An Open Gate

Talk to Rayford Pullen for five minutes and you’ll feel like you’ve known him a lifetime. Mention you’ll be anywhere near the state of Texas and expect a standing invitation to dinner.

In the small town of Bellevue, Tex., population 333, Rayford and his wife, Carla, have made their mark. On land that once held the first strings of barbed wire in the county of Clay, the couple work to carry on the ranching legacy that has been passed down through generations.

The Pullens are Angus breeders, simple and true, and together they strive to meet consumer’s rising demand for quality beef.Rayford_1

While it can be no easy feat to stand out in the state of Texas, the pair do just that by providing high-quality Angus cattle to ranchers near and far. For it is out the gate and over county lines that the full extent of their impact comes into focus. Living by the idea that “not everybody is capable of leaving a positive legacy, but all are capable of leaving a negative legacy,” the Pullens strive to do their part in representing the industry they cherish.

“It’s a labor of love,” Rayford says. “The cattle and livestock are a part of us. There’s just nothing like it.”

As the Texas Angus Association President, Rayford makes it his personal responsibility to visit with consumers to share the positive story of agriculture.                                                                To him, producer-consumer relations are one of the primary keys to a profitable future.

“One on one, face to face is still the best way to conduct business,” the rancher says.

Rayford recently joined the CAB team to share the Angus story with the Saltgrass Steak House culinary team.

Rayford recently joined the CAB team to share the Angus story with the Saltgrass Steak House culinary team.

Pullen knows people have an interest in where their food comes from and takes pride in being the face of that product, especially when it carries the Certified Angus Beef ® brand label.

But as all ranchers know, providing that product is no easy task. Through detailed record keeping, artificial insemination and embryo transfer, the Pullens strive to make their operation not only efficient, but sustainable as well. Focus is placed on raising cattle that will be recognized for quality and consistency.

When not on the road, Rayford and Carla care for approximately 400 Angus cows that graze the native grasses of their north central Texas town. Each day is lived with a passion and zest that comes from being stewards of the land they hope to pass down to their grandchildren.

Rayford_2Just like many of our ranching partners, the Pullen’s life is an open book filled with pages of dreams and determination, trials and lessons; stories that deserve to be told.

But for those who aren’t quite convinced with hearing the stories and need to “see it to believe it,” Rayford says the gate’s always open.

So read the stories, pay a visit, but whatever you do, be inspired.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

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“Just Good Cattle”

Wow. I was beginning to think I’d seen it all, when out of the blue comes a double-sided, full color ad flyer for a ranch “up north” publicizing their upcoming bull sale. No, it wasn’t an Angus ad, but I won’t name the breed represented, either. But it’s one you’d all know, don’t doubt me there. Pictures of the rancher and his family, pictures of the cattle under range conditions. Actually, it was a very nice ad, done very well. But you know how most ads tout EPD’s and performance information; perhaps carcass data, actual birth weights, and other pertinent information? Well, this one had NONE of those attributes. Instead, it had statements like these:

  • “Just good (insert breed name here) cattle.”
  • “No birth weights, no weaning weights, no records.”
  • “Stout, rugged, dependable cattle”

OK. The first and the third statements are what my old professor Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh at K-State would term “value judgments.” There’s nothing to back up the claim. Good cattle from whose perspective? Are we going backwards by selecting cattle solely on the basis of phenotype? I think I can assess whether or not they are stout and rugged by looking at their frame, muscle, depth of side, bone structure, and hoof size. But, does that tell me ONE THING about calving ease, or how fast his calves will grow, or whether or not his daughters will milk, or much less breed back? Does it tell you that his daughters will attempt murder on your person while calving or shortly after giving birth? Will their carcasses command premiums in the marketplace?

Can we tell by looking?

Can we tell by looking?

Folks, I don’t need to tell you, this is backwards thinking. God bless his customers, because they’ll need it. I thought we were past this as an industry. I know, probably an isolated incidence. But if you subscribe to that school of thought, you’d better attend another school.

Everybody likes good-looking critters; balance and eye appeal, muscle, correct feet and leg structure; soundness when they move out. But they’ve got to have performance and proof and numbers. I was incredulous when I read the ad. I wished that I had kept it. The cattle industry has been stuck in tradition for too long. We don’t want to give some things up.

And, that’s OK, as long as we don’t look past the traits of economic importance, but to expect people to buy your seedstock based on your value judgments is ludicrous, especially in today’s fast-paced, record-breaking market.

