The Ranch Internship

Published on Mon, 03/07/2022 - 4:00pm

The Ranch Internship.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 In the summer months, many students studying beef production, livestock industries and pre-vet medicine will flock to ranches and companies across the U.S. to gain some knowledge through an internship. Not only does this provide some extra labor, but it also gives seasoned professionals a chance to give back to the industry by helping bring up the next generation. After all, everyone in cattle has had a mentor or two to help them along the way.

When starting an internship program, it’s essential to have specific and realistic goals in mind that fit your operation. Just as importantly, you want to be sure you offer students some form of mentorship. If you’re just starting out, looking to colleagues who have successful, established internship and educational programs in place can be very helpful.

Mentorship is an important aspect, but that doesn’t mean you should expect a college kid to be your seasonal shadow. Instead, it’s an opportunity to share your unique insights and help students hone their independence and problem-solving skills. Who knows – you may just be helping shape your next manager or veterinarian.

Why hire an intern?
Hiring an intern gives the ability to bring someone on part or full-time. Unlike typical employees, interns come to you with a detailed depth background; they often have references from teachers or coworkers and some industry-specific education. Depending on the structure of your operation, you can set things up, so you are choosing from a pool of experienced individuals that fit your needs.

Creating a positive internship experience also enables you to promote your ranch or business. Those interns will refer their friends and talk about their experience taking your ranch’s name places it might not other wise get. (But remember that the same could be said about a negative experience which could be harmful to your reputation.)

On a broader scale, opening an internship program can also be a great way to build rapport with local universities and other industry professionals. It also gives you a chance to evaluate how you train, educate and manage employees.

An internship isn’t just about the benefit to your ranch. It also provides an environment for students to have a positive experience that gives them a good look into the industry and trade. It will provide a realistic idea of if what they are pursuing is worth it to them.

Remember that many beef students are especially interested in hands-on experiences, so you don’t need to shy away from including the more mundane and day-to-day tasks.

Finding Reliable Interns
Students tend to begin looking for internships between their sophomore and senior years of college. However, some high schools with ag programs might encourage their students to seek out internships as well, especially if they intend to go directly into the workforce. Don’t write younger prospects off your list if you have a high school nearby with a strong FFA program.

Get to know the ag programs offered at your nearby high schools and universities and the faculty involved with them. They may be able to promote your ranch via word of mouth and/or include you with school resources.

Create a listing to handout or promote on the internet that outlines the responsibilities and the learning opportunities and what might make it stand out. Be sure to clearly indicate the scope of your operation, what you do and what you are looking for in an intern. This is where you can outline who might be your “ideal” help. If you want or require someone with experience performing certain tasks or operating equipment, be sure to say so.

Making it a Success
When the applications and inquiries start to role in, stay focused on the type of person you are looking for, but also keep your goals and expectations realistic. Conduct interviews the same as you would for a typical full-time employee and be sure to walk away with a good understanding of the students’ background and goals.

Selecting an intern is a blend of someone who will be time and task efficient, but is also a good learner who is communicable and teachable.

Remember that you want to provide a well-rounded experience for the intern. Don’t exclusively focus on the physical labor, but incorporate some of the financial and marketing aspects that can complete the picture. Giving an idea to the expenses and sometimes the losses or gains in various situations. Also providing the opportunity to learn how to market either direct to consumer or what routes/ actions are taken to market the product.

When you do bring your chosen intern(s) on board, be sure to give them the respect they deserve and highlight the value in their work. Introduce the day to day tasks, make your needs and expectations clear, but also be open in sharing the broader scope of your operation’s role in the industry.

As you watch the intern’s progress, you can determine when might be a good time to introduce them to another area of the operation and diversify their responsibilities. Remember, a well-rounded program is one that’s flexible to fit the learning style of the intern but also still rigid enough to gives them a realistic view of work in the industry.