Padlock Ranch grazes cow-calf pairs on native grassland in Montana and Wyoming. Cattle graze out most of the year in a rotational grazing program. Cows are bred to calve in May and June and are weaned into our grow yard in the fall. Cattle are selected to fit our environment and to meet our customer’s demands. All cattle, including heifers, calve on green grass unassisted. All cattle work is done on horseback by experienced cowboys. We take great pride in good animal handling and horsemanship to promote excellent animal welfare and safety. Management units consist of 2000-2500 cows, with each unit retaining two-three full-time staff, including the unit manager. Cows are pregnancy tested in the fall by a licensed veterinarian using ultrasound technology. All cows are electronically identified with and associated inventories maintained by cow age. Replacement heifers are selected from the cow’s that calve in the first 40 days of the calving season with an emphasis on moderate frame and soundness.
Cows and bulls are vaccinated for respiratory and reproductive diseases annually using modified live vaccines. Bulls are tested annually for trichomoniasis. Calves are vaccinated with a modified live respiratory vaccine and seven-way at branding, receiving two additional modified live respiratory vaccines at weaning and post-weaning.
The goal of the Padlock Ranch farm is to put up high-quality forage products at a low cost to support our cattle operations. Padlock farms over 4000 acres of irrigated and 2900 acres of dryland ground. Primary crops include alfalfa and grass hay, corn silage, and hay barley. First cutting irrigated hay fields are chopped and ensiled to produce haylage in June. In the silage pit, anaerobic fermentation occurs, which preserves the wet, chopped hay as a high-quality feed product. Second-cutting irrigated hay, dryland hay, and hay barley are harvested late June through August as dry hay in big square bales. Third-cutting irrigated hay is put up as haylage in late September and early October. Corn silage is harvested in early September and becomes the staple of growing rations in the feedlot. This process is similar to the process described for putting up haylage. The corn silage is another high-quality feed that helps to grow the cattle we have in the feedlot over the winter.
Technology in farming has advanced tremendously. Besides significant advancements in plant genomics, other technologies have revolutionized our approaches. We utilize precision fertilization, where the correct amount of fertilizer is applied based on the production potential of different zones within a field. This reduces overall fertilizer costs and minimizes over and under-fertilization. GPS guided tracking in our equipment increases the precision of field work and planting. Variable rate seeding is another technology that we’re moving into. We are also moving towards practices such as no-till that will help reduce erosion and nutrient volatilization. Soil health is critical to sustainable farming enterprises.
Padlock Ranch’s feedlot serves as a complement to our cow-calf and farming enterprises. Calves are weaned into our grow yard in the fall of the year and grown to yearling weights using professionally formulated rations utilizing forages grown on the farm. We use purchased grain corn and dried distillers grains to augment the forages in the growing rations. Calves are weaned and vaccinated, and then they are sorted into market groups to meet our marketing programs.
The feedlot is also used to add value to cows leaving our system, which is also an integral part of our marketing. In addition, we finish some cattle at the yard for an All Natural program, and we also use the yard when we Artificially Inseminate heifers in July each year.
With well-sloped and large pens, combined with favorable environmental conditions for winter feeding, the Padlock Feedlot is set up to add significant value to our cattle!