~Gary

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More than Just Genetics

Stepping through the doors of Pat and Marilyn Herring’s house near Veteran, Wyo., is like walking into a family reunion. Gathered around the kitchen island, Bill Haas, Kevin Nichols and Pat Herring compare ideas as owners of G Bar H Genetics. Pat’s sons, Boone and Crocket, stand off to the side while two young cowboys, Cade and Cord, bounce around unable to keep still. Marilyn, Pat’s wife, weaves in and out making sure all are taken care of, adding in bits of conversation where she is sure the boys have left something out.

Back Row: Kevin Nichols, Pat Herring, Bill Haas. Front: Cade and Cord Herring.

Back Row: Kevin Nichols, Pat Herring, Bill Haas. Front: Cade and Cord Herring.

 

I would have to draw you a family tree to explain how everyone is related. But raising quality Angus bulls is in their genes, a tradition they carry out on the land homesteaded by their ancestors in 1910.

Story tour June 2014 273

 

“People have to like you before they will buy something from you,” says Pat.

Charlie Farthing, a commercial Angus producer from Cheyenne, Wyo., has been a G Bar H customer for nearly 15 years. Their business model of providing good cattle and being a quality partner has kept him coming back.

“We like the cattle,” Farthing says. “Not only are you buying quality cattle but you are buying from a good cattle family; they know the cattle and are honest about them. You can tell they take a great deal of pride in what they raise. They stand behind their cattle and if there is a problem they will deal with it. You know the bulls are coming from somebody you can trust.”

And someone who can help you claim that CAB premium. Farthing has carcass data over several years that shows G Bar H genetics have helped him earn premiums and most importantly to him, avoided deductions on the rail.

Story tour June 2014 246Even more than that, Farthing can depend on the family for help when he needs it. Cade, 13, and Cord, 11, often head over to his ranch to help with branding and anything else he may need. Al l he has to do is make the call.  

Getting that premium beef to the plate takes more than just quality cattle. It takes hard-working cattlemen and women who show the real value of a handshake and good word. Those are great traditions, sure. But customer trust can add black ink to your bottom line, too.

~Nicole

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Get more out of your $mart phone

Last year , out-of-the-blue, my 69 year-old grandfather decided that he needed an iPhone. His reasoning was that in this crazy, unpredictable Kansas climate, he needed to be able to check the weather. (We farm in Southwest Kansas: I could have told him it would be dry and windy, but we don’t argue with grandpa.)

Smart phones are not just for the younger generation anymore, they are for everyone.

But there is so much more my grandfather and many other producers could be doing with their smart phones (And I’m not talking about Facebook, Twitter or my beloved Pinterest).

My grandfather, Mick Morgan can now send a text message and many other things thanks to some help from the grandkids.

My grandfather, Mick Morgan can now send a text message and work his smart phone thanks to a little help from the grandkids.

As I sat at my desk the other day I came across an article about a new and free mobile application (app) called GrassSnap. Developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it’s the latest technology in pasture management.

By simply taking a picture, you can monitor pasture conditions so as to plan rotational grazing that provides better nutrition to cattle and improves pasture health.

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You pay the bill for that smart phone every month, so why not use it to help earn a little of that back? Many other programs out there can help make your operation more efficient. Here are a few more FREE apps for both Android and iPhone users.

  • Angus Mobile – This app from the American Angus Association gives members access to their AAA login herd data so they can enter and submit calving records straight from the pasture or corral. It features date calculators for gestation and takes in performance measurements such as weaning weight and ultrasound data. The app also provides easy access to sale books, sale reports, show results and National Cattle Evaluation information.
  • AI Cowculator – Created for the budget-conscious producer, this app helps you decide (calculate) if artificial insemination is economically feasible. Don’t have a smart phone? That’s okay because the program can be downloaded for Microsoft Excel on your computer, too.
  • Cattle Market Mobile (formerly Cattle Talk Mobile) – This app helps you monitor auction prices across the United States based on USDA Agricultural Marketing Service reports composed by local livestock markets to keep everything accurate.  Its “Calf Calculator” lets you enter such cattle information as weight, sex, frame size and muscle thickness to estimate the value of that calf based on their location. It works for slaughter cows and bulls, too.

smart phone resized

Farmers and ranchers are some of the most innovative people I know, so why aren’t we using more of this ground-breaking technology?

Records are extremely important, but many times when we need access, we aren’t able to sit in front of a computer. Your smart phone can help! Don’t believe me, see for yourself, starting with this Angus VNR:

Barb Downey, Kansas Angus producer explains how she uses smart phones every day to access those records, update them on the go and cut down on paperwork.

