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Throughout his life, Jarold Callahan has been committed to the betterment of livestock through genetics and performance. (Photo by Sara Frost)

Honoring a Cattleman

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

Editor's Note: Jarold Callahan passed away just after this edition of Cowboy Journal magazine was sent for publication. This story appears as originally written.

Jarold Callahan is a man of few words, but his actions speak for him. As a lifelong cattleman, this native Oklahoman casts a long and broad shadow in the cattle industry, especially in his home state.

Callahan’s journey as a cattleman began on his family farm and cattle operation in northeastern Oklahoma near Welch.

The Callahan family always had cattle growing up, Callahan said, and his father would buy calves every fall to raise on grass at their ranch.

“My favorite chore was working cattle,” Callahan said. “We would usually work calves every Saturday. I looked forward to it.”

Working calves included processing, giving vaccines, branding, and more depending on the situation.

From a young age, Callahan knew he wanted to stay in the agricultural industry.

“I always knew I loved production agriculture,” Callahan said. “I liked watching the calves grow, the grass grow, and even the crops. It is rewarding for me to be in this industry.”

Growing up on a ranch did not just mean working calves. In Callahan’s case, it also meant showing them. Showing cattle and swine had a large impact on Callahan’s life, he said, and it instilled in him a strong work ethic, as he believes you cannot be successful without working hard.

“Cattle need to be taken care of 365 days a year,” Callahan said. “Livestock animals are depending on you to make sure they have adequate feed and water and are kept in good health. To be a good caretaker requires a lot of diligence and self-discipline. You learn that you must take care of something other than yourself.”

From the beginning, Callahan understood it takes hard work and luck to be a successful cattleman — lessons he carried into his life and his future careers.

After graduating high school, Callahan attended Oklahoma State University and was on the 1975 livestock judging team.

There, he found additional success as the overall high individual at multiple contests.

 After graduating from OSU in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in animal science, Callahan became the livestock judging coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M where he also taught courses ranging from animal science to agronomy.

 Callahan returned to OSU in 1982 and became the livestock judging coach and an assistant professor of animal science.

 “I had a lot of great young men and women who went out for the team,” Callahan said. “The contests were great, but what I really got the most satisfaction out of was going to a farm or ranch and having a good workout with the teams.”

 Richard Coffey, department head of the OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences, met Callahan when Coffey was a student working in the swine unit. Coffey was one of many who recognized Callahan’s gift for teaching and helping develop people’s talents.

 “OSU benefited in innumerable ways by having him here,” Coffey said. “His ability to teach is second to none. That comes through with why his teams were so successful.

“He has a way of helping students learn and understand,” Coffey continued. “He knows how to encourage different personalities.”

Mark Johnson, animal and food sciences professor, was advised and mentored as a student by Callahan. Johnson worked with Callahan as a livestock judge and co-coach while the pair were at OSU.

Although Callahan’s time coaching and teaching at OSU ended in 1991, he left a large impact, Johnson said.

 “Jarold was a product of this program,” Johnson said. “When he came, he added his own skill set and unique way of doing things, building a bond and history within this department.”

After leaving OSU, Callahan became the executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association where he served from 1991 to 1996.

Now, Callahan is entering his 27th year as president of Express Ranches, which is owned by Bob Funk and located in Yukon, Oklahoma.

In Callahan’s early years at Express Ranches, he and Funk negotiated the purchase of the B&L Ranch near Shawnee and the B&L Angus cow herd from the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association to begin the journey of adding Angus cattle to the operation.

Express Ranches is now one of the largest purebred cattle operations in North America. The operation encompasses several counties such as Oklahoma, Blaine and Craig.

Callahan’s long and successful career in the livestock industry earned him the honor of being added to the Saddle & Sirloin Portrait Gallery as the 378th inductee.

His portrait went on display Nov. 14 during the 2023 North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I know some past recipients and hold them in high regard,” Callahan said. “To be included in that group is surprising and humbling.”

Callahan was appointed in 2016 to the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents and continues to serve on the board today. Rick Davis, a member of the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents alongside Callahan, has known Callahan for more than 45 years.

Davis said Callahan embodies the essence of the type of influential beef industry ambassador the Saddle & Sirloin Club Portrait Gallery was designed to recognize.

“From his early days as a highly successful instructor and livestock judging coach at NEO through his time as a professor and judging team coach at OSU, the common denominator to his successes were his competitive drive coupled with his expectation of excellence from both himself and his students,” Davis said.

“This same expectation of excellence then served the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association well as he transitioned to the role as the face and lead ambassador for the OCA,” Davis added.

Callahan has multiple accomplishments under his belt, but more important from any of those accolades is his family, he said.

During his time coaching and teaching at OSU, Callahan met his wife Jennifer. She and the Callahan children provide the constant support he relies on, he said.

 “Jarold’s greatest quality is perseverance, and he is very loyal,” Jennifer Callahan said. “He likes challenges and is always setting goals. When he faces challenges or obstacles, he always perseveres.”

Callahan has three adult children — Brian, Tracie and Ryan, all of whom graduated from OSU.

Ryan Callahan, the youngest, said he took an interest in the cattle industry and found his interests aligned closely with his father’s.

“Growing up with my dad, he was tough, but he would go out of his way to do anything for you,” Ryan Callahan said. “He has always done his best to be there.”

Jarold Callahan said although he had to be gone often because of his career, he hopes he was a fair and tough father and knows he has instilled in his children the same life lessons he learned in terms of discipline and hard work.

Ryan Callahan said his dad is always there for his family.

“He always has put his family first,” Ryan Callahan said. “He may have been away for work, but he would drive through the night to make a sports event or cattle show.”

Ryan Callahan is excited and proud of his father for being honored in the Saddle & Sirloin Portrait Gallery, he said. As a livestock judge in 2020, Ryan Callahan had the opportunity to visit the gallery at NAILE, where he first learned how prestigious and honorable it is.

“It is a very special award for my dad,” Ryan Callahan said. “He holds so much respect for the craft of livestock judging, and that respect extends over to all of the different agricultural sectors.

“My dad approaches everything he does with respect, hard work and passion,” Ryan Callahan added. “He is a loyal person, and he is everything I could ask for in a parent.”

OSU Portrait Honorees

The Saddle & Sirloin Club’s Portrait Gallery — dubbed as the livestock industry’s Hall of Fame — began in 1903. The collection honors those who have made great contributions to the industry. They are nominated and chosen by their peers. The following Oklahoma State University alumni have been honored with portraits:

  • Warren Lale Blizzard - 1939
  • Albert Edward Darlow - 1958
  • Hilton Marshall Briggs - 1978
  • Frank H. Baker - 1986
  • James Calvin Hillier - 1993
  • Robert Totusek - 1997
  • Orville K. Sweet - 1998
  • Lowell Eugene Walters - 2000
  • O’dell G. Daniel - 2001
  • Richard L. Willham - 2004
  • Minnie Lou Bradley - 2014
  • Jarold Callahan - 2023

Source: Saddle & Sirloin Portrait Foundation

Story by: Sara Frost | Cowboy Journal

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