Eugene Ritchey

Past Inductee: Eugene Ritchey

Eugene Ritchey
Brighton, Colorado

Virtually every individual involved in the livestock industry has used, or is familiar with, Ritchey Ear Tags. What the majority of these individuals do not recognize, is the story behind their livestock identification system. Ritchey Manufacturing Company, based out of Brighton, Colorado, has been improving livestock identification since Eugene Ritchey and his wife, Jo, started it in 1963 with the invention of the one piece, flexible tag with a permanent paint application. The Showtimes Magazine got the inside scoop from Gene and his son Craig Ritchey at the family owned and operated business, located just south of Brighton, Colorado. According to Gene’s mother, he began inventing things before he could even crawl. In fact, he patented his first invention, hydraulics and welding loaders, at the young age of seventeen. Seeing how the use of the well-established hot brand was painful on livestock, Gene invented a less painful form of identification, freeze branding. The invention that has made him the best known throughout the livestock industry, however, is his new and improved ear tags. He created his first ear tags with the use of an old press and a mechanism that is comparable to a cookie cutter. Over forty long years later, Ritchey Manufacturing is still up and running with the help of Gene, and his children Grant, Craig, and Becci. Jo, who passed away in 2001, was very instrumental in the company's success. As Gene puts it, “We wouldn’t be where we are today without her.” Ritchey achieved his success and outstanding reputation with his wife, Jo, by his side. Jo Ritchey was not only the vice president and owner of Ritchey Manufacturing, but she was also extremely active in the community. She was a member of the District 27J Board of Education, the community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, and the Brighton Chamber of Commerce board of directors. In 1987, Jo was named the Woman of the Year by the Brighton Business and Professional Women’s Association. Jo’s memory will always be a part of Ritchey Manufacturing. The dual color engravable tag (a three layer tag allowing for the top layer to be engraved off to expose the idle layer as a permanent number) now has a selection of four styles and twelve tag/core color combinations. The most popular is the universal two-piece tag, using a male button. The expanding manufacturing business also produces identification products for electrical companies, nurseries, vineyards, wildlife organizations and sports camps. In 1989, Beef Magazine honored Gene as one of the twenty-five people who had made a difference in the cattle business and whose contributions during the last quarter-century made a lasting impact. In 1996, the Colorado FFA Foundation inducted Gene into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame. Animal ID goes back to Biblical times, where people used colored yarn to identify and separate their animals. As times progressed, and technology advanced, so did the methods of identifying livestock, by way of the Ritchey’s creative ear tags. They have had to make changes over the years with what customers wanted. What makes Ritchey Manufacturing unique is the fact that the Ritchey family not only creates different forms of identification and tools for the livestock industry, but the fact that they are involved in agriculture every day. They understand what the industry needs, because its bottom line is their bottom line. Being raised on a dairy farm and being associated with the farming and ranching industry all his life, Gene Ritchey’s goal was to make the best products possible. In addition to livestock, nontraditional animals as well wear Ritchey’s ear tags. Ritchey’s tags have been used on everything imaginable all across the globe. When a letter arrived at Ritchey Manufacturing from a fishery in Australia, Gene was shocked to learn that they wanted to use a Ritchey tag to identify a shark that was caught in the Great Barrier Reef. Therefore, Gene did research on marine life, and accommodated the fishery’s needs. Many Ritchey ear tags are used in Africa. The tags made in Brighton, Colorado, stand up to Africa’s harsh conditions. The world’s largest lion, which is said to be eleven feet long, is tagged with the same Ritchey ear tag that those of us in the livestock industry use on our animals. The Ritchey family takes pride in being an American based company, and will continue to be an important asset to the livestock industry for years to come. Although there has been a lot of competition and obstacles to overcome, Gene Ritchey summed up Ritchey Manufacturing Company’s success, “Prayer, Patience, and Perseverance Produce Prosperity!”