So I challenge you, smart and innovative high-quality beef producers, get the most out of your smart phones (And be nice to your granddaughters!)  They both just might help improve your bottom line someday.

Kaitlin

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Aloha and Mahalo

Would it really be paradise if there wasn't quality beef to be eaten?

Would it really be paradise if there wasn’t quality beef to be eaten?

Sunburned, tired and well fed, I returned from a family vacation in Oahu, Hawaii. As a girl who lives in Kansas and loves beef, I didn’t expect to get much of my favorite protein during my visit to the islands.

But demand for good-eating beef is everywhere, and luckily for me I found some Certified Angus Beef on the shores of Oahu.   

(I even saw a couple black cattle! From a distance, and my Dad wasn’t stopping to let me stop to take pictures.)

After a long day at the beach, a trip to Pearl Harbor and being with my family for a significant amount of time, I was in need of a quality lunch. A sunny jaunt down the road from Pearl Harbor, we stumbled upon Schooners Restaurant which just happens to be CAB licensed. I enjoyed a delicious Certified Angus Beef burger that truly hit the spot. I highly recommend it if you’re ever around Honolulu, Hawaii (But if you’re not, check out some of our great CAB licensed restaurants here in cattle country).

The USS Arizona Burger complete with 1/2 lb. CAB patty (I added the bacon).

The USS Arizona Burger complete with 1/2 lb. CAB patty (I added the bacon).

 

But as I ate my burger, surrounded by family with a gorgeous view, I was reminded of the producers who made it possible for that beef to get to my plate. Although I was able to take several days off and enjoy a fun family vacation, many of the ranchers who produce this highly sought after beef rarely take a break.

You all know that raising cattle is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job and people who help feed the world, don’t get to take many days off.

It takes a lot of hard work to produce enough quality beef to provide Certified Angus Beef to businesses across the entire U.S. and 46 other countries.

Certified Beef at the Laie Foodland grocery store.

Certified Beef at the Laie, Hawaii Foodland grocery store.

 

So to all the producers who don’t take many family vacations and who work day in and day out to make sure people from Kansas to Hawaii and all over the world get to eat high quality beef I’d like to say, Mahalo.

~Nicole

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The Good Ole Days

I’m a freak for history. I love it. My mother always thought I’d be a history teacher. I’ve been told many times that I need to forget about the past; those days are gone. But, I think we learn from history. I believe it teaches us quite a bit, and helps us recognize problems before they arise and how to deal with them.

My hometown is Ramona, Kan. From the time I was a little boy, I heard about “Strickler’s Store.” Mr. J.S. “Stauffer” Strickler, an import from the Virginia Commonwealth, began his business in our little part of the world in the late 1880s. His sons, Glenn and Vern, continued in the business through the 1950s.

You could buy ANYTHING at Strickler’s Mercantile: clothing, boots, shoes, candy, tobacco, groceries, coal, and hardware. My grandparents exchanged cream and eggs for groceries there. Glenn and Vern hired local boys to build egg crates in the basement; several kids had their first job at the store. They bought and sold grain. On Saturday nights, when everyone came to town, Strickler’s was bustling with activity. In 1953, the folks bought their first black and white television set there. Dad said it was like a Wal-Mart ahead of its time. You might catch up on a little local gossip there, too!

Strickler's Store outside

Strickler’s Mercantile is on the far left. This picture was taken around the turn of the last century. The Strickler family operated it until 1955.

Dad shared with me that Vern would write letters to all the local boys who were overseas during WW II, giving them updates on what was happening in Ramona while they were gone serving their country.

Back in those days, almost everyone charged groceries. \ No interest costs were incurred, and people paid when they could.  Mom told me, not long after they were married, she went in there to get a few things, but she knew their bill was already high, so she just picked up the fewest necessities. After she left the store, Vern followed her out, and she thought, “Oh boy, he’s going to say something to me about paying up on the charge account.”  Instead, Vern caught up to her outside and privately said, “Paula, Warren will pay me when he can. You can come in anytime and get what you need.”

Different times. Different world.

Ranching is no different. It is nice to reminisce about the old days. We are in a fast-paced market right now. Fat cattle prices are at record highs. Technology in the business has never been more useful or more relevant. We have to move beyond turning out a bull without any genetic information on our cows, simply waiting for an outcome, hoping for the best. We need to keep more records on our calves, using identification, scales, computers, and growth technology products that improve efficiency and profitability. Our backgrounding programs and weaning protocols and health issues need to be fine-tuned.

