When it comes to raising high-quality cattle, Sutphin Cattle Company, near Lamar, is one of the best in the business.

The operation is distinguished as one of the top bull producers in the nation, and the company's history is the epitome of hard work and resilience.

The Sutphin cow herd began with 16 red horned, heavy muscled Limousin cows that John Sutphin III and his sister Monette Sutphin partnered on in the early 1980s.

According to John Sutphin, their years of 4-H in Bent County was instrumental in establishing the siblings' first herd.

"We borrowed money from McClave State Bank my freshman year and her sophomore year in high school," said Sutphin.  "We pledged our 4-H CDs against the note as collateral and, thanks to my father co-signing the note, we borrowed the funds."

By 1988, the operation grew to 41 head, and Monette Sutphinsold her share of the stock to her brother.

The operation's first bull sale was a private treaty to their neighbors, Leo and Glen Sharp, and J Bar S Farm.

John Sutphin went on to study Ag Finance at Northeastern Junior College and West Texas State A&M, where he obtained a Bachelor's of Science degree.

"After college, I returned home to take care of my herd and small farm in the Wiley area, and also farmed and ranched for my father, John Jr., for several years, until I was large enough to maintain with my herd financially," he said. 

The genetics used to produce Sutphin's early Limousin herd was from some of the well-known Limousin herds of the 1970s and '80s, including May Farms, Mayo, Patton, Orth, and Tomahawk Limousin.

Sutphin Cattle Company's first milestone happened in the early '90s.

"In 1993, I sold my first five bulls in the Patton, Mayo, Orth Sale at Winter Livestock, through John Campbell and Jerry Keffler; and, in 1994, had my first production sale with Lee Mayo at Winter Livestock, where we featured some of the first Homozygous Black/Polled Limousin bulls in the area," said Sutphin.

Eventually, Sutphin expanded his operation by purchasing a registered Angus and Charolais herd, which created a larger customer base.  Since then, the ranch has grown both registered herds with a solid background of Schurrtop Angus and Charolais genetics and genetics from SAV ranch, Sandhill, Penz and Albrecht.

By the early 2000s, Sutphin had built his herd to 500 cows and 150 bulls and expanded into three sale barns: Burlington, Syracuse, and Winter Livestock.

Just a couple of years later, a drought forced Sutphin to downsize his operation but, oddly, he credits that misfortune for the quality of his operation today.

"In the 2002 drought, I had built my registered herd to 760 head but was slowly forced to sell down to 300 cows. I credit this drought to increasing the quality of my herd substantially," reflected Sutphin. "The reduction was a blessing in disguise. "

Another drought threatened the operation in 2012, forcing Sutphin to uproot his operation from Southeastern Colorado to Texas and southeastern Oklahoma. Sutphin maintained the herd at the southern locations and slowly brought the cattle back to Colorado as the pastures increased.

Five years ago, Sutphin Cattle Company expanded into their fifth registered herd of Sim-Angus, giving them an even larger customer base.

The operation now sells a total of five registered breeds and has expanded into nine fall sales in Arkansas, Missouri and Florida, and ten spring sales in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Montana, selling 1,200 head of bulls.

According to BEEF's Seedstock 100 list, Sutphin Cattle Company is sixth in the nation for bulls sold each year.

The 25th Annual Sutphin Cattle Bull Sale will take place at 12 p.m. Saturday at the Cow Palace in Lamar. To learn more,  visit Sutphin Cattle Company on Facebook or go to sutphincattle.com.

jhamilton@ljtdmail.com