The Colorado town is called Elizabeth. It’s just southeast of Denver when looking at a map, but in person, the high plains stretch wide and far, adorned with short grass. Beyond the timber sprinkled throughout the town, a ridge known as Palmer Divide can be found.
In 1970, Joe Freund found himself standing on the north side of the ridge, watching a small creek trickle to the north. He knew without a doubt he had found a landscape worthy of being called home.
Since the day his father purchased the land, Joey Freund found his paradise on Earth — Running Creek Ranch. Though nowadays the urban sprawl is slowly creeping closer, Joey and his family are staying true to their roots. They run 1,000 Limousin cows on the ranch, selling their bulls primarily to commercial customers.
“We’ll sell about 100-160 two-year-old bulls, which is kind of unique,” Joey explains. “There’s not a lot of two-year-old bulls being sold, but it’s worked out well for us.”
In addition to their age, Running Creek bulls must exhibit performance and longevity. The country they are being turned out into after being sold is high country. At altitudes upwards of 9,000 feet, Joey said it takes a special kind of animal to thrive in Colorado and surrounding states.
“It takes a different kind of bull to run in that kind of country,” he said. “Limousin bulls have always been good at that — they’re adapted to the environment.”
He adds that the breed isn’t known for being affected by high altitude disease or brisket disease. It was this unique feature that was one of the reasons Joey’s father first purchased their herd of halfblood Limousin in 1980.
Joe found a man in North Park, Colorado, who needed a place to run some cattle. Six months after those cows came to Running Creek Ranch, the man was ready to sell and Joe was ready to buy.
Joey still remembers the words his dad used to brag on the animals. “He said, ‘That’s the nicest bunch of cows,’” Joey recalls. “They required less hay and forage to maintain themselves and still were productive and fertile. They bred up well and raised nice calves. I think that’s the best kept secret in the Limousin breed – the efficiency in the cows.”
As the budding cattlemen raised each new calf crop, they quickly found that the Limousin breed was the perfect fit for the goals they had established for the cattle herd at Running Creek Ranch.
“We wanted a bull that would go out and breed cows with calving ease and carcass value. That’s always been our focus: good carcass value with calving-ease,” Joey explains.
Between the breed’s ability to help the family achieve that goal, and other changes within the beef industry the family watched take place, Joey said he and his father transitioned their herd from half blood to purebred to center their operation on consistency and predictability.
Today, though much has changed, the passion for Limousin cattle remains apparent at the ranch. Joe and his wife, Judy, still live on the property, but the ranch’s first generation has since handed the reins over to Joey in terms of everyday management.
“It’s always been a family run operation,” Joey proudly explains. He and his wife, Colleen, raised their three children on the property. Grace, Ethan and Soren all grew up involved with the herd in their own ways.
Grace finds joy in helping Joey with research projects with their feeder cattle. Ethan works on the ranch full time, embracing his passion for hands-on work with the livestock. Soren is getting ready to leave for his first year at college, but he grew up enjoying showing as a junior exhibitor and working calves.
Joey’s nephew, Neil Pasion, spends his day with the herd as head cowboy, and his brother-in-law, Pat Kelly, fills the role of herdsman. Pat’s brother, Casey, plays a role as well, helping with genetic evaluation and record-keeping.
“It’s just always been what we did and our way of life,” Ethan explains of the family operation. “It’s what I’m happy with. I’ve never needed to be anywhere else.”
As the years keep rolling by, Joey and his family continually work to improve the genetics of each calf crop. Joey describes the environment on the ranch as a team, built on communication and quality time.
“It’s always been great to watch the kids grow with the animal,” he explains. “A lot of families have hobbies or go on vacations – our deal is livestock.”
It’s a “deal” that Joey’s family had no hesitations embracing. Ethan said it’s hard not to want to be a part of a lifestyle that two past generations have loved so much.
“My dad is very passionate about what we have going on,” Ethan said. “He puts family first and makes sure the family succeeds, but he’s also passionate about the Limousin breed. He makes sure both of those stay at the forefront without forgetting the quality and consistency of what we do as a ranch.”
Ethan said it was his dad’s love for the work that first inspired he and his siblings to be involved in the ranch, but it was their own love and the knowledge that their family would support them that truly kept them eager to come back every morning.
“We’re always very family-oriented here on the ranch. By doing so, you are always helping your family in a selfless manner,” Ethan said. “Having the ranch has allotted me securities in life. My dad taught me to chase my goals and to know that he would always have my back. Raising cattle has truly been the best thing for me.”
Joey considers it an honor to raise his children in the agriculture industry. He instills in them the same values his father pressed upon him.
A perfect example is the way the family feeds cattle. Each morning, one member of the family heads out to the barn and hitches up a team of draft horses to a hay rack to deliver feed to the herd. It’s a tradition that stems back to the beginning of the Freund’s time on the ranch, as Joe was always passionate about draft horses.
This unique feeding system isn’t the only truly form of horsepower on the operation, either. Joey said the family uses horses to move cattle on the property in addition to feeding with a team of horses.
“It’s a little bit like old country,” Ethan explains with a smile. “Horses don’t break down near often as tractors or need any hardware updates. It just makes it easier, and you feel closer to the cows. It’s all I’ve ever known.”
Ethan said his entire family has a deep sense of pride for their way of life, and his father is always eager to help secure the future of the ranching lifestyle.
It’s this love that first led Joey to serve on the National American Limousin Foundation (NALF) Board of Directors. He was asked to join the board six years ago and has been involved ever since.
“The comradery and the people you meet – it’s just great,” he explains of the position. “Every year you’re just trying to help steer the breed in the right direction.”
Beyond connecting with cattlemen across the country about the work that excites him, Joey said he truly enjoys the business side of things, as well. He’s always willing to put in the work on the business side of things to help members accomplish the goal of promoting the breed further.
“It’s been nice to see him get to represent us on our side of things,” Ethan explains.
The younger Freund cattleman said the board is built of all kinds. From those driven by the desire to breed elite show heifers to others like Running Creek Ranch working to supply the next bull calf crop, it’s important for all segments of the industry to be represented, Ethan said.
For Joey, serving is a way to help ensure the future of the Limousin breed and help create a successful industry his children and generations to come can call home.
Joey’s biggest hope is that the way of life he treasures can stay preserved in Elizabeth, Colorado, at Running Creek Ranch. Since he took over the day-to-day operations from his father, he has kept the herd consistent with what Joe had hoped for the herd when he started the family’s journey in the Limousin breed.
“Time goes by so fast,” Joey said. “It basically goes back to the great way of life — all the good times and the things we’ve done through the years. We’re truly blessed.”