Wolf Cattle Company

High Elevation Cattle Ranch

The Ranch

Wolf Cattle Company ranch headquarters is three miles outside of Ridgeway, Colorado, in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. Our goals are to keep ranching and agriculture heritage alive by improving and growing a business that is healthy for the land, the people involved, and the greater community – which also includes positive economic growth and viability. The ranch includes lower elevation irrigated meadows, some juniper–pinion hill country and high elevation up to 11,000 feet summer range.

We are a cow/calf operation, raising stockers with some custom grazing, as well as raising native hay on irrigated meadows.  We believe regenerative principles are healthiest for the whole (land, people, water, animals, wildlife, and community). The application of these principles varies in different environments. We are big believers in rotational grazing, whether it’s with hot fence or range riders, and good livestock handling practices are very important to us.  We do use grazing plans and have a drought plan.  We have in the past done more soil and forage monitoring; an updated monitoring system is something we would like to implement and could be a possible project for an apprentice to help get going.

Regenerative Practices

    • Rotational grazing
    • Range riding 
    • Drought plan
    • Grazing plans
    • Soil and forage monitoring 

    The Mentors

    Hannah and Joel Northey

    Joel grew up in Colorado, and went to school at CSU for animal science.  Hannah grew up in southern NM – 5th generation of a pioneer ranching family that came west on a wagon train in 1886.  We have ranched in several western states over the last 26 years together – CO, WY, NE, NM, and spent time in MT.  We have worked on many different types of operations in various environments and are continual learners who are always looking for better ways to achieve results for the people and the land.  We love history, heritage, and the beauty of the West.  

    We have both attended the Ranching For Profit School and have been members of the Ranch Management Consultants Executive Link program for 6 years.  Our philosophy regarding agriculture is probably best summed up as:  Look for the timeless principles and then find the best application for the environment you are in.  Agriculture in the western US needs to be regenerative and sustainable to the whole – healthy land, water, wildlife, livestock, people, community, and economics. We have 3 amazing sons and 1 exceptional daughter-in-law who are pursuing their own dreams but do come to help at certain times of the year. 

    Other ranch employees that will interact with the apprentice include:

    Emerson De La Cruz – Immigrated to the US about 20 years ago from Peru where he grew up and obtained an Animal Science degree.  He has a wealth of knowledge to share.

    Duncan MacGregor – Was a farrier for many years and has managed several ranch properties in the past.  Also, a very good leatherworker – he is great with infrastructure and equipment and is a great teacher.

    The Apprentice

    What will an apprentice do?

    As is usual in any ranching environment, our daily tasks vary, but a general seasonal schedule looks something like this.
    March-April- ride along for daily calving checks, assist with any calving problems, tag calves, and assist with doctoring any sick animals, we also like to work with the horses and keep them ridden during the winter 
    March-April- learn how to feed different classes of livestock, cow/calf herd, yearlings, etc. – rotate pastures as needed, keep water open, finalize grazing plan for the year
    April – May – Get irrigation pipes prepared for irrigation season, repair anything broken, replace gates on gated pipe, etc.
    April-May – Fence repairs to prepare for summer grazing season, working our way up the mountain as the snow melt allows
    June –   Cattle to the high country, Branding, working with horses, getting cabins opened up and cleaned for summer use, trips to monitor forage (ATV or horseback).
    July- September – Rotating cattle on pasture, repairing fence, irrigation, putting out mineral and salt, monitoring and maintenance of herd health.  Most of our irrigation is snow melt, so our critical time to get water on everything is May-July, by August, some of our water has run out for the year. Summer is our busy time of year for sure; we do occasionally help out with the property maintenance department during this season.  This could include weed eating, mowing, hauling hay for horses, an airport run for guests, or various other tasks that may pop up.  There are several of the owner’s families that come to the ranch during the summer, so to keep all aspects of the ranch functioning well, we jump in to help from time to time.
    September- Nov – After the irrigation shuts off, we generally work to catch up on some projects before fall cattle work starts, new fence, water project, cabin repairs, clean and prep cabins for outfitter for hunting seasons.
    October – Nov –    Gather high country, ship cattle back to winter ground, Pre-condition calves, wean, Preg check cattle, turn in all irrigation records.
    A typical workday for an apprentice will include a mixture of any of the tasks listed above and will vary depending on which mentor they are working with. 

