Retirement. It’s a funny word in the agriculture industry. Not many farmers and ranchers actually stop working and start relaxing. Instead, they find ways to keep busy. Jerry Bohn is that guy.
Actually, Bohn retired twice — once from the U.S. Army Reserve and again as a commercial cattle feeder. But today, he is back out of retirement, working on behalf of cattle producers across the country as the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association president.
A Flint Hills upbringing taught him the value of work. At a young age, Bohn helped with all aspects of the family farming operation. It was a combination farm and ranch where the family raised cattle and hogs, operated a small dairy, and farmed row crops and hay. But something he saw on a drive to town inspired his career path.
Called to cattle industry
“Growing up, I remember going by a feedyard, and it always intrigued me,” he says. After high school, he headed to Kansas State University, where he enrolled in the ROTC program while pursuing an animal science degree.
“When I got out of college, the commercial cattle feeding industry was a growth area,” Bohn explains. “There was quite a bit of action there, and opportunities. I thought this was something I would be interested in, and I ended up making it my career.”
Mindy WardOPEN FOR DISCUSSION: Jerry Bohn offers insight into cattle feeding operations to Missouri beef cattle producers during a visit to Pratt Feeders in 2012. Visiting with fellow cattlemen is something he continues to do as NCBA president.
After college graduation and fulfilling his military commitment, he started working in aspects of the cattle feed business. He started out in a Kansas feedyard, then traveled to Denver to work at CattleFax. But Kansas kept calling him home, and in 1982, he started at Pratt Feeders. He worked on the day-to-day operations for 34 years, becoming part owner. Now retired, he still serves as a member of the company’s board of directors.
Service state of mind
Over the years, Bohn was active in local, state and national cattle organizations. “I started out when it was the American National Cattlemen’s Association,” he says. “So, I was exposed to the national organization really early in my career.”
He was president of the Kansas Livestock Association, on the executive committee of NCBA and served as a board member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Bohn’s drive is to help fellow cattle producers find success in business and be a staying power in society.
“Agriculture’s got a pretty good story to tell,” he says. “We haven’t, over the years, done a very good job of telling it. So, it’s my hope that through our involvement with both our state and national associations, we can continue to work at that — and hopefully do a better job and protect agriculture for the future.”
The cattle story is one he takes straight to Washington, D.C.
Message from Midwest to East Coast
Bohn is well aware that many legislators don’t understand what goes on in cattle operations up and down middle America. “They consider us flyover country,” he says. “So, it’s important that we bring our message to them. That’s what NCBA is good at: It represents producers.”
He adds that the beef industry is continually under attack from outside forces who truly do not know where their food comes from. And the number of people in the world continues to grow.
“I think people need to know we are a positive contributor to the economics of the country as well as the environment,” Bohn adds. “Our cattle producers are working hard every day to provide a high-quality, enjoyable food product that they can feel good about eating — enjoying the benefits of high-quality, great-tasting beef.”
So for now, this Flint Hills native will follow in the tradition of many “retired” cattle producers, dusting off his boots and getting back to work telling the story of beef.