Four Generations of Innovating in the Animal Health Industry
By London Lyle
Colorado Serum Company is a fourth-generation, family owned business in Denver that was founded in 1923 by Dr. J.N. Huff, who graduated from Kansas City Veterinary College. At the time, hog cholera was sweeping across the country, and those who worked in the swine industry were desperate for an antiserum. Denver’s high altitude gave hogs healthier blood, making the Mile High City the ideal environment for developing a new antiserum for hog cholera.
While hog cholera was eventually eradicated from the United States, Colorado Serum Company has continued to innovate within the animal health industry and now distributes its animal vaccines and other products to ranchers, farmers and veterinarians worldwide.
Dr. J.N. Huff’s grandson, Joe Huff, has kept his grandfather’s legacy alive, working in the agricultural industry for the past 60 years himself. After graduating with a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Denver, Huff moved back to Park Hill, the same Denver neighborhood he grew up in. Colorado Serum Company celebrated its 100th year in business this year, and has grown to a staggering 90 employees.
“We’re a family owned and operated business. We’ve been right here in Swansea for over 100 years. My grandfather established [Colorado Serum Company] here because of its close proximity to the original Denver stockyards, which are now the National Western Center, but years ago they were the stockyards where all the animals are, so the location made sense with the type of products we sell,” Huff said.
Colorado Serum Company manufactures vaccines, toxoids and antiserums for a host of livestock diseases, as well as large-animal veterinary instruments and laboratory regents on its 22-acre facility in Denver. Its campus animal-handling facilities have over 200 horses, 85 Holstein steers, 150 sheep, 22 goats, and turkeys, geese, chickens and laboratory animals.
Today, the majority of the Colorado Serum Company’s customers are in other parts of the world, because there aren’t many northern Denverites who own horses or cattle. They sell most of their products to customers in rural areas through major veterinary distributors in the United States.
They regularly employ veterinarians, microbiologists, livestock caretakers, maintenance staff and laboratory technicians. Huff estimated that out of their 90 employees, about 10% live in the Globeville, Elyria, Swansea area.
While most of their products are shipped miles away from Denver, Colorado Serum Company is very involved within the G.E.S. community.
“We are a member of the North Denver Business Association, formerly known as the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea Business Association, and that is a group of companies that are all located in the G.E.S. area. We’re also a supporter of Focus Points Family Resource Center, which is right across the train tracks from us,” Huff said.
As an agricultural industry veteran and lifelong Denver resident, Huff has taken notice of some big changes in the community over the years that can have major impacts on family run businesses like his. For example, the National Western Center is now home to the CSU Spur campus and the National Western Stock Show. It has continued to undergo a variety of developments over the past five years, and is currently amid a $100-million renewal project.
“The National Western Center re-do is a major change. We’ve seen plenty of changes over the years, but the biggest change has to be 10 years ago, when Brighton Boulevard began to be redone up in that area. I think we have some general concerns that the city is not always that friendly for businesses, and we’re always concerned about the zoning changes that may or may not be happening,” Huff said. “My biggest hope for the future of the area is for it to continue developing in a way where there are areas for homes and residences, as well as for commercial and businesses.”