Buckeye Hereford Show continues long history at Ohio Beef Expo

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Jillian Johnson
Jillian Johnson, of Creek Bottom Farm, shows one of her father’s Hereford bulls at the 2024 Ohio Beef Expo. Johnson comes from a long line of Hereford breeders, including her father, Jeremiah, and her grandfather, Jeff. (Linde’s Livestock Photos linde.shootproof.com)

COLUMBUS — On Friday, April 28, 1944, Zanesville’s B&O Railroad Yards hosted Ohio’s first Polled Hereford Breeder Sale — 20 consignors sold 63 head of cattle that day.

Since then, Ohio Hereford breeders haven’t missed a spring show and sale for the past 80 years.

This spring, the Buckeye Hereford Breeders Show & Sale was held for the 81st consecutive year at the Ohio Expo Center during the Ohio Beef Expo. It is the oldest continuous-running sale of its kind in the United States.

Hereford breeders and other breeds held spring shows and sales at the Ohio State Fairgrounds for decades, laying the foundation for the Ohio Beef Expo, which was first held in 1988.

“Herefords were instrumental in making the Ohio Beef Expo happen,” said Alexis Stitzlein Buckeye Hereford Association president. “Because we had an established sale so long before the Ohio Cattle Association came in and decided they wanted to put that together. Not only Herefords, but Shorthorns were instrumental in getting the expo together.”

The Ohio Beef Expo, held March 14-17, hosted nine breed sales on March 15 and 16 this year, selling 371 live lots at an average price of $4,082. The sale total exceeded $1.5 million.

Breeders

Accomplished breeders and show & sale participants, Karen Holley and Jeff Johnson, both members of the Buckeye Hereford Association Hall of Merit, have a long history with Herefords.

Holley was raised around Hereford cattle. Her parents started with the breed in the mid-1950s, and her older brothers and sisters showed Hereford cattle while she was growing up.

In 1974, Karen’s mother, Helen, was inducted into the American Hereford Association Hall of Merit for exceptional contributions to youth activities.

“My mom and dad were very much into the whole association, in fact, my mom helped start the Polled Herford Women’s organization,” Holley said.

Johnson grew up around the breed. His grandfather raised Herefords.

“It was kind of in my blood,” he said.

He brought his first heifer from a neighbor, shortly after he married his wife, Jane. The couple attended the Beef Expo the next year and bought a few more Herefords to grow their herd.

Holley and Johnson are partial to Herefords due to their docile temperament, feed efficiency and quality of meat.

“Some of those other guys are always fixing fences because they’re running through them or they’re fixing gates to replace them because they’re busting them down,” Johnson said. “Herefords have been nice for us and they’re getting more popular now that we are improving carcass traits.”

Next generation

Someone from Holley’s family has been showing Herefords for nearly seven decades. Her youngest grandson currently shows mini Herefords because of his young age and the breed’s smaller stature.

“My third-in-line grandson is just now getting old enough to show, next year will be his first year in 4-H, but he’s shown two years at Junior Nationals,” Holley said.

The Johnsons have been showing for nearly 40 years. However, Jeff didn’t begin selling cattle at the expo until about 10 years ago, once his son, Jeremiah, built up his herd.

Father and son live next door to each other on Creek Bottom Farm in Navarre, Ohio. They keep their cattle together but make decisions separately for their breeding programs. Jeff Johnson said his son is focused more on show-style bulls since he has children who are showing, but Jeff is moving back toward more “carcass-oriented stuff.”

“You know, fathers and sons can’t always agree on which bull is the best — so we don’t even discuss those matters,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s herd numbers about 50 to 60 cows and his calving season runs January through April.

“Some people would say, well, why the heck do you have it spread out so much?” Johnson said. “When you have so many grandkids, you can’t put them all in the same class because that doesn’t work.”

Judge

This year’s Hereford judge, Taylor Feikert from Millersburg, Ohio, assessed 36 lots of cattle spread across 12 classes in Cooper Arena. Feikert viewed the animals from various angles and had them move in the ring before ranking them.

The show also serves as an opportunity for buyers to view the cattle, which must be in the show if they are in the sale.

This year’s show and sale featured 17 consignors with 36 lots of cattle. The high-selling bull sold for $7,700; the high-selling female went for $6,700. The average sale price was $3,347.

Whether in the barn, the show arena or the sale ring Ohio Hereford producers like the Holleys and Johnsons come to the Beef Expo to support the breed, see old friends, look for ways to improve their herd or simply enjoy the event.

“It’s just been a pleasure,” Johnson said. The people have been nice to work with — It’s just been a really fun experience.”

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