Johnson Livestock, Peebles, SK
Nothing is achieved without commitment. Whether it be to a cause, personal values or a way of life, it takes the commitment of one or many people to stay the course and achieve a goal. This is an overview of four generations at the Johnson family of Peebles, Saskatchewan and their commitment to a way of life in Agriculture that now impacts many across North America.
The year was 1905 when Jorgan and Anna Johnson made the decision to immigrate from Norway to Canada. Jorgan had spent the winter loading ice onto ships and this began to take a toll on his health. He had seen a picture saying “Canada’s Winters are Beautiful” so that, combined with the fact that he wished for a bigger farm, began the journey toward what we all know as Johnson Livestock.
That year Jorgan and Anna, along with their three daughters arrived in Regina. Upon their arrival in Regina, the flat, wide open plains didn’t appeal to them so they continued on their way east until they reached the gently rolling land that more reminded them of their homeland. They homesteaded on the NW20-14-7, the same location that David and Anne live on today just a few miles north east of Peebles. The first winter was spent in a single ply house with the nearest wood ten miles away. This meant keeping a supply of firewood was a big job. I wonder what they thought of that picture in Norway now? It was during this first winter twin boys John and Harold were born. Over the next few years Jorgan and Anna improved and expanded their farm growing wheat and oats and always milking cows. Two more sons were born: Henry, David’s father and Sydney. Unfortunately one day while the family was out milking cows, Sydney was lost in a fire at age three.
The 30’s and 40’s saw the three brothers Harold, John and Henry farming together. The operation had grown to six quarters of owned land as well as some rented. The work was originally done with teams of horses, switching fresh teams at noon. Henry owned some heavy horse studs at this time which he would travel with, offering breeding services to others in the area. Later, when a tractor arrived on the scene the brothers kept it going 24 hours a day. The brothers also continued to milk cows through this time.
In 1948 Henry married Sadie and together they raised five children: Sydney, Anne, Marlene, David and Lyall. In the 50’s and 60’s Henry and John continued working together, farming six quarters of land, milking 16 cows and starting a purebred Hereford herd. The 70’s and 80’s saw an expansion to the Johnson farming operation. Brothers Sydney, David and Lyall formed Diamond JB Farms. More grain land was acquired, the dairy expanded to 80 purebred Holsteins and a purebred Simmental herd was started. Gallant, one of the first Simmental bulls imported, was used on Hereford heifers to begin this new venture.
In 1977 David and Anne were married and began their family of Andrew, Terry, Leanne and Laura. Andrew married Laurie and their four daughters: Brielle, Maya, Desta & Indy represent the fifth generation on the family farm. Terry is a minister. Leanne married Rocky Pankiw and has a family of three: Marcus, Sadie and Hunter. They live at Elk Point, Alberta. Laura is married to Ryan Moore and they make their home in Regina.
1983 brought major changes to the Diamond JB operation. David bought out the home farm including the dairy and Simmentals. Sydney moved 11 miles east where he currently farms 7000 acres along with his family. Lyall moved seven miles east where he farms 11000 acres with his family. In 1988 David and Anne dispersed the Simmental herd and began a commercial herd which they bred Red Angus. 1991 saw the sale of the dairy and the beginning of a small feed lot. In 1998 Andrew and Laurie returned to the farming operation and the feed lot began to expand. When BSE hit, the feed lot had 1700 head in it. These cattle were caught there most of the summer and many of the steers weighed over a ton when they finally went to slaughter.
In the fall of 2003 David and Andrew purchased their first purebred Black Angus cows. Volume purchases from the herds of Bar 20, Freyburn Angus Farm, Howe Angus, Toner Angus Farms, Mountain View Farms, Dryland Angus, Eastondale Angus and Peak Dot Ranch as well as selections at leading consignment and production sales saw the cow herd rapidly expand.
Herd bull selection was a task not taken lightly by David and Andrew. In their herd you will see a very strong SAV influence. Carbon Copy, who is a full bred brother to Net Worth; Four Seasons, whose daughters are the backbone to the Johnson Livestock program; Eliminator, Rito 1439, Double Digit, and Prediction have walked the pastures and been heavily used in A.I. to produce large groups of 1⁄2 and 3/4 blood brothers and sisters for their program and yours. Also Final Answer, Bismarck, Net Worth, Resource and Sitz Upward are heavily used in A.I. and transplant work.
This aggressive approach has allowed Johnson Livestock to progress rather quickly in the Angus world. March 31, 2007 saw Johnson Livestock host their First Annual Production Sale. 56 bulls, 16 purebred heifers and 100 commercial heifers were catalogued. In his opening, David says this first sale is really a tribute to all the breeders who put in the years of work to develop his cow herd. At that time, after only four years, their cow herd had grown to 250 cows.
On March 15, 2012 Johnson Livestock hosted their Sixth Annual Bull Sale. 162 bulls, 26 purebred heifers and four embryo lots were offered and sold for an average of $3925. The cow herd is now 700 strong. In 2012 Johnson Livestock was in the top five for both registrations and transfers in Canada. Plans are well under way for the Seventh Annual Sale when they plan to sell over 200 head.
When asked who makes the breeding and marketing decisions at Johnson Livestock, the response was that it’s a “team effort”. David and Andrew make breeding and herd bull selections and Laurie steps in to help with the marketing and advertising. When one attends a Johnson Livestock Sale you really get an idea of how big the “team” really is, as many family and friends attend to help out in any way possible.
With a cow herd of 700 matrons and 8000 acres of hay and pasture land, David and Andrew feel they are pretty much maxed out as far as labor goes. Future plans are to keep things about this size and to continue to improve the herd by keeping large groups of similar bred heifers. Producing bulls that will add value for their customers is a goal they will continue to pursue. When one sees the number of repeat customers at a Johnson Livestock Sale I would say they have been pretty successful at achieving this.
The influence of females from the Johnson Livestock program is something else that shouldn’t be overlooked. Although their sales have been mainly focused on bulls, females from this event have gone on to produce top sellers in programs across Canada and into the United States. The top seller at the Remington Dispersal last year was a Johnson Livestock female and the lead off pair in the LLB Fall Sale was a Johnson Livestock cow with heifer calf at side. As time goes by you will see more and more females surfacing at the top with the Johnson Livestock prefix attached to them.
Not only has David been busy at home developing and promoting his program, he has also taken time to be a Director of the Saskatchewan Angus Association. He is currently in his second term and his input into breed activities is appreciated.
Johnson Livestock has a continually updated blog at www.johnson-livestock.com.
After receiving the history of the Johnson family, I can’t help but admire the “commitment” of four generations, and a fifth in training, to their personal values, a way of making a living in agriculture and making their mark as one of the leaders in the Angus breed. Although this new chapter is only ten years into its development it is truly making an impact and I feel, very deserving of the “Breeder of the Year” award.
I feel we as a breed, are fortunate that Jorgan and Anna decided to try their luck in the “Land of Beautiful Winters”.
Written by Bob Toner, for the 2012 Johnson Livestock Saskatchewan Breeder of the Year