Collins Ranch has taken on a holistic management approach to ranching. Our business values the ecological community and strives to keep a healthy cow herd in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem.
It has long been a belief on Collins Ranch that we are grass farmers first and livestock ranchers second. The management is well-aware that the flora and fauna that was here before the family settled on the land is our most valuable natural resource. If we were to overgraze during drier years or overstock in better cattle markets, there could be devastating consequences for our brittle rangeland.
Collins Ranch is currently entering its 115th year of management under the same family. Throughout these years, the operation has weathered the dust bowl, volatile commodity prices, droughts, and a 7,500 acre fire, among many other challenges. This Colorado Centennial Farm does not endure trials such as these without being willing to innovate and adapt.
We believe a moderate size animal is the best fit for our environment, and is the most economical to raise. We use Artificial Insemination (AI) to achieve quality genetics for our cattle. These genetics include low-birth weight for ease during calving and moderate size cattle. Our cattle are primarily angus.
Charles (Charlie) was 15 years old when he was sent to Old Mexico to help herd his father’s cattle and drive them from Chihauhau, Mexico to the Rio Grande River up to Kansas.
Soon after coming through rural eastern Colorado on his journey, Charlie came across a ranch near a town called Sorrento that he fell in love with.
In 1907, Charlie purchased the Collins Ranch from a Kansas City Bank. Collins Ranch consists of two ranches: one on Rush Creek known as Circle Bar south of Wild Horse, CO and the headquarters on Big Sandy Creek west of Kit Carson.
Around 1915, Blackleg was a constant threat to the well-being of cowherds. Charlie was concerned about this and partnered with Dr. O. M. Franklin of Kansas State University to develop a serum to combat the disease. In 1918, with the help of friends and financial investors Charlie began the Kansas Blackleg Serum Co. which later became known as the Franklin Serum Company. Charlie and later Don were presidents of the company until it was sold in 1963. The company later became part of the current Fort Dodge products we know today.
Charlie was active in the state and national cattlemen’s associations and was elected National President of the American National Cattlemen’s Association in 1932.
Charlie became involved in politics and was elected at age 73 to the Colorado State Senate.
Don Carlos Collins was born to Charlie and Blanche Gregg Collins on September 18, 1903 in Baxter Springs, KS. He resided on Collins Ranch until his death in 1973. Don attended schools in Sorrento, Kit Carson, Denver, and Kansas State University. He worked for a year in the St. Louis stockyards before returning to Kit Carson to ranch and work in the bank. He married Blanche Brown of Fort Collins on December 29, 1928. They had Polly Blanche on September 3, 1933.
Don served in the state senate from 1944 until 1954 and was president of the senate during his last term. He was president of the Franklin Serum Company, the Kit Carson State Bank, and the American National Cattlemen’s Association.
After graduation from CSU (then Colorado A & M), Polly moved to Phoenix to work for the Arizona National Show. It was there she met Rogers Johnson from Marblehead, MA. Rogers had been transferred to Phoenix for his job with General Electric. It was the blending of east coast and the west when Polly and Rogers married at Collins Ranch in 1959. Four children were born to the family as they continued to live in Phoenix: Scott, Don, Jody, and Toby. The family moved to Collins Ranch in 1970 to help with ranching operations as Don slowed down. Don passed away in 1973.
Rogers and Polly continued to ranch in the Collins tradition gradually converting to cross-bred cows, water pipelines, and developing mineral rights. In 1993, Rogers passed away from lymphoma.
Toby continued to manage the ranch since his return in 1994. He married Amy Johnson (born and raised in Bethesda, MD) on the ranch in 1995 and they raised their three children (fifth generation): Brad, Haley, and Tess. Polly Johnson lived on the ranch until she passed in March 2022.
Over the past two decades, Collins Ranch has worked hard to implement a grazing system that is focused on the long term sustainability and improvement of our land. Toby developed the tools to implement the most effective grazing system after graduating from TCU Ranch Management School in 1994 and then returning home to the ranch to take over its management. These grazing system tools include: the importance of rest (consolidating herds), focus on animal days per acre (ADAs), faster moves in faster grass growth, electric fencing, optimal water distribution, calving during longer daylight times, and the protection of riparian zones. Toby and his wife, Amy, completed the Ranching for Profit School in 1996, which furthered their education and desire to proactively manage the grass and soil health of the ranch. Toby and Amy continued this education by attending the Holistic Resource Management Course in the late 1990s and the Dick Diven Nutrition school in 1999.
Collins Ranch takes pride in the fact that our dry land still does exceptionally well given the limited amount of rainfall we receive annually. We focus on improving the native rangeland by concentrating our efforts on pasture rest, animal days per acre (ADAs), high stock density, and short grazing periods. After years of drought, we began the tradition of moving all mother cows and replacements to corn stalks and wheat pastures for four months in the winter. We have continued this practice, even in decent rainfall years, to give the grass time to rest. The break we give the grass during the dormant season is a beneficial strategy for both the conservation of the rangeland and the total utilization of AUM’s.
Collins Ranch aspires for the future generations of the family to continue the success of our business, as well as for them to experience the joys of being deeply rooted in agriculture. In order for this to happen, we have long focused our operation from a business and an environmental standpoint, always with an eye to the future.
Learn more about our ranch and how we were recognized by the Sand County Foundation for receiving the Leopold Conservation Award in 2020: https://sandcountyfoundation.org/our-work/leopold-conservation-award-program/collins-ranch
If you want to learn more about our family's history or our commitment to the beef industry, feel free to reach out!
14400 US Highway 287, Kit Carson, Colorado 80825, United States