Greeley family enjoys time at National Western
DENVER – For thousands of visitors, the National Western Stock Show is a fun place to be for a day or two in January.
But it’s also a place where the opportunity to sell and buy cattle is abundant.
And that’s the main reason Brad Johnson has been making the trip to Denver for most of his adult life, although he said he started as a 12-year-old showing cattle.
Now, however, Johnson, 48, and his family – which includes his wife, Kristi; his son Nick, 27, his wife Brittany and their sons, Blake, 3 and Ty, 1; and his son Andy, 24 – own the Running J Angus Ranch of Greeley. While the family lives in Greeley, they keep their 20 head of registered Angus cattle in corrals they rent near Gill. They are all partners in the operation, Johnson said.
This year, for the first time, Johnson was down in the stockyards, where he planned to sell two Angus heifers in the Colorado Angus Association Foundation Female Sale.
“I’ve sold bulls up on the hill in the past, but this year we had these really good heifers. So this is our first year down here in the yards,” Johnson said.
The heifers come from a program that he has been building and improving over the years. He said he started with embryo transplanting his cows about eight years ago. That’s something, he added, that would not have even crossed his mind 20 years ago. It allows a rancher to develop a quality herd of cattle by using donor cows of lesser quality.
“I started by buying embryos and transplanting them in cows I had,” Johnson said. That’s a less expensive way of starting a herd of high quality, rather than going out and buying those cattle, he said.
Then, once he raised some of his own quality cows, he was able to take embryos from them and put them in other donor cows on the ranch.
The two heifers, born in February and March of last year, are the result of that program.
“I’ve had a lot of people come by and look at them,” Johnson said, noting the National Western is the only place this time of year where a cattleman can get national exposure for their animals.
“They’ve come from all over the United States, so I have no idea what they might bring at the sale,” he said. They could be bought by other Angus breeders, which is most likely because of the quality of the pair, or they may go to someone looking to start their own Angus operation.
“You just never know down here,” Johnson said, who added his first real start in the business came as a young 4-H member.
“I got a calf, along with two of my brothers, at the Weld County Fair Catch-A-Calf Contest back in 1977 or 1978,” he recalled with a laugh.
The small cattle operation allows the family to sell about 10 bulls a year from their operation, and bringing the heifers to Denver this year can only improve the exposure for those animals that will be sold from the ranch.