This article was featured in our February 2020 issue and was written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
If you watched the International Junior Holstein Show at Madison last fall, you couldn’t miss her – the young girl with the blonde braid and the black cowboy boots. She circled the ring with her big, gentle, beautifully-uddered cows, and at the end of the day, she had two class winners and a second place finish to her name. Olivia Johnson and her family made the trip to Madison from Pelican Rapids, MN with three cows from their Lida-Acres herd. By the end of the week, they had plenty of hardware to pack into the truck for the return trip. Their aged cow, Lida-Acres Atwood Annie EX-94 2E, won her class in the International Junior Holstein Show and was also named Reserve Grand Champion. Annie had another good run later in the week as she placed third in the Aged Cow class in the International Holstein Show. Lida-Acres Damion Allie EX-94 3E, was the 1st place Lifetime Production Cow in the junior show, and Lida-Acres Atwood Amanda VG-88, placed 2nd in the senior 2-year-old cow class in the junior show as well.
Those results made an Expo week that any exhibitor would be proud of, and it had lots of people asking, ‘Who is Lida-Acres?’ The 48-cow herd from northwest Minnesota is well-known to breeders in the upper Midwest who exhibit at Minnesota Holstein shows or the Midwest Fall National Show, but this was their first big splash on the Madison scene.
Owned and operated by the Johnson family, Lida-Acres is located in the Red River Valley region of Minnesota – closer to Fargo, ND than to Minneapolis. Brothers Adam and Dana Johnson handle most of the daily chores and farm along with their mom Dawn, Uncle Rick, brother Alex, and sisters Greta and Maria. Adam and his wife, Sara, have two daughters, Olivia and Madilyn; and Alex and his wife, Ashley, have a son, Carter. The farm was homesteaded in 1889 by their great grandfather who emigrated from Sweden, and the family has been farming there ever since. They grow as much of their own forage as possible on their 400 acres, which is mainly cropped with corn, wheat, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass hay.
Like many smaller Midwest farms, there’s always been some diversification with cropping, dairying, and for years, they had turkeys in egg production. In 2007, they converted one of the turkey barns into their current tie-stall barn, where the cows are housed along with some big 16’ x 32’ box stalls for the show cows. They recently got a TMR mixer and hope to feed more efficiently with that, and the cows still have access to pasture when the weather allows. The herd’s current BAA is 110.8 and a January 2020 classification had herd totals at 18 EX, 24 VG, 4 GP on 46 head.
As you may have guessed from their ‘A’ names, all of the cows that did so well at Madison hail from the same family, tracing back to Lida-Acres Juror Anne EX-93 4E. The origins of the Anne family are found right at home at Lida-Acres. Adam and his siblings all showed grade Holsteins in 4-H, and did very well. They decided to ‘grade up’ members of their best type families so they could compete in the Registered Holstein classes at the Red River Valley Fair in Fargo. The first eligible cow was a VG-88 Cherry-Grove Secret daughter, who in turn had Lida-Acres Demand Sally EX-90 EX-MS.
About that time, Adam’s dad, Greg, won some KED Juror semen at a meeting, and they used that on some of their better cows, including Demand Sally. It’s the prize that’s kept on giving as the family really blossomed from Lida-Acres Juror Anne EX-93 EEEEE 4E. She made a best record over 30,000M and 1108F, with lifetime totals of 247,740M 4.1% 10236F 3.4% 8393P over eight lactations. She has six VG & EX daughters, with her highest scored daughter at EX-94. Those daughters have populated the now fully-registered herd with really good cows throughout and have built some impressive pedigrees.
Juror Anne gave the Johnsons their first taste of success at the higher levels of showing. After attending World Dairy Expo in 2002, and admiring the Intermediate Champion from that year’s Holstein Show – Dupasquier Cousteau Mami VG-89 – they decided breed several of their best cows to Cousteau. Just a year later, Juror Anne calved with Cousteau heifer, who eventually became their first National Show winner. Lida-Acres Cousteau April EX-93 3E, was a tall, angular cow with a fantastic udder that was named 1st senior 3-year-old, Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion of the Midwest Fall National Show in 2007. She went on to claim the title of Reserve Junior All-American Senior 3-Year-Old that year for Dana. She also made the highest ever milk record in the herd with over 36,000M & 1614F in 305 days. That means a lot to the Johnsons, who while they love showing, also expect their show cows to pay their way. “It’s nice to win the fancy ribbons, but that doesn’t matter much if they’re not profitable at home,” says Adam.
