National Show Honorees

2015 NWSS Show in Memory of Joe Christen

Megan Brehm, Director of Communications and Marketing

Each year, the American Shorthorn Association is humbled to honor a breeder who has extensively contributed to the success of the Shorthorn breed at the National Western Stock Show. This year’s NWSS show was dedicated in memory of Joe Christen, Aurora, Colorado. Joe Christen had an esteemed history within the Shorthorn breed and is deserving of this prestigious honor.

National Western Stock Show, In Memory of Joe Christen

joe-christen-familyDuring the National Western Stock Show Shorthorn Female Show held January 19, 2015, the family of Joe Christen was present to accept honors from the American Shorthorn Association in memory of dedication and commitment to the Shorthorn breed.

Joseph T. Christen was born in 1928 to Swiss immigrants who homesteaded in Aurora, Colorado in 1918. After returning home from three years of service to the United States Navy in 1949, Christen worked alongside his father raising Hereford cattle. In 1952 Joe Christen was united in marriage to Gretta Anderson. In 1956, the first and only purchased registered Shorthorns were integrated into the operation, Ka’Ba Ranch. From this point forward, emphasis was placed on strictly Shorthorn genetics.

The National Western Stock Show was an important part of the Ka’Ba Ranch legacy. In 1966, Christen earned top honors in the Shorthorn Car load and Pen of 5 competitions- the beginning of many successful trips to Denver. In 2006, the National Western Stock Show honored the operation for twenty-five years of continuous exhibition at the pen show.

Throughout the years, Joe Christen, transformed Ka’Ba Ranch in to the largest registered Shorthorn herd in Colorado and was among the top ten breeders in registrations in the United States. Both Joe and Gretta Christen were involved in many organizations promoting Shorthorn Cattle. Joe served many years as the president of the Western Shorthorn Association, Wyo-Braska Shorthorn Association, Weld County Livestock Association, Colorado Cattleman’s Association, and the Colorado Feeders Association. Gretta was very active with the Western Shorthorn Lassies, serving several terms as president. In 1978, Christen was honored by the American Shorthorn Association as a “Builder of the Breed.”

Today, the operation continues to raise Shorthorn cattle and is operated by Gretta, son Joseph L. Christen and daughter Cindy Baumgartner.


2014 North American International Livestock Exhibition Show Honors Don Cagwin


Don Cagwin: A Look Back

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”

—Colin Powell

Don Cagwin’s dreams took root in the Shorthorn business sixty years ago. In 1955, Don Cagwin, a Lockport, Illinois native shook John Schumann’s hand to become the owner of his first Shorthorn female. That day, a tradition began as Don opened the door to a lifetime of involvement within the Shorthorn breed.

Cagwin, the 2014 Shorthorn Show Honoree at the North American International Livestock Exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky, has been an instrumental to the Shorthorn breed for years. Involvement in all facets of the industry has paved the way for Cagwin to be recognized and respected within the breed and beef industry.

After purchasing his first Shorthorn female in 1955, success soon followed the young Cagwin, capturing the title of Grand Champion Shorthorn Steer at the 1957 National Western Stock Show, the first of many accolades to come. Following several busy years establishing himself throughout the cattle industry, Don married his wife, Kathleen in the year 1960. To their union three children were born, Cindy (Cagwin-Johnston), Jeff, and Amanda. Their family has since grown to include five grandchildren.

In 1962, Cagwin accepted the farm manager position at the Royal Tartan Shorthorn Farm in LaMonte, Illinois. Major accomplishments while managing the Royal Tartan program include exhibiting the Grand Champion Bull at the International Livestock Exhibition in Chicago.

Following his tenure at Royal Tartan, Don accepted a position with the American Shorthorn Association serving as the Eastern Field Representative from 1965-1968. Don describes this experience as a pivotal point in his career. “The experience truly shaped me as a Shorthorn enthusiast. I was able to travel to many of the great Shorthorn operations of the day, meet breeders, and learn successful management techniques that truly helped prepare me for management positions in the future. My time spent studying cattle and what set certain operations apart was truly a wonderful experience.”

In 1968, Questing Hills Farm, Chandlerville, Illinois offered Don the position of farm manager. One of the all-time career highlights for Cagwin occurred in 1971 when Kenmare Ransom 32Z, known to many as “Tank,” claimed three victories at the International Livestock Exhibition in Chicago, American Royal in Kansas City, and the National Western Stock Show in Denver. The bull was the first to grasp all three highly coveted titles and was honored by the American Shorthorn Association with a special registration number in honor of the outstanding feat.

In 1971, Cagwin set sail on a venture of his own establishing Cagwin Cattle Services, a full service sale management firm to serve the Shorthorn breed. In later years, Cagwin Cattle Services established itself as the predominate Shorthorn marketing service, handling many sales each year. To date, the service continues to be operated by the Cagwin Family and is involved in a number of sales each year.

Two years after establishing Cagwin Cattle Services, Don started a Shorthorn Farm of his own after purchasing land near Virginia, Illinois. The herd has been quite successful since its incorporation, boasting National Western and North American Champions. The operation hosts a successful production sale each fall offering high quality Shorthorn breeding stock.

A notable accomplishment for Cagwin includes the first large scale importation of Irish Shorthorns to the United States in the late 1970s. After visiting a farm with high quality Irish Shorthorn genetics, and industry demand for larger framed cattle, Don visited Ireland. Cagwin was impressed with high quality and functionality of the Irish cattle he found. After the visit, a plane load of cattle was purchased, approximately 80 head, for sale in the United States. Cagwin recalls “the acceptance and demand for the cattle was great, with many of the leading bloodlines of the late 1970s and 80s tracing to the imported cattle.” After the initial popularity and demand for the cattle grew, Cagwin recalls with a smile, “I went back and purchased a second plane load bound for the United States.”

In 1993, Cagwin assumed yet another role within the Shorthorn breed by accepting the publisher position at Shorthorn Country. For over twenty years, Cagwin has met the challenge of developing a useful, well-read publication for all Shorthorn enthusiasts. Today the Shorthorn Country is distributed to over 3,000 readers and is published 11 times each year.

Throughout the years, many things have changed, but one constant remains. Don Cagwin is still as passionate about the Shorthorn breed as ever. Few individuals are able to make as profound of impact on the breed they love than notable individuals such as Don Cagwin. When asked what the Shorthorn breed means to him, he commented “I can tell you that the Shorthorn breed is everything to me. Shorthorn cattle have been my whole life. They’ve paid the bills, raised a family, and bought a farm. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that, one way or another, it’s always been Shorthorn.”