Most of all, though, we need to be cognizant of the fact that producing a quality protein product for the consumer is JOB 1.  While I am the first to admit I love to see black cows grazing on green grass and watching the calves grow, our ultimate goal should be with the consumer in mind. For, without them, we have no business being in the business; we are simply hobbyists. And, eventually, we’ll be set up for failure.

Closing story on what happened to Strickler’s: In February of 1955, the store burned to the ground overnight, completely destroying it and all the contents. It was a total loss. Vern moved to Topeka and worked for Sears; and in 1972 came back to Ramona to retire.  It was my privilege to know him in his final years when he told me many old stories about Ramona during the 1920s until the catastrophic event that changed his life, and changed the face of Ramona forever.

~Gary

 

 

 

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Angus ever after

Just before my husband and I were married, we bought a gas grill on an auction for $50. As “broke college kids,” that seemed like quite the investment.

That’s pretty laughable in light of the purchase that Ryan and June Loseke made just days before they were married.  Two decades later I got to take a trip to see that investment: their now 2,000-head Columbus, Neb., feedyard.

Moes for blog (5 of 7)We chatted as we walked along the bunks lined with straight Angus cattle, and I thought about all the wild markets they’ve endured and how many feedyards have not.

They’ve not only been able to keep the pens full, but they’re adding on. They’ll be up to almost 3,000-head capacity when work is complete on their expansion.

June & Ryan Loseke, Columbus, Neb., veterinarians and cattle feeders

But perhaps it’s even more remarkable that their marriage endured as they finished vet school, worked for local doctors, had four children that they now shuttle between sporting events and 4-H activities, and then started their own practice. All while farming and feeding cattle. Together.

The secret to their happy union?

“Having Angus cattle was in our wedding vows,” Ryan jokes.

He was kidding. Kind of. After feeding some not-so-Angus critters during their first year in the business, it didn’t take much convincing from June, who had roots in the breed, to make the switch.Moes for blog (6 of 7)

“If you get a half point better in feed conversion or better quality cattle with straight Angus cattle, that’s something,” he says, noting that allows them to pay more for calves. “We can’t predict the price or the weather, but you can predict the genetics.”

So it’s been Angus ever after.

But the real key has been spending time together, June says. They saddle up and ride pens side-by-side in the mornings, help each other out when veterinary tasks demand a “backup” and they have raised their kids in the mix of it all.

Moes for blog (2 of 7)“All of them have been out on horses since they were infants, out here with us,” June says. “I think they learned to count and number recognition because of reading ear tags.”

For better, for worse. For Angus cattle, for stripey, “sheepish” cattle—in the feedyard, and in life it seems, the Losekes really are the picture of excellence in action.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

PS-Watch for an article on Loseke Feedyards in the October Angus Journal.

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Volunteering to learn

When you ask for volunteers, you just never know what you’re going to get.

I can’t imagine what George Perry, South Dakota State University reproductive physiologist, was thinking when a producer stood up at a local Extension meeting and offered to work with him on research.

But I know what he’s thinking now:

“Within his herd we have two, three, four generations from a single cow and we can actually see how things perform. His facilities are great and it just is so easy to go there and do whatever we need to do,” George says. “He’s willing to do anything.”

 

Cattleman John Moes, of Florence, S.D., is "always looking to try something new."

                                                                                                                                            Cattleman John Moes, Florence, S.D., is “always looking to try something new.”

The educator first got to know John Moes eight years ago when they met at a local Extension meeting. I got the pleasure of meeting John on his Florence, S.D., farm last month, and he was everything that Dr. Perry billed him as: a go-getter, genuine and whole-heartedly interested in doing everything he possibly can to improve his cowherd.

John's hefiers all ready for a first round of AI.

    John’s heifers all ready for a first round of AI.

He’s used AI and synchronization as tools to not only input some of the top Angus genetics to his 300-head herd, but also to tighten up calving season and hit the higher markets for quality beef earlier in the year.

“People with grain farms, we’re micromanaging everything anymore,” John told me. “Now we can micromanage the cowherd and have more calves born in the first 21 days, you can have 90% of them have calves in 45 days.”

The last load of finished steers were set to go out the week after my visit.

                                                                                                      The last load of finished steers were set to go out the week after my visit.

John uses his 2,000-head on-farm feedlot to finish his calves and his records show the earlier-born animals have a 40-lb. advantage at harvest. “And they’re more uniform,” he says.

And they have a quality boost. This year’s carcass data shows the first load out was at 65% Certified Angus Beef brand acceptance compared to 45% later in the season. (Of course, all of those numbers are something to celebrate, but that’s a 20-point improvement!)

