Coleman Ranch: Coleman family uses innovative ranching practices while continuing century old legacy
The Coleman Ranch was established in 1888 on Cottonwood Creek when Millard and Mary Coleman moved to the Cowboy State from Kansas. The couple originally only planned to stay through the winter, as they were on their way to Washington, but decided to stay long term.
More than a century later, the Coleman Ranch continues to run a cow/calf operation.
The ranch is bordered to the east by Interstate 25, roughly 20 miles north of Wheatland and works its way west toward Laramie Peak. The ranch consists of private and leased land.
Today, Carrie (Coleman) Paisley, her husband Dr. Steve Paisley and their children Ty, Todd and Hadley, as well as Carrie’s brother David Coleman and his son Isaac, help run and manage the Coleman Ranch.
David notes, “There was a road when the founding Colemans arrived on Cottonwood Creek, which made the area one of the earlier settlements at the time. There are a few things pre-dating the founding of Wyoming, and one of them is the Coleman Ranch.”
“It’s noteworthy because the Fetterman Trail goes through the county, and one of the main crossings was nearby,” shares David. “It was kind of a crossroad early on.”
“The ranch is somewhat unique because, although the creek is small and somewhat unreliable, it does run water. There are a lot of springs running along it,” he adds. “There are a lot of ranches in Wyoming where this is not true for a creek.”
The ranch has been a cattle and hay operation since its inception, and through the sibling’s upbringing has never farmed anything other than hay, besides basic gardening, shares David.
The Paisleys use artificial insemination (AI) technology to breed their herd. Steve shares AI is an under-utilized tool in many operations.
“We develop all of our replacement heifers. All of our heifers and mature cows are AI’d in one cycle, and then we put them in with bulls,” says Steve. “We calve in mid-March, breed in early June, and once everything is AI’d it gets turned out to summer grass.”
The ranch has been using AI technology for the past 12 years.
“It’s a way to introduce current genetics and additional breeds. It’s also a way for us to maintain a crossbred program and use some current sires through the AI process,” mentions Steve.
Steve spends a lot of time looking at expected progeny differences (EPDs) when he selects bulls to AI his herd, with one of the major selection criteria on calving ease.
“We originally started to synchronize and AI to calve in mid-March because it’s typically the week of spring break, and the kids were home,” says Steve. “It’s kind of not the case anymore, but it is why we continue to calve in March.”
Another unique practice on the ranch occurs during the winter months when the family feeds hay during night hours with the idea cows will deliver calves during the day. Steve notes this typically works pretty well for them.
“Since I’m not here as much, it’s important our cattle calve during good weather and daylight hours,” says Steve.
As a former University of Wyoming (UW) Beef Specialist and current James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) Director, Steve has learned a lot of valuable practices over the years.
“The unique thing about my job is I get to visit a lot of operations, and I’ve learned a variety of management ideas from different ranches across the state,” he says. “This is as much an education than anything – working with ranchers and picking up on little things we can incorporate into our ranch.”
In addition to working for UW, SAREC and being a rancher himself, Steve notes he understands many of the challenges operations face and hopes to positively influence the research done at the station.
Family involvement and new challenges
The children in the family have been instrumental in keeping the ranch’s day-to-day operations going.
As a young girl, Carrie has always been interested in the operation of the ranch. Her father Charley worked as a journalist in addition to ranching alongside his wife Jean Coleman.
“We’ve always loved living here, and I knew this is where I wanted to raise my family. I didn’t originally know if it was going to be a reality, but things have kind of worked out in this direction,” says Carrie. “The Coleman Ranch is very much a family operation.”
After living in Oklahoma, Kansas and Laramie, Carrie and Steve were able to return to the ranch 15 years ago, with Steve working at SAREC near Lingle and Carrie working in the school system in Wheatland.
“The ranch is very near and dear to our hearts, and we’re very invested in preserving our legacy and the ranch. We like to help out when we can,” says David.
The family notes many of the ranches along Cottonwood Creek have changed ownership over the last few years. This is one of the challenges the family not only face, but many operations face across the state today.
“Every time these ranches change hands, they progressively go to a wealthier buyer,” says David. “A lot of historic folks are selling out to wealthy people from other places, so it does worry us some when thinking about the future of the ranch.”
The family often wonders how they will preserve their legacy for the next generation when so many ranches are moving into more of a hobby ranch or hunting retreat.
Steve notes Charley often said, “As ranchers we’re land rich and cash poor.”
“It sounds glamorous to have a ranch, but often ranchers are cash poor trying to cover increased cost,” says Steve.
At the end of the day, the Colemans and Paisleys continue to look forward to the future despite the challenges they face.
“We love our history and being on the ranch is where I want to be,” says Carrie. “Our family has had a long understanding of the importance of the ranch and its deep heritage, and we look forward to keeping it going for generations to come.”
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.