January 13, 2023 at 8:57 p.m.
“There certainly have been many things about my career that I will remember for a long time,” Johnson said. “I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and meet a lot of people, all who are enthusiastic about the Brown Swiss breed.”
Johnson’s journey with the breed began in his youth. His family milked a small herd of Brown Swiss cows near Edgerton; Johnson resides on that farm today. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in dairy science, Johnson served a tour of duty in the United States Army.
When he got out of the Army, Johnson’s dairy career began in earnest in the early 1970s as he went to work for David Bachmann at Pinehurst Farm near Sheboygan Falls. During his time at Pinehurst Farm, Johnson was primarily involved with Bachmann’s business of exporting cattle, although he also spent time working with the farm’s herd of show cattle.
Following his time at Pinehurst Farm, Johnson worked for ABS Global in the bull barns and serving as a sire analyst, buying bulls for the stud.
“That was kind of an exciting time period,” Johnson said. “While I worked for ABS, they were starting to get into working with embryos, and it was at the beginning of their work with cloning. I was buying high-end heifers for those programs and reselling them after they were finished working with them.”
Eventually, Johnson moved into the position that would become his home for the remainder of his career, working for the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders’ Association of the USA in Beloit.
When he first joined the association, Johnson led the association’s young sire sampling program, working to coordinate the procurement and distribution of semen and the collection of data.
From there, he began to work with the All-American program and the Junior Bell Ringer program as well as overseeing the association’s national shows.
“World Dairy Expo is always a highlight,” Johnson said. “There is so much pageantry and so many beautiful cows.”
Eventually, Johnson added serving as a classifier into his job description and ultimately took over coordinating the scheduling of all classifiers. During his time working with the association’s classification programs, one of the major changes Johnson oversaw was the increase in the breed’s pinnacle score from 94 points to 95.
“Eloc Wagor Kandid was the first cow to ever score 95 points in the U.S. after we increased the pinnacle score,” Johnson said. “That was really something exciting to be involved with.”
Throughout his time with the association, Johnson enjoyed the opportunity to travel to other countries as a representative of the Brown Swiss breed in the U.S.
“One of my favorite trips was traveling to Japan where we visited with Japanese Brown Swiss breeders who were processing their milk into cheese,” Johnson said.
Another memorable trip for Johnson was when he spent several weeks in Mexico traveling among dairies to classify cows.
“It was a totally different world there than here,” Johnson said. “Especially the way the dairy farms are operated.”
Throughout his years of involvement with the breed, Johnson has marveled at how the breed has progressed and changed.
“The breed has made great strides in type in the past 30 years,” Johnson said. “Udder quality and dairy quality are the two things that really stand out for me.”
While Johnson said many cows have earned his admiration over the years, two rise to the top of his memories.
“Anyone with an interest in Brown Swiss, or just an interest in good cows, has always loved (Old Mill E) Snickerdoodle,” Johnson said. “She was definitely in a league of her own.”
Another cow that stands out in his memory is Top-Acres Present-ET, a cow he scored at Sunshine Genetics.
“She was really ahead of her time and a cow I really loved seeing,” Johnson said.
After scoring his last herd Dec. 29, 2022, Johnson said he has yet to make any definitive plans for retirement.
“I’m going to take the rest of the winter and just relax a bit and just enjoy my time,” Johnson said. “After that, I will maybe go to some shows to watch and enjoy them, and I plan to continue to remain involved with both the breed and the association to some extent.”
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