Starting with a 3,000-acre purchase in Dayton, Wyo., in 1943 by Homer and Mildred Scott, the Padlock Ranch has grown in the past 70 years, now running nearly 11,000 head of cattle on approximately 475,000 acres of owned and leased country in Wyoming and Montana. The holdings are divided into six units, with an individual manager for each. 

The name of the ranch is derived from the brand: a simple, open padlock. The brand was purchased in the 1940s from another ranch in Banner, Wyo. Legend has it that the Northern Arapaho tribe also owned the brand at one time. 

“The Padlock is designed to be a sustainable ranch,” says past president Wayne Fahsholtz. “The ranch has developed a balanced score card that has five categories that build on each other—people, natural resources, customers, finances, and lifestyle—to help measure progress.”

The Padlock beef breeding program has developed what it calls “Padlock Composites,” a breed combination that is approximately 75% English and 25% Continental. 

Particular attention is paid toward managing the ranch’s best natural resource: grass. The grazing program allows for plants to reach maturity in as many years as possible. Cowboys, riding mostly purchased ranch geldings, move cattle rapidly through pastures during the growing season and slow the rotations down as plants reach maturity. The grazing practices are designed to protect riparian areas and improve wildlife habitat. Meanwhile, cows calve in May and June in an effort to keep feed costs low, and the cowherd primarily grazes out all winter on stockpiled grass.

Most of the cattle work is done horseback, and to continually improve the cowboys’ horsemanship, horse clinics are held in August and February of each year.

In 2013, the Padlock Ranch was awarded the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Region Five Environmental Stewardship award. In 2012, Wayne Fahsholtz, past president of the Padlock and the current coordinator for Sheridan (Wyo.) College’s Ranch Sustainability Forum and owner of AgWin Consulting, was recognized with the National Beef Quality Assurance award.

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