In 1962, L.B. “Bud” Pearson, who was ranching South of Thedford, Neb., and artificially inseminating his black angus cattle, wanted an easier, safer, way of catching his cows while working alone. He went to his scrap iron pile and built his first automatic, self-catching cattle headgate there in his ranch shop. It worked well and he was encouraged to build more, started selling commercially in 1973 and received a patent on his headgate in 1964.
Bud and wife Evelyn built Pearson’s Livestock Equipment facility on the east edge of Thedford in 1966-1967 after several thousand headgates had been produced in his ranch shop. Pearson’s has been and continues to be a major employer in the small town of Thedford.
Jack Johnston began working as a welder at Pearson’s, Jan. 2, 1971, and helped develop the first straight sided squeeze chute in 1973, which was a totally new concept. A palpation cage and chute trailer were the next products developed. The patent on the chute was acquired in 1975. In 1982, an adjustable alley and sweep tub were added which, when fully assembled, form a complete working system. At that time Pearson’s also manufactured corral panels! “In the early 80s, with the expertise of bison specialist, Dr. Ken Throlson of New Rockford, N.D., a top of the line bison handling equipment was added.”
Jack worked up to assistant shop foreman, and in the 80s worked up to distributor for four states. He worked shows in those four states besides helping Pearsons in some national shows. He and his wife, Gail, the proud parents of six children and grandparents to 10, bought the business from Bud, October 1, 1990. Several additions to the facility have been added over the years, including a new paint shop in 2002 and an add-on in 2009 to hold the ‘new’ used lathe which has saved them valuable time. Last year, a 30-by-80-foot building was added so all their overseas products can be housed under the roof out of Mother Nature’s wrath. Once inside, the products do not see the light of day until their overseas containers are unloaded. “Depending on what is ordered, containers can hold anywhere from seven to eight chutes, side by side or 11 chutes, standing up on end” stated Jack.
Jack is proud of the expansions he and Gail have made to Pearson’s over the years. Jack readily admits he could not have done it without God leading the way and Gail by his side. “She doesn’t have her CDL for the big rig, but spells me driving when we go to shows with the pick-up and trailer”. “The Lord has richly blessed us with distributers and employees who are as dedicated as we are in producing a quality product that will serve ranchers for generations”.
Equipment distributors are not in all 50 states however there is Pearson equipment in every state. “The Pearson marketing system consists of independent distributors who in turn have their own dealer networks. Because the distributors have a working knowledge of their own trade areas they are better able to set up and service their own dealers. This system works well. Equipment can be shipped on the Company semi to US distributors and by 40 foot containers to the distributors over seas, then be redistributed by them to their own dealers, cutting down on freight. The Company has eleven distributors in the United States with eight covering all of the area west of the Mississippi River and four east of the Mississippi River.”
Pearson’s has been involved in exporting since 1975. “We have seven distributors, one in Canada, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, UK, Belgium and Finland. Our UK distributor takes care of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and associated islands, Belgium handles all of Western Europe and Finland handles the Nordic Countries along with some of the old Russian Block.”
Pearson’s has been a national distributor for Tru-Test Scales for the past 23 years. “Ranchers wanted to be able to weigh the animal they are processing.” In 2003, the 40th anniversary year, was the year the paint shop was built and hydraulics were developed to add to the chutes if the buyer wanted them.
As Pearson’s begins its 50th year of production in 2013, new owners will be on board. Jack announced that his Texas distributor has purchased the business. “David Rater and his wife JoAnn have used Pearson equipment on the ranch for 10 years and have been a Pearson distributor sense 2011. They ranch about 35 miles South of Wichita Falls, Texas, near Antelope, Texas, a village about the size of Brownlee, Neb. Their son and his wife, Ricky and Cory are looking forward to moving to Thedford to operate the business. They have two young sons, ages 5 and 3. Cory and Ricky are excited about raising their boys in a rural setting and a small school. “We’re excited that Ricky with an agriculture engineering degree will be able to see some ways that the production line can be tweaked.” The company will continue to be Pearson’s Livestock Equipment out of Thedford, Neb. — “Designed for Cattlemen by Cattlemen.” ❖