John W. Lacey came to California searching for gold in 1867, but quickly eschewed gold for beef. Nearly 150 years later, his descendants have turned his ranching enterprises into a modern day empire. His grandson, John Lacey, oversees cattle and land across the state— from Owen’s Valley, near Lone Pine, to a yearling cattle partnership in Monterey and Mono Counties, as well as leasing a portion of the historic Tejon Ranch. 

While building his cattle operations, John Lacey served as president of the National Cattlemen’s Association in 1990. Later, in 1996, Lacey was instrumental in merging the NCA, National Live Stock and Meat Board, and the Beef Industry Council into the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. That year, Lacey became the president of the newly formed NCBA, making him the only person to serve as president of both associations. Always an advocate for the cattleman, he even boldly criticized former President George W. Bush for his wetlands initiative. 

The Laceys’ recognition isn’t limited to the beef industry; their horses have gained some notoriety, too. Though John’s vision for a horse program had admittedly humble beginnings in the 1960s, by 2003, the program was recognized with the American Quarter Horse Association’s Remuda Award. 

The brand shown on this blue roan horse is registered in California as the Bar J, Open A, L, but the Laceys just call it the Bar JL. John Lacey used it on his cows and horses, but now uses it mostly for his horses.

“That was the first iron I registered in California back in the 1960s,” Lacey says. “I’ve had it registered in Nevada and Colorado, too, over the years.”

These days, Lacey cows pack the 11 Quarter Circle iron—folks call it the Happy Face. 

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