SALEM, Ohio — A love for Hereford cattle has been passed down three generations at Creek Bottom Farm in Navarre, Ohio. The farm has been in Jeff Johnson’s family since the 1800s. Jeff and his wife, Jane, moved onto the farm in 1974, and he taught at Wayne County Schools Career Center, retiring in 2003 after 31 years. Together, they raised three children on the farm: Jeremiah Johnson, Jamie Young and Jennifer Reeves.
All three are now raising their own children in agriculture and Hereford cattle. Jeremiah, road superintendent for Paint Township/ Wayne County, has two daughters Jillian, 8, and Evelyn, 5, who both help with the cattle. Jamie is a registered veterinary technician and clinical manager at Hometown Veterinary Service and is married to Aaron Young. Her three children are also involved in the farm: McKenna Baney, 13; Madelynn Baney, 11; and Mason Young, 4. Jennifer and her husband Brian live in Washington Court House, Ohio, where they raise hogs with their two daughters, Emily and Alison.
Before the Johnson family raised beef cattle, they had a dairy operation, but in 1960, the family sold the dairy cattle. The Johnsons bought their first Hereford cattle in 1974 when Jeff and Jane were first married. They began buying bottle calves that were half Holstein, half Angus or half Holstein, half Hereford. They now have 60 head of Hereford cattle and club calf cows, 40 of which are Hereford.
The family owns 207 acres and rents an additional 60 acres. A large portion of this land is pasture and on the rest of the ground they produce hay and corn. Jeff, Jane and Jeremiah run the day-to-day operation.
The family takes pride in their Hereford genetics and can trace almost every Hereford on their farm back to one of their original calves. The herd has always been artificially inseminated, Jeff said, and COBA does their breeding. They use a variety of semen, some sexed, in their herd, also buying from other Hereford farms, Streamline Genetics, Reed Enterprises, Select Sires, Cattle Visions and Genex, among others.
“We aren’t specific to one company,” said Jeff. “You’ve got to use the bulls that are popular now. Even in the club calf industry, you’ve got to use the popular bulls if you want to sell the calves.”
Fifteen years ago, they began conventionally flushing the cattle. They put the eggs in at the home farm and at a satellite farm. Occasionally, they purchase eggs from other herds, both Hereford and calf club. They plan spring calving from the first of January and finish up in April. They also calve in fall, “so that the Hereford females can fall into different classes at the shows,” said Jeremiah.
According to Jeremiah, the operation has changed over time. When he was showing, they had a fair amount of Hereford cattle, but started adding club calf cattle to the operation. Now that the club calf market is flooded, they have transitioned back to having more Herefords.
“The biggest thing is keeping up with the way the cattle are changing. I would say the show cattle now are better suited for being able to be production cattle than what they were 15 years ago,” said Jeremiah.
Jeremiah began adding his own cattle into the herd in high school and has been doing so ever since. Jeff and Jane plan to reduce their numbers gradually.
“We will go as long as we can, just help him,” said Jeff. “But we will gradually keep reducing the number of cows that we have and he will keep increasing the number he has.”
The Johnsons have been showing since 1984. They started out just going to county fairs, then gradually began going to the Ohio State Fair and national shows. Their first Junior National was in Perry, Georgia, and they’ve traveled to Fort Worth, Texas; Billings, Montana; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Des Moines, Iowa; East Lansing, Michigan; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Grand Island, Nebraska; Madison, Wisconsin; Denver; Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“That’s been our vacation,” said Jeff.
The family has enjoyed the years spent in the industry, Jeremiah said.
“Going to the cattle shows was the most fun for me and doing good at them, and learning that in order to do good at the show, you had to do your work at home.”
“Kids that you showed with now have kids that are starting to show, so you have that same group of people,” said Jane, “When we go to Junior Nationals, we travel two, three, four trailers together.”
After he was no longer a junior, Jeremiah traveled to different shows and sales, fitting cattle for people. Now, he helps his children and nieces in their showing career. They also show at the Eastern Ohio Hereford Association Junior Show, which is always held the second Sunday in June. Jeff and Jane have been in charge of this show for over 10 years as Jeff is association president and Jane is secretary.
At the 2018 Ohio Hereford Futurity, the family received premier breeder, premier exhibitor and reserve champion cow/calf pair honors. In 2017, they received premier breeder, premier exhibitor, champion cow/calf pair and reserve champion prospect steer at the Ohio Hereford Futurity. In 2015, they were named Hereford premier breeder at the Ohio State Fair.
McKenna, Madelynn and Jillian all participate in junior shows. They give speeches at the junior nationals, compete in judging contest at junior nationals, the county 4-H judging team and they are apart of Dalton Kidron Big 4 4-H club in Wayne County. They have had success in their showing careers, even at an early age. But they typically show against each other, and “it gets really competitive,” said McKenna.
Participating in sales is also a large part of the operation. They send Hereford cattle to the Ohio Beef Expo, the J&L and Guest Sale and the Switzerland of Ohio Polled Hereford Association sale in the spring. The family also does many private sales of both Hereford and club calves throughout the year online or in person.
Focus on feeding
“Right now the biggest challenge is getting them fed right,” said Jeremiah. “You can have a good animal, but if you don’t feed them right ,you’re not going to do any good. And you can have an average animal, feed them right and do really well.”
The family is involved in many organizations – Stanwood Community Church, Stark County Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Buckeye Hereford Association, Buckeye Junior Hereford Association, American Hereford Association and the National Junior Hereford Association. Jeff served on the Wayne County beef committee for 30 years and Jeremiah has served on and off since high school and is currently serving a term. Jeremiah is also an adviser for the Kidron Dalton Big 4 4-H. Jamie is on the Buckeye Hereford Association board of directors.
Jeremiah’s goal for the farm is to “continue a good reputation of supplying quality breeding cattle and show steers.”
“In our cattle, the biggest thing that stands out is the functionally of the animal. After somebody buys something, it’s going to go on and be functional and productive,” he said.
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