People. Planet. Profit. That’s the necessary three-part recipe for a successful and sustainable ranch in the eyes of Wayne Fahsholtz, president and CEO of Padlock Ranch.
Wayne Fahsholtz Padlock Ranch Ranchester, Wyo. Nestled between the Big Horn Mountains and the mixed prairies of eastern Montana and Wyoming, Padlock Ranch was started in 1943 by Homer and Mildred Scott with 3,000 acres near Dayton, Wyo. Over the past 70 years, it has changed size and shape and today covers approximately 475,000 acres with more than 10,000 head of cattle. Fahsholtz, the first non-family CEO, has dedicated his career to ranching and has managed the day-to-day operations since 2002.
Managing a large operation requires a team of employees who believe in the mission of the ranch. Fahsholtz says it did not happen overnight, but by caring for the land and its resources, hiring the right people and communicating with consumers, and focusing on profitability, a company culture has been developed to enable Padlock Ranch to succeed.
Caring for the land
Padlock Ranch is divided into different divisions, including a feedlot, a farming operation that provides feed for the feedlot, and the ranch, which is further divided into multiple range divisions. Fahsholtz works closely with the specific range managers who oversee the grazing programs to develop a plan for each range division based on past performance and current conditions.
Utilizing a time-controlled grazing system, Fahsholtz says at Padlock they try to graze specific pastures at different times each year to improve range health. “It’s not healthy for a pasture if you only come in the spring, for example, so we try to rotate the time of use around and move cattle every few weeks on the range.”
Grazing through pastures rapidly during the growing season and coming back through when cool-season plants have matured allows Padlock to leave litter on the soil surface, which helps reduce soil temperature and maintain a higher level of soil moisture. This system has been designed following best management practices in an effort to protect riparian areas, protect wildlife habitat and promote good water management.
In the aftermath of a fire that consumed 85,000 acres at Padlock in 2012, Fahsholtz says even though grazing flexibility was taken away, the ranch avoided having a “fire sale” and dispersing cows because they closely followed a grazing plan. “By having moved the cattle frequently, a number of our pastures had recovered so we weaned calves immediately, and we were able to put cattle on some pastures we had already used going into the fall. This didn’t hurt our pastures and it provided feed for our cows.”