February Ranch Spotlight: Johansen Herefords- Castle Dale, Utah
This month’s rancher spotlight is on Johansen Herefords, LLC of Castle Dale, Utah. Castle Dale, Utah is located in eastern Utah approximately two hours south of Salt Lake City. I’ve seen enough John Wayne movies to know that you have to be a pretty good cattleman to make it in that country. The Johansen’s have been raising Hereford cattle in this area for four generations, and I’d say that makes them qualified!
The family originally ran sheep on BLM desert permits in the winters and Forest Service permits in the summer. During the 1940’s, they transitioned out of sheep and into commercial Herefords. In the 1970’s, the family operation had grown to 250 commercial Herefords. Then, in 1979 Craig Johansen purchased his first set of Line One purebred Herefords. We’ve all been in that moment when you just knew it was right, and Craig must’ve known he had found a good thing. The purebred operation continues to operate today with Craig and his sons: Jonathan Johansen-Cattle Manager, Merrial Johansen-Land Manager, and Justin Johansen- Equipment Operator.
Today, their operation continues to operate much the same way as it has always done. Their purebred Herefords run on private ground at an elevation of 5,500 feet and are fed self-produced hay from January till April when grass begins to grow. During the early breeding season, the cows are separated into private pastures and they still continue to run on the same forest permit in the Manti-Lasalle Forest of the Rocky Mountains. In the summer months, their cattle run with an additional 900 head of commercial cattle on a permit in Lower Joe’s Valley (elevation 7,500 feet) and Trail Mountain (elevation 9,500 feet). When fall comes around, the cattle are gathered in private pastures in Upper Joe’s Valley and then trailed near Castle Dale where they are put out on desert BLM permit land on the San Rafael Swell of the Colorado Plateau until January. (Guy’s, if you ever need an extra hand to help trail -count me in! But, I’m pretty sure I’ll need to borrow a local horse because my little South Texas cow pony would more than likely be wind broke just getting out of the trailer at those elevations.)
Why do the Johansen’s use Hereford cattle? Jonathan Johansen says, “We believe in their ability to hold up in our arid environment and high elevations. The Hereford breed is well known for their PAP scores. (That’s a lung capacity score that is relevant when operating in those conditions.) The maternal strengths, hardiness, and easy fleshing ability make the breed a great fit in our location. They are easy to manage and calves are vigorous at birth. They produce a premium beef product with a great taste.” Hardiness, vigor, and superior beef taste-we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
Being an operation that has such a rich history, what is the most important thing that Johansen Hereford’s has learned from its past? The 35 years that Johansen Herefords has been breeding for performance have enabled them to develop the type of cattle that thrive in their arid climate. In country that is part mountain, part high altitude desert, and averages less than 10 inches of rain per year the Johansen’s Herefords have to be hardy and maternal. The ranch prides itself on their mama cows ability to thrive on rough range that has been bred-in through generations. The Johansen’s use the Line One blood lines because they can confidently predict that their calf-crops will be similar to their dams and sires. In addition, Jonathan states, “We have learned that it is very important to never be satisfied with the status quo. The cattle need to be constantly improving, which requires a rigorous culling program. If the cattle aren’t functional, structurally sound, and producers each year, then they will be headed to the market.” Sounds like good stewardship all the way around!
What does Johansen Herefords, LLC consider the most important thing looking forward to the future? The Johansen’s feel that Hereford breeders and the Hereford association need to continue their efforts of showing commercial cattlemen that the “baldy female” is the premiere female for fertility, efficiency, and productivity. They also agree that the end product is just as important and through CHB show the consumer that Certified Hereford Beef is a superior product with superior taste.
If Johansen Herefords could make a point to someone from a non-agriculture background what would it be? “It is important to understand that farming and ranching are the basic blocks of our nation’s economy. If a country can’t raise its own food, it will be dependent on all other outside forces”-Craig Johansen. Craig, we think that should be a on a plaque somewhere on Capitol Hill where every congressmen has to walk past it! In that same breath, the Johansen’s share a concern that a lot of us do and that is government intervention. They also fear that too much intervention in government permits, private land ownership, water rights, and markets/consumers would have devastating effects. That’s why continued excellent stewardship is so important! We have to continue taking care of the things that take care of us.
It was a pleasure getting to visit with the Johansen’s and learning about their operation. They love showing customers their program and you can contact them to see about replacement heifers and yearling/two year old bulls and the hardy stock they come from.
And JOHANSENHEREFORDS (Instagram)
Well folks we’ve made it to the end of February, and hopefully, the snow will give way to rain soon. As activities around the ranches and farms start to ramp up remember -safety first. Slow down, take your time, and do the job right the first time. That’s the voice of experience talking as I get older and look forward to our own chores around the ranch.