John’s results echo what researchers have shared about the benefits of getting cows bred and calves born earlier. [Here’s a video clip that discusses that very topic.]

That’s just another example of John using his commercial herd to prove out what’s found in smaller scale research trials.

“I can drive an hour down the road and work with him and get the equivalent of putting almost all of the university cattle together,” George says. “He alone doubles the number of animals I can work with to get that data. When we’re looking at conception rates, embryonic loss and things like that it takes large numbers to be confident in the results.”

He makes changes so fast, that John really places a lot of hope in each year's calf crop.

                                                                                                                                                        John makes changes so fast, he really places a lot of hope in each year’s calf crop.

Sure, John enjoys the chance to help the university out, but to him it’s especially about the chance to learn. He’s getting data that many commercial cattlemen don’t even dream of, like ultrasound scans and full DNA profiles that he can match up to individual breeding and carcass records.

“It’s fun to see how my cows do,” he says.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

 

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Dr. Phil on aging

Hopefully you didn’t click on that headline expecting to find out all about the fountain of youth. If you’ve ever seen our Dr. Phil Bass in person, you know it seems like he’s tapped some into some mysterious, bottomless energy source, but it turns out he’s more of specialist on beef aging.

Basic RGB“Our beef is aged a minimum of 21 days,” says a restaurant menu. Another claims, “We serve only hand-selected, dry-aged beef.”

But what exactly does all that mean? And how is dry aging different than wet aging?

“Aged” is a fancy way to say older, but like a good wine, good beef gets even better with time.

Watch on as Dr. Phil explains in this week’s installment of “Behind your beef.”

And re-visit “Age is relative” if you want more on aging, of the beef variety of course.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

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Making the right decisions

To a room packed full of ranchers, Jerry Bohn got right to the point.

Speaking at the 63rd Annual Florida Beef Cattle Short Course last month in Gainesville, Fla., he challenged cattlemen to “strive for excellence.”

More than 300 cattlemen gathered for the 63rd annual event to learn and share insight into the future of the industry.

More than 300 cattlemen gathered to learn and share insight into the future of the beef industry.

 

His message was clear and didn’t shy away from steps to help producers get where he is urging them to go.

“Let’s build good calves. Let’s expect more out of our calves, and then let’s do something about it,” said the manager of Pratt Feeders, Pratt, Kan.

Along with FCA President Wes Williamson (left), Bohn served on a panel with Florida ranchers to discuss their perspectives on feedlot and carcass information.

Along with FCA President Wes Williamson (left), Bohn (speaking) served on a panel with Florida ranchers to discuss their perspectives on feedlot and carcass information.

Easier said than done? Sure, but there’s a way.

“Do you know what you are feeding?” he asked the room of more than three hundred. “With the current market, there is no better time to find out what your calves can do beyond the ranch.”

Whether retaining ownership or not, the longtime feeder said the impact ranchers have on their cattle is long lasting, way past the time they are loaded on trucks and dropped off in his part of the country.

As with a child, the challenge lies in getting each to reach their full potential.

“What you do with your calves has a huge impact when they come to my place,” Bohn said. “If we’re going to make a better beef product, the whole system needs to know what we’re producing. Then we need to make genetic, animal health and feeding changes that are necessary to make that happen.”

In fact, Bohn says it starts before the calf, with the health and nutritional well-being of the cow.

“We have to get the factory going and we’ve got to get her prepared to raise a calf,” he said. “Then we transfer her performance and immunity to the calf.”

After morning speakers, cattlemen headed to the teaching facility to discuss factors affecting the performance and value of different breeds of cattle.

Later in the afternoon, cattlemen discussed factors affecting the performance and value of different breeds.

 

But what’s a factory without healthy workers? Urging ranchers to be proactive when it comes to health management he cautioned producers about bovine respiratory disease (BRD), saying it should be top-of-mind when developing vaccination programs.

“Healthy cattle have better performance, and good health goes a long way,” he said.

What about improving genetics in the herd? Aiming for high-quality marks?

Bohn_4Bohn had a solution for that, too.

When it comes to genetics, ranchers should set their sights on minimizing variation. He sees it even among calf crops that are genetically similar, so he said the goal is to continue to find which ones to take off the bottom end.

Through the right decisions, Bohn said ranchers can deliver quality beef to consumers and reap the rewards.

“We need to implement programs that deliver high-quality cattle every time. We never want our customers to lower their expectations of beef. There is no way to spin a disappointment on the plate.”

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

 

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