as the challenges of ranching is living and working with the rhythm of the seasons, and the work schedule follows the demands of season, weather, and animal needs.
Enthusiasm and a sincere commitment to sustainable agriculture and food production are more important than experience, though apprentices must be comfortable riding on rough terrain.
Stipend: The monthly stipend is typically around $1000 per month. This is paid monthly, and can be directly deposited to your bank. The stipend may or may not cover monthly expenses for the apprentice based on his or her needs and lifestyle. The position does not allow time for a second job, so the apprentice should consider his or her budgetary needs before applying to this position.
Housing: This house is a recently remodeled double wide, 3 bedrooms, 2 bath located about 3.5 miles from Ridgway. Wolf Cattle keep the home clean and ask that any occupants do the same. The view is beautiful. The intern will need to haul water with the water trailer once every 3 weeks. There may be some times when the intern will need to stay on the mountain in a fairly rustic cabin, but this will be minimal.
Quivira Coalition Activities: The apprentice is required to attend the annual Quivira Coalition conference, held each November in Albuquerque, NM; conference and hotel fees are covered by the Quivira Coalition. In addition to the conference, the apprentice will participate in an Holistic Management InternationalWhole Farm/Ranch Planning webinar series geared towards apprentices and new agrarians. 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.
Time off: One day off per week provides a healthy break for the apprentice. There may be times when a day off is not possible, but other times when two days off per week might make more sense. The work pattern follows that of nature; when everything is busy and producing and growing, ranchers do the same. When nature begins to slow down, there is a natural decline in activity. Some apprentices save up days off so they can take several consecutive days to go visit family or attend a class or workshop, when the ranch schedule can accommodate this time away.
Visitors: This is a popular tourist area so we do ask that guests be kept to a minimum. Apprentices will be asked to discuss visitors in advance with Joel and Hannah.
Food: Ranch beef will be provided. While the apprentice is will be largely responsible for their own meals, we often end up eating together, especially at the end of the day.
Pets: We’re not 100% against one pet, but we’ll need to visit about it. All animals must be fixed.
All the fun stuff: No drugs on the ranch. We prefer that you don’t smoke, but if you do, smoking is not allowed in any homes, trucks, tractors, etc. or in any fire danger area.
NO Partying: No partying. Having a beer/glass of wine or two after work is just fine.
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.
Ranch Vehicles: Some of the ranch vehicles are standard transmission. The apprentice will be expected to competently operate these vehicles. Apprentices must have a valid driver’s license.
Personal Vehicle: There are no instances (or very few) when the apprentice would be required to use his/her own vehicle around the ranch. In order to run personal errands and travel on days off, however, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle.
Living near Ridgway, Colorado: Wolf Cattle is located between Ridgway and Telluride, Colorado, a beautiful place with a big tourist draw. Apprentices are encouraged to become involved in the community, work and ranch-life permitting. The ranch is at high altitude. The beginning and end of the apprenticeship will be cold, summers are warm, with monsoon rains common in July and August.
Applications for a 2018 apprenticeship with Wolf Cattle are now closed. Please join our New Agrarian Newsletter below to stay up to date on other opportunities.
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