Internship

Plum Thicket Farms is seeking two interns for 2017. We are a diversified operation, running 300 cows and farming 2300 acres. We calve in May while the cows are on annual rye, and have a ten month grazing season unless we are under drought conditions.

Calving will begin around the 20th of April. The interns will be expected to help with night calving, barn chores, pairing cattle, moving pairs, and whatever else comes during the busiest of times.

He/she would also be exposed to three different AI synchronization systems and will learn how to handle semen. Because we have a rotational grazing system, and have range monitoring sites in all of our pastures, the students will participate in reading those sites and will become familiar with native plant species.

The students will also become familiar with no-till farming and learn what the issues are in planning crop rotations as well as fertilization and chemical programs. 

We use the Cow-Calf 5 cow record system and have individual records from birth to the rail on all of our cattle. The records are used extensively to make breeding and culling decisions.

The interns will be expected to take part in the weekly management meetings and will be encouraged to join the discussions. Duties will include helping with calving and breeding, fixing fence, building high tensile fence, moving cattle, chute work, sprayer support and harvest support. If they don’t know how to ride, they will by the end of the summer.

Continuing education is very important to us and we try to participate in as many opportunities as possible. The students will attend all the meetings we do. The hours are long but I believe that we can offer the students a valuable adjunct to their education.

Applications must be received by January first. Telephone Interviews will be conducted during the month of January and the decision will be made by February first. There is no formal application form. Please submit your resume', three letters of reference including contact information, and a letter that describes your background, your family, your work experience, what your long term plans are, and what you hope to gain from the internship. Tell us what your expectations are and what your passions are. Please describe your strengths and what weaknesses you would like to address. How do you cope with challenges? Are you comfortable tying into something you have never done before? Do you have any mechanical ability? Have you operated farm equipment? Feel free to add anything else that will help us understand who you are.=

Thanks,
Nan Peterson

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Starting in 2017, Plum Thicket Farms will be offering a fall and winter internship as well.
The fall internship will start after Labor Day and run until Thanksgiving. Fall work includes processing cattle, pregnancy testing, weaning, and plenty of cattle drives. The student will be expected to help with harvest, support fall planting and spraying, as well as help with special projects. Having a CDL would be a very valuable asset. Experience with farm equipment and mechanical ability would also be a plus They will be exposed to pasture management and the next phase in cattle management.

The winter internship will begin after the first of the year and run until May 15th. The student will have a chance to get familiar with the Cow-Calf 5 record system, breeding decisions, building pasture plans, developing a farm plan, bangs vaccination, freeze branding, pre calving  processing, and the  busiest time of calving They will also get to repair fence and help Patrick with farming activities.

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Hello, My name is Devin and I am an Animal Science and Grazing Livestock Systems Major at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. I am originally from a small farm and cow-calf operation south of Lincoln. My experience at Plum Thicket Farms was one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had. I came to Plum Thicket with the expectations of learning how intensive management of a cow herd works in the wide open spaces of the Sandhills of Nebraska. But what I got was one of the greatest learning opportunities I will ever have.

I was exposed to many things when on internship here. I particularly became very fond of the advantages of cattle handling on horseback. One thing that the Petersons' showed me and is probably the largest take away for me was how important it is to create a management system that not only is profitable but take into account your resources and how to sustainably manage the resources given to you. I found the management of records from each individual cow is one of the most essential tools on the ranch. It enabled them to make great advances with genetics in the herd, and these no doubt created a large difference on the bottom line of profitablility on the ranch. I was exposed to many other things while on the ranch that I have taken with me and have used in my classes. I know that many of the practices that I learned from the Petersons' will carry with me into my future career and personal cow herd. The thing that I admire most about the ranch and farming operation is the drive for conservation and improvement of the ground and grass. They do this by practicing several progressive grazing techniques that the interns are exposed to.

The great time that I had at the ranch would not have been complete without the great work environment created by the Petersons. I cannot speak highly enough of them. They made learning from them and the interns a priority every day. I have worked under many bosses in the past and the Petersons' certainly are at the top of the list. They have become a couple of my greatest mentors in my life. All and all, I do believe the internship at Plum Thicket Farms to be one of the greatest ranch internship opportunities in the country and highly recommend for anyone interested in cattle industry to apply.

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Hello, my name is Anneke Pierce and I was one of the summer of 2015 interns. Although I do not come from a cattle background I figured out relatively young that I have a passion for livestock and pursued a degree in Animal Science. I attended the University of Florida and graduated in the spring of 2015 with a degree in Animal Science.
During my internship I was lucky enough to see almost all of the cow-calf production cycle. From calving to weaning I gained valuable hands on experience such as processing new calves, pulling calves, tubing, dystocia, grafting calves to new cows, herd health management, implanting calves, synchronizing heat cycles, artificially inseminating, utilizing nose blebs, weaning calves on forage cocktails, and more. One skill that I was really able to sharpen was low stress handling of cattle, Nan and Rex really emphasized the importance of low stress handling and are perfect examples of how well a herd can respond. I was also able to learn a great deal about veterinary care by aiding Krista in the treatment of most of the sick or injured cattle in the time I was on the Ranch. The Peterson’s have a great cow herd, from their docile temperament to their amazing uniformity and performance (due to strict standards both phenotypically and genotypically).  Looking back, working with the cows of Plum Thicket and their calves was such a joy, challenge, and a learning opportunity that will be forever in my heart.
In addition to the Cow herd, Plum Thicket took on 500 Stockers this past summer. While these steers could be a headache at times, I think Andrea and I took away a lot from being able to work with them all summer. Although the battle with Pink Eye and Foot Rot lasted the time the steers were there, Andrea and I were lucky enough to utilize the situation to further our education. We used that experience to practice setting up low stress doctoring pens, training our eye to see sick animals, doctoring steers, and doing what I think we both loved the most: spending time on horseback. Although we did have the steers graze native pasture, they spent most of their time mob grazing cover crops. Andrea and I were assigned the summer project of managing the steers on the forage cocktails; we were tasked with setting up temporary electric fence and water, deciding how much forage to take off each pasture and deciding when was the proper time rotate, evaluating each pasture for regrowth, and deciding when to return the steers onto previously grazed pieces. I learned so much from Nan and Pat about utilizing cover crops as a tool to your operation, and they even helped spark an interest in continuing my education to learn about grazing forage management and production. A lot of time was spent with these steers and I think they provided some of the most valuable learning experiences of the summer!

The truth is I can’t fit all the experience I’ve gained into this short summary about this summer, but I will say it was truly a privilege to be an Intern for a place that is so invested in the future of Agriculture. From their conscientious utilization and stewardship of the land, dedication to the development of their cow herd, and their passion developing future leaders in the cattle industry, Plum Thicket and the Peterson family are truly someone to look up to in the cattle industry.

Thank you Rex, Nan, Pat, and Krista for an unforgettable learning experience!

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My name is Andrea Beck, and I am a student at South Dakota State University pursuing a double major in Range Science and Animal Science. I was raised on an Iowa cow/calf operation, but I have always wanted the experience of legitimate ranching out on the western range. Plum Thicket may not be the most traditional ranch, but it instead has an innovative mindset that is much needed in modern agriculture.

I have learned about range management in the classroom, but that simply doesn’t compare to the opportunity to see healthy land management in practice. The Petersons are extremely conscientious in their rotations of both cattle and crops. They understand what it is to be stewards of God’s country, and they make every effort to integrate that into the interns’ work and thought process.

There were many learning experiences on the ranch, perhaps the biggest being the undertaking of 500 stocker steers. We mob grazed annual forage cocktails to accommodate these extra mouths, and while the Petersons had previous experience with mob grazing, there was still plenty of fine-tuning to figure out. Anneke and I got to delve into this head on; we built the temporary electric fences, decided how big to make the paddocks, and were also entrusted with making the call of when to move the cattle to the next paddock. We made our fair share of mistakes and then some, but the knowledge and confidence I gained along the way were truly priceless.

In late-May we began the battle with pink-eye in the steers, which we ended up dealing with for the remainder of their stay. There was a lot of setting up and taking down portable corrals, but as much of a headache as the steers were, I definitely loved all the time on horseback. It was also a great way to strengthen my skills in quiet cattle handling and vaccinating.

The list of experiences and skills I gained through the Petersons could go on and on; I was exposed to artificial insemination, heat synchronization systems, and basic management of a breeding herd, among many others. While at Plum Thicket I was exposed to Nan’s extensive grazing plan and her flexibility in altering the plan under unexpected circumstances; one of her greatest strengths is matching forage supply and demand, and the knowledge she shares is invaluable to anyone interested in pasture management.

Looking back, I think of all the things I never would have expected when I came out to Plum Thicket: the Petersons’ welcoming hospitality, the opportunity to make decisions in areas I wasn’t super experienced in…and the persistent need for my raincoat. I was so blessed to be able to work at Plum Thicket this summer. I got to learn from some of the best in today’s cattle industry, and I found exemplary role models for what I aspire to be in my profession.

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I think this summer was the best summer of my life.   It was filled with hard work and blessings of all kinds!  Some of my favorite experiences were learning to ride, fixing fence out in beautiful pastures that went on for miles, working with a wonderful cow dog (Maggie!), and learning how to treat hurt and sick cows and calves.

One of the main goals of the ranch is to care for and improve the land.  This is something I saw happening first-hand while I was there.   Every cattle or crop discussion included how the given plan would affect the long-term health of the land. 

The cattle herd is the largest group of structurally correct, functional, heavily muscled, and well-balanced group of cattle I have ever seen together in one place.   They were docile and healthy.  It was incredible to see such a uniformly high-quality group of cattle. 

 Hands-on experience was probably the biggest advantage that this internship held for me.  Devin and I were welcomed and expected to help with almost everything we saw happening.  My mistakes helped me learn a lot too.  This internship improved my practical skills more than any other work experience.
I also met many personal goals while at Plum Thicket and learned a lot about God. 
Thanks so much, Rex and Nan! 

Sarah Nafziger

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            I’m a non-traditional student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Animal Science with a specialization in Grazing Livestock Systems.  A 22 year veteran of the United States Air Force, I began both my college studies and this internship with no experience in farming or ranching aside from 2 horses I own.  I applied for and accepted the intern position with Plum Thicket Farms to gain knowledge and experience around cattle.  And that is exactly what I received.

            From the moment I arrived, I was immersed in calving, treating calves, moving cattle, and doing everything necessary to ensure their care.  The Peterson’s provided needed instruction and an intense learning environment directed toward both herd care and improvement, and rangeland management; highlighting the synergy between both.  The learning environment was directly in line with my degree program courses in range management and animal management on range and pasture. 

            During my internship I was exposed to practical application of range management practices to include; grass identification and determining forage production.  These practices were used to determine pasture rotations and forage allocations for the herd.  I participated in artificial insemination, synchronization protocols, and all aspects of breeding management for the herd.  I learned about equipment operations and functions, and pen designs.  All of this translated into a level of exposure not matched in my life or in college classrooms. 

            The experience afforded by Plum Thicket Farms has solidified my desire to pursue a life as a cattle rancher.

William Frisby

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            My name is Kelsey Haley. I am a student of South Dakota State University – Brookings, SD studying Animal Science with a specialization in Beef Production. I am originally from Waseca, MN and I grew up on a farm raising corn/soybeans, hogs, and a small herd of beef cows. My passion is with the beef industry and Nancy Peterson shares that same passion. I interned with Plum Thicket for the summer of 2012 and 2013.

            Plum Thicket is a unique operation, in that their highest priority is to maintain and improve their most precious resource, the land. They constantly think outside the box to find ways to utilize their farmland to benefit the cows and save their pastures, and also utilize the cows to benefit the farmland. It’s a tremendous learning experience to be exposed to traditional pasture rotation and range management, while also experiencing new non-traditional grazing plans.

            Nancy, being a veterinarian, has an extensive health system that gave me the experience in applying a wide variety of practices; vaccinations, castration, tubing, umbilical care, abscess treatment, foot rot, bloat, diagnostics, etc. Although with Nancy’s breeding practices she has a low percentage of dystocia, since my internship I now have experience pulling calves, recognizing malpresentations and righting them, hip locking, twins, etc. Experiences that are truly invaluable.

            To give you a summary of my summers spent with Plum Thicket; I arrived the second and third week of May. They had approximately a third of the herd left to calve. The first calvers are kept at home and are checked throughout the night for dystocia. The mature cows are calved on fields of rye, and they are checked every morning and evening. Every new calf that is found is tagged, weighed, branded, vaccinated, given umbilical care, and castrated if need be. Weight, tag, and color are documented, along with calving ease, disposition of the cow, and an udder score.

            Nancy does her best to age segregate calves for scours prevention. When moving cows after calving, they are paired off the field (horseback). A grazing plan will be assembled. There are typically multiple groups of cows and they are periodically rotated through fields and pastures (horseback). Before moving anything, fences need to be checked and repaired. Often times when moving to fields a temporary fence is needed to be built. The summer of 2013 we did a lot of high density grazing which required a lot of temp fence.

            Breeding in July consists of creating a breeding plan; who will be bred AI, choosing bulls to buy semen from, and when to synchronize. We synchronized Nancy’s heifers by feeding MGA; her late calvers are given CIDRs; her other mature cows are given lutalyse and GNRH. It’s truly educational to not only know these different ways to synchronize but to have used each of them. After cows are artificially inseminated, bulls are turned out (horseback). Before that happens, we have collected, tested and measured each bull. Nancy does this herself which means you are involved in each of these steps as well. Even though I will not be doing my own testing in the future, I now know what to look for and can better judge whether the people I pay to do it know what they are doing.

            There are so many real life experiences and hands on opportunities at Plum Thicket, since interning there I have so much more confidence in my education and background.

Kelsey Haley

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