Balanced, trouble-free cows that milk well and get better with age sums up the breeding goals for the Johnsons. Adam feels that their current show winner, Lida-Acres Atwood Annie EX-94 2E, is their ‘perfect cow’ in that respect, a great-granddaughter of Cousteau April. “She’s not huge, but is so balanced. She started out as a GP-83 two-year-old, but the next time she scored she was EX-91,” he recalls. Fresh in January 2019, Annie started her successful campaign at the MN State Show, where she was the All-MN Aged Cow and HM Senior Champion. She also won the Aged Cow class at the Midwest Fall National Show before heading to Madison in October.
“She had never won her class before at a big show,” comments Adam. “Judges always said, ‘I love your cow, but I just wish there was more of her.’ My dad always said she was plenty big enough, and that there wasn’t a dairyman in the country that wouldn’t love to milk her.”
Greg Johnson passed away unexpectedly about a year ago, so seeing Atwood Annie’s success at the world’s best Holstein show was gratifying to the family. Winning her class in the junior show, placing 3rd and winning the bred & owned award in her open show class, led to Annie being Nominated All-American Aged Cow and winning the title of Junior All-American Aged cow for 2019.
While it was satisfying to see his dad’s opinion validated, Adam was also happy to see his daughter Olivia share in the success. Olivia (10) and her sister, Madilyn (7), both display an early love for cattle, a promising sign for the next generation of Johnsons on the farm. “Olivia does calf chores almost every night. Both girls do what they can, age-wise. They both wash their fair calves every day and have started to help clip them. I help the girls some, but I want them to learn to do it themselves,” states Adam.
Like any good parent stoking their kid’s passion, he’s not against doing the something extra to make her happy. “The girls’ favorite cow on the farm is Lida-Acres Damion Anna EX-94 – a Damion daughter of Cousteau April. She’s 12 now, but when she calved as a 7-year-old, she had some trouble, and we ended up keeping her out in the yard where it was easier for her to get up. Olivia became the person who every day led her to the barn to get fed and milked and then led her back to the yard. My dad thought we should probably ship the cow, but nobody wanted to tell that to Olivia. Eventually, she did get better. This year, Olivia wanted to take her to the State Show for the Dry Cow class. Now, I’m an ‘anti-dry cow class at the show’ guy, but how do you say no to her?’, laughs Adam. You can guess how this story ends – Damion Anna, grandam of Atwood Annie, goes to the show and is crowned the 2019 All-MN Dry Cow!
Lida-Acres Holsteins captured the Premier Breeder and Exhibitor banners at the 2019 Minnesota State Show. Along with Annie and Anna, other All-MN winners included Lida-Acres Damion Allie EX-94 3E, who would then win the Lifetime Production Cow class at the International Junior Holstein Show, and be named the Reserve Junior All-American Lifetime Production Cow in 2019. Allie is a Damion daughter of the herd matriarch, Juror Anne.
Damion Anna, the heroine of the comeback story related above, is the dam of Lida-Acres Atwood Amanda VG-88 EX-MS, who was the All-MN Senior 2-year-old, before traveling to Madison where she was 2nd senior 2-year-old in the junior show, and recently named Reserve Junior All-American Senior 2-Year-Old.
Some people might be content to sit back on their laurels and be satisfied with the remarkable run from 2019, but the Johnsons are already looking forward to the 2020 show season. They’ve just calved in an Archrival daughter of Cousteau April that is a very exciting senior 2-year-old prospect, and have springing Avalanche daughters of April and Damion Anna that are also enticing potential 2-year-olds. Lida-Acres Wood Andrea EX-92 93-MS, a Clay Wood granddaughter of Cousteau April and the All-MN Senior 2-year-old in 2018, will return to the ring as a 4-year-old in 2020.
With the type-oriented, balanced breeding at Lida-Acres combined with the proponent Anne family, there’s no doubt you’ll be seeing the Johnson kids strapping some good cows for years to come. While it may be hard to find Pelican Rapids in your road atlas, they’ve now made a mark on the map of the tanbark trail!