Dan Johnson has a passion for livestock that is evident through his many jobs. He works for Superior Livestock as a sales representative in their purebred division, as well as a commercial salesmen where his responsibilities include marketing and selling load lots of calves. In addition to his marketing endeavors, Johnson is an adjunct faculty member for Dawson Community College (DCC) where he teaches economics of ag business during the spring semester and a general marketing class during the fall semester.
He teaches both courses online, so if Johnson isn’t teaching or driving around the region selling top quality cattle, he can be found working alongside his dad and brother on their family ranch south of Dillon, Mont.
Johnson wears a lot of hats, but what arguably may be the most impressive part of him is the fact he just turned 25 years old at the end of March.
He says his interest in cattle and cattle marketing really began at a young age. His dad, Jeff, has been a sales representative for Superior Livestock for several years, so Johnson grew up familiar with the process.
“My dad being a Superior rep definitely sparked an interest and it taught me a lot before I even went to college," he said.
Johnson received an associate’s degree from Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., before transferring to Kansas State University to finish his bachelor’s degree in agribusiness. During college Johnson had internships with Superior Livestock and Merck Animal Health. Those internships, combined with his college degrees and life experience, helped him land a job with Superior Livestock as soon as he graduated and moved back home to the ranch.
Superior Livestock has been an innovator of cattle marketing. They are one of the largest cattle marketing networks in North America, marketing nearly two million head of cattle annually. Being a sales representative in both the company’s purebred and commercial divisions allows Johnson the opportunity to gain perspective from all sides of the cattle industry.
Marketing purebred and commercial cattle has different job requirements, but it is that variety Johnson really enjoys. For purebred sales, he travels around videoing seedstock prior to the sale. At the actual sale, Johnson is on-hand to conduct internet and phone bidding.
“I think marketing purebred cattle is really challenging just because bulls have such an impact on what a rancher is doing,” he said.
Johnson is busy marketing purebred cattle during the spring bull sale run and again in the fall because that is when a lot of female sales are being held. Purebred cattle are sold individually, so each lot gets individualized marketing attention. Each animal, on average, receives between a minute and a minute of a half of screen time during an online/video sale, so the videoing process prior can be intensive.
Comparatively, commercial calves are sold as load lots. The majority of the videoing and marketing is done during the summer months while the calves are out on grass with the peak busy season being the fall during shipping.
“With commercial cattle marketing, I like how ‘real world’ it is. You are connected with the feedlot and the customers who are all really down to earth,” he added.
Either way, Johnson emphasized his favorite part of his job is the fact he is constantly learning. Traveling around to different ranches and operations has opened his eyes up to all the different ways to successfully raise cattle. He takes the knowledge back home to his own operation, but he also shares it with college students through the career and technical education business classes he teaches for DCC.
“I have a lot of students who are interested in production agriculture and I really believe in the value of a community college education,” he reiterated.
By in large, agriculture is not a profession populated by the young. In fact, at 25, Johnson is less than half the age of the average U.S. producer. Even so, he says there are opportunities out there for those passionate about the industry.
He recommends young adults gain as much experience as they possibly can before applying for jobs. That can be through internships, hands-on experience or college classes. He also encourages networking because he says, “You never know when a handshake or a first impression may lead to a job offer.”
At such a young age, Johnson already boasts an impressive resume. He hopes to continue marketing cattle because he really enjoys the customer interactions and the career nicely compliments his passion for family ranching.