Author Archives: blackinkmiranda

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I love God, my kids, my hubby, rural life, agriculture and working for CAB. I’m officially the assistant director of industry information, which basically means I get to learn from lots of smart people and pass that information along to lots of other smart people: you. I’m so lucky to work with cattle producers and other folks in this great industry. (Oh, and one more job perk? I get to eat lots of really yummy beef.)
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On the ranch, On the road
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Calves provide confirmation

Calving season. It doesn’t fit nicely in between 4-H shooting sports practice or drama auditions. Community group meetings don’t stop for it, and spouses don’t “quit their day jobs” for two months.

In the middle of my husband’s planting season right now, I’m well aware of that truth. Life goes on amid the crazy.

But when I visited Troy and Stacy Hadrick near Faulkton, S.D., last month, I found only the bedrock truth about calving season. For all its extra work and long hours, it’s what makes those late spring AI sessions worthwhile. It validates the time poring over the American Angus Association’s sire summaries and talking to other producers and experts.

2017_04_03_mr_Hadrick-161“You’ve got to make it a conscious effort, because there’s always fence to fix,” Troy told me. Sitting behind the computer isn’t glamorous, but when there are genetics and economics to study, he has to remind himself: “What are the jobs that only I can do?”

Part of this year’s study included analyzing last year’s feedlot performance and carcass data, and adding some new technology: long-range, ultra-high-frequency tags. They can be read from up to 25 feet away, and the data automatically syncs to a cloud that’s accessible by any device in the house, in the pickup or on the 4-wheeler.

“We’ve just scratched the surface of what we’re going to do with it,” Troy says. The first tags went in the heifers a few days after my trip north and the chute-side recording system worked as planned.

“When we know that data is in a good, useable form….we’ll make money from that,” he notes.

There are 370 calves on the ground, and the family is hoping for rain. They are about half of normal precipitation for the year.

In years like this, he’s pleased with the efforts to reduce mature size.

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Troy can’t wait to see the potential these calves hold. Each generation gets