Online auction sells cattle embryos and semen to help Johnstown rancher devastated by the floods

Keith Russell is a respected Angus cattle breeder

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. - A group of ranchers is hosting an online auction, selling cattle semen and embryos to help a Johnstown rancher hit hard by September's floods.

Phil Trowbridge runs Trowbridge Farm in New York, but it didn't take long for him to hear his friend Keith Russell lost everything in Colorado's devastating floods.

"I knew he [Keith] had been working very hard and everything was going along pretty good. Then to have that flood come in and just really decimate him, just pulled at my heart strings," Trowbridge said.

Both men are Angus cattle breeders. When Russell lost everything in the flood, Trowbridge wanted to the help, so he set up an online auction, selling cattle semen and embryos.

For non-cattle breeders, it is a little like reading another language. There are roughly 50 listings for either embryos or semen, all donated from ranchers nationwide. Each person can bid on the "lot" until noon on Jan. 25th. The rancher will send the product to the winner.

"For people that are not involved in it every day, when we start talking about semen, we're talking about genetics," Trowbridge said. "We’re selling semen and embryos and the semen, it’s frozen. We can ship it all over the world. It’s just a faster way to make cattle more efficient."

Trowbridge said it was a way of "giving back to his mentor."

"When I was younger and needed a favor, Keith Russell would be the first one there to take care of it, and you could never repay him," Trowbridge said. "Just his knowledge, I could never repay him for, let alone the things he did for us."

Russell has been in the cattle business for decades and does most of the work himself. Right now, he is in calving season and gets up three to four times a night to make sure the cows are okay. But this humble man, who is self-reliant, had a hard time accepting the help.

"When I heard about some guys getting together and wanting to help me, my first comment was, 'Don’t do it because you’re embarrassing  me.' Their comeback was, 'You better get over it because it’s going to happen,'" Russell laughed, remembering the exchange.

Russell gave 7NEWS Reporter Lindsey Sablan a tour of his ranch. Most of the damage is cleaned up, but there is still a pickup truck flipped sideways near the Little Thompson River and the debris of trash and trees are still scattered under snow.

"[I] probably lost close to 2 miles of fence," the rancher said. "...I lost probably 90 to 100 ton of hay. It didn’t go down the river, it was just under water. And then the trash, you can’t believe the trees and the trash that float in. Tires, boards with nails. I found air compressors out in the middle of my field. Just stuff you don't know where it comes from."

His feed and equipment destroyed, Russell admits September was a "financial and emotional setback."

For two grown men, who describe their business as "tough," even they lose the rough exterior when it comes to talking about each other.

"He [Russell] is a true leader, and that is what has made the difference for me," Trowbridge said. "It’s pretty hard for me to discuss him without getting a little emotional."

Russell simply stated, "I’m blessed with good friends, I have to admit."

For more information on the auction, go to https://disasterrelief.dvauction.com/.