John Coleman Locke is a 6th generation rancher managing the Locke Division of J.D. Hudgins, Inc., a family-run cattle operation that has been around since 1908. The 900-acre ranch specializes in purebred, registered Brahman cattle. The breed is able to tolerate heat and repel insects, making the cattle a good fit for the hot, humid conditions of the ranch property in Hungerford, Texas, a town located 50 miles southwest of Houston.
When it comes to Brahman cattle, J.D. Hudgins has contributed significantly to the growth of the then-emerging Brahman breed, thanks to a bull named “Manso,” purchased in 1933 by ranch founders to sire the herd. It has been estimated that Manso has made genetic contributions to more than 75% of all cattle registered by the American Brahman Breeders Association. Today, the 114-year-old ranch maintains about 300 mother cows for breeding and sells bulls, heifers, semen and embryos to anyone looking to improve their herd.
John is officially the ranch manager and CEO, but calls himself a “jack-of-all-trades and master of none”. However, he jokes with seriousness that being somewhat versed in a number of tasks is a safer bet than being highly proficient in just one, especially considering the diverse skill set it takes to keep the ranch going over the years. At his side helping with operations is his father, Coleman Locke, in addition to his wife, Salina, and three daughters who contribute as needed.
Ranch life isn’t easy from John’s perspective, but it’s rewarding.
“Being involved in nature, witnessing her systems, and raising kids in an environment that will lead to them being resourceful and effective in whatever they pursue are some priceless rewards,” said John.
Even the hard times can yield rewarding lessons.
“For example, there was that time I hung off the skid of a helicopter and jumped into flood waters in an attempt to save cows I thought were drowning when we took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” John explained. “I got to them just as they were swimming away unscathed. The moral of the story for me was two-fold. First, we are not as important as we think and, second, nature is resilient and awesome.”
This journey through ranching has led to other memorable experiences and chances for John to share his passion for the beef community. This includes hanging out backstage with cattle breeder and musician, Teddy Gentry, after his Alabama concerts and visiting Australia seven different times (for a total of 147 days) to being featured in various media including Texas Beef Council’s “Texas Stories” video series. In the summer of 2022, John and the ranch will also be featured in Season 3 of Texas Beef Council’s original show, “BBQuest”.
“It’s important to see behind-the-scenes of what happens on a cattle ranch,” said John. “Beef production is a necessary and positive piece of the puzzle in caring for our environment, contrary to what some believe. We need to help the general public better understand that, and exposure like BBQuest can help do that.”
When it comes to dining on beef himself, Jon prefers Ribeye and Denver steaks. He also loves juicy brisket, seasoned with just black pepper and Himalayan Sea salt. And, he mentions, if you’re ever cruising down Highway 59 through Hungerford, Reyna’s Café is the best place to stop and grab a burger.
In addition to understanding the benefits of beef in a healthy lifestyle, John has taken up running and is a new member of the Texas Beef Team!
“In my 40s, I felt the need to improve my fitness so I can remain physically and mentally active for many years to come,” John explained. “The benefits of a running habit are hard to ignore.”
John is training for a half-marathon in September 2022 and a marathon in January 2023. So far his favorite has been the first race he ever ran, not even a year ago.
“I literally got off the couch and ran a 5k without stopping and won my age group,” John said, laughing. “Don’t dare ask me how many people were in the race.”