    What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?

    Due to the nature of rough high country riding, we will require some horseback experience.  Also, the willingness to work alone at times in remote country.  Other than that, we really value honesty, integrity, and passion for agriculture – someone who really plans to continue in the industry.  Due to the nature of the ranch ownership, it is also important for all our employees to maintain discretion of speech and confidentiality and be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

    What skills and traits are desired in an apprentice?


    Accountability, honesty, integrity, willingness to learn, passion for agriculture, grit.

    Skills that An Apprentice would expect to acquire:

    • Learning effective and efficient irrigation practices
    • Learning Colorado water rights and how it works
    • Calving
    • Herd health – doctoring cows, calves, what to look for and how to pick up on a sick animal in the early stages.
    • Forage monitoring, carrying capacity.
    • Poisonous plant ID
    • Cattle feeding and care – balancing rations and intake.
    • Cattle body condition
    • Use of equipment – feed outfit, skid steer, track hoe, loader etc.
    • Stockman ship practices
    • Rotational grazing
    • Range riding
    • Repair and construction of fences
    • Record keeping and record systems.
    • Horse heard health and maintenance.
    • Branding
    • Ranching for profit practices
    • Water improvement projects

    Nuts & Bolts


    Start Date:  We can be a bit flexible, but would prefer late March to late October

    Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months

    Stipend: At least minimum wage, possibly more after evaluation

    General work hours: In the busy season, our general work hours are 7-6, with half a day on some Saturdays – In the slow season is 8-5, with Saturday work only being what’s needed for feeding and other cattle care.  Some days are shorter, and some longer, depending on what we are doing.  We try not to work Sundays as much as possible.  We are very family-oriented and usually rotate Saturdays, so a person doesn’t work every weekend.

    Housing: We have several cabins that are all a possibility, all of which are in nice shape.  If there are 2 apprentices, they will share a cabin but will have separate bedrooms.  All cabins have full kitchens and baths with hot water etc.

    Internet availability: We do have Starlink satellite internet that can be moved to different locations.

    Cell Service: AT&T or Verizon – depending on which part of the ranch you are on.  Some places have no cell coverage.

    Time off: We try not to work Sundays as much as possible.  We are very family-oriented and usually rotate Saturdays, so a person doesn’t work every weekend.

    Visitors: Guests are allowed on the ranch and must be approved by a manager.  No long-term stays.

    Food: We can provide some beef and elk meat to the apprentice.  When we have a busy schedule on the mountain, we sometimes grill out together.

    Pets: We will consider a working dog and a couple of working horses, and can work out the details with the individual.  The ranch does not allow studs, and we have our own working dogs, so other outside dogs need to be spayed and neutered.

    Horse Use: Due to the nature of our rough high mountain terrain, we do require some previous horseback experience.  Some days we ride over 20 miles a day.

    All the fun stuff: No smoking of any kind in any building or vehicle.  Other tobacco use is fine as long as it’s used respectfully. Drinking alcohol is fine during non-working hours as long as it’s not affecting work performance, and not while driving a company vehicle. No cannabis use during working hours.

    Guns: Guns are allowed if they have prior firearm training and it’s approved by the 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. 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 use ranch vehicles and machinery for work.

    Personal Vehicle:  A personal vehicle is highly recommended for apprentice independence on their time off and to get to town for free time activities/errands. 

    Additional items an apprentice should bring:  Linens, towels, we have a few pots and pans and utensils – but bringing a few wouldn’t hurt

    Living at Wolf Cattle Company: We are well situated as far as the ranch location; the headquarters are about 3 miles from the town of Ridgway, CO.  There is a small grocery store there, several restaurants, and a medical facility. Main grocery shopping is done in Montrose, about 27 miles away, and that is also the nearest airport location.  We are 20 minutes from Ouray, CO and about 45 minutes from Telluride.

    We are in a big tourist area, which can have its pros and cons.  Lots of traffic at times and dangerous roads – but also many activities (concerts, festivals, rodeos, etc.). The high country pastures sit between Norwood and Ridgway and are about a 45-minute drive, so the summer work is more isolated at times.

    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.