South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates Wessington Farm Family
By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union
Breeding cattle with larger, more muscular frames is a Johnsen family tradition.
"I grew up hearing genetic talk about how cattle finish and how cattle feed from my dad, grandpa and great-grandpa," explains Chris Johnsen, a fourth-generation Wessington cattle and crop farmer.
And, even though the specific breeds varied, Chris' dad, Lynn, raises Charolais and Chris raises Simmental, the end goal remains the same. "Our family has always tried to stay away from smaller, more moderate type cattle because we've always believed that pounds sell. And, with a good frame, you are going to get more pounds of muscle."
Chris sees raising more pounds of muscle per animal as his way of helping feed a growing population. "It's always been my goal to gain more pounds on the land I have," Chris explains. "I believe that as the world population grows, we as livestock producers need to produce more with the same amount of land. It takes the same amount of land to finish cattle at 1,200 or 1,300 pounds as it does to finish cattle at 1,600 or 1,700 pounds."
To accomplish this, Chris works to improve not only his herd's genetics, but other cattle herds' genetics as well. The Johnsen family markets bulls and heifers.
"We breed cattle that will be compatible for commercial herds. So, we are not targeting just one area. We try to fill a wide range of genetic needs," Chris explains.