Plum Thicket Farms is looking for two interns for the spring and summer of 2020. If possible, We will begin calving in the middle of April, so we would like them to arrive as early as possible in April, but realize that school will not yet be out, so we would like them to arrive as soon as school obligations are over.
We are a diversified operation, running 310 cows and farming 2300 acres.. 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 two 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. We mob graze annual forages, and interns will be responsible for managing the daily moves and maintaining paddocks.

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 are converting our cow record system from Cow-calf 5 to Moo Manager which will allow us to enter and evaluate data more seamlessly.

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 March 1st. Telephone Interviews will be conducted early in March. 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.

Nan Peterson


My name is Joe Bickel and I'm from Frankenmuth, Michigan. I studied at Michigan State University for a degree in agricultural operations. In the summer of 2019 I was one of the interns at Plum Thicket Farms. The internship was one of the most formative experiences in my life. I come from a background with cattle trucking, feedlot, and dairy cattle so the experience on a western cow calf operation was a completely eye opening experience. They will teach necessary skills to run a cattle operation day to day such as repairing and building fence, doctoring cattle, and handling cattle. Besides those skills they will teach you the importance of stewardship for the cattle you care for and the land you farm. Not only will they teach you new ways of managing cattle they will also teach you about no-till farming. Pat's crop system was completely new to me but it was a valuable education in a different way of farming. Since I do not have parents that are cattle producers or farmers I will be wanting to start my own herd from scratch. With the lessons that Nan, Rex, Pat, and Jess have taught I can piece together ways that they use to manage cattle and what will work in my situation. Overall my experience was great at plum thicket. There are days that you will be freezing and wet there will also be days that you will be worn and just want to sleep but the hard work is well worth everything you will learn through the internship. 


My name is Mackenzie Lolkema and I am a senior in the Animal Science Management program at Washington State University. While I don’t have a background in livestock, I have always wanted a career in it. I applied for this internship, hoping I would better understand how a ranch works and I left at the end of the summer with valuable hands-on experience and memories.

Over the summer, I was able to go beyond the textbook and learn about different challenges that might arise on a ranch and how there are more solutions than just the ‘textbook’ solution. I learned how to tag and doctor calves, vaccinate, set up temporary fences, and how important a good record system is. I tubed calves, milked cows, implanted steers, and handled most of the semen straws. I also got to visit other ranches and participated in their brandings.  Before coming to Plum Thicket Farms, I had only been on a horse a couple of times and had never moved cows before. By the end of the summer, I had experienced multiple cattle drives and calf-pairings on horseback.

During the breeding season, Nan explained to me how she chose bulls for the herd and what her EPD criteria was. Later in the summer we went out and she explained what she looks for in calves and cows, allowing me to better appreciate the importance of EPDs. I also learned about pasture management and mob grazing and how important it is to rotate and read pasture. We went out and looked at different pastures and saw how weather and grazing pressure can affect the pasture quality. Nan explained how she would adjust to those variables in order to keep the pasture quality high.

In the three months I was there, I gained more practical knowledge than I have in my years at Washington State University. I am very thankful to Nan, Rex, Pat, and Jess for giving me this unique opportunity!


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.


My name is Tabby Steckler, and I spent the summer before my senior year at Purdue University with the Petersons on Plum Thicket Farms. I grew up on a very diversified small farm that raises beef cattle, dairy heifers, corn, beans, hay, and wheat. Throughout my 3 years at Purdue I have had the chance to work in the dairy and swine industries, so just like the farm I grew up on, I have become a diversified individual. Now, after working with the Petersons, I can add another industry to my handbook.

Throughout my 3 months working in Nebraska, I got to experience calving, vaccinating, implanting, breeding, driving cattle (with a horse), making hay, planting cover crops, and harvesting wheat. When I arrived the second week of May, Plum Thicket was full swing into their calving season. I particularly enjoyed this part of the summer, because I got to spend most of the day with the cows! During this time, I learned about branding, vaccinations, udder scoring, and how to properly handle calves around their mothers. While I was there, we only assisted 3-4 cows with dystocia problems. Nancy works extremely hard to develop moderate framed cattle with exceptional calving easy to ensure that her cows do not have a hard time calving.  I also got the chance to work the pairs with a horse many times this summer, and I was amazed at how calm cattle move around a horse.

As the summer went on, we finished the calving season and moved onto the oats and peas. I took an interest in the mob grazing of the oats and peas. I couldn’t believe how important it was to have the right amount of mouths (cattle) on each section in order to have it gazed down to a particular length. The grazing length is important for the regrowth of the plants, and allows the cows to graze the same cover crop several times.  The idea of grazing cover crops is one that I hope to take home to my family operation.

While at my internship, we breed 450 cows in a week. Up until this point I only had experience breeding 10 or less at a time. I learned about different synchronization protocols. We used a 14 day cidr and estrotech patches for heat detecting on the heifers.  All of the 200 cows received 7 day cidrs and were time A.I. My job during this week was preparing the A.I. guns and pulling semen straws from the semen tank. Before the week of artificial insemination Nan spent a lot of time deciding what bulls she would use to breed to her cows. She showed me her guidelines she used when picking a bull, and explained how important EPDs are in developing a uniform herd.

Over the course of the summer, the Petersons taught me about cover crop, pasture, and cash crop management. One of the Petersons main goals is to increase soil health and fertility, and they manage their land and cattle to do just that. I think the biggest take away from my internship was being able to share my passion with others across the country. I have always wanted to experience working on a western ranch, and I am extremely glad to have been able to spend my summer on Plum Thicket Farms. I want to thank Nan, Rex, and Pat for giving me one of the best experiences I’ve had yet, and it will be one that I will never forget!

Thank you for everything!

Tabby Steckler


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!


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.


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


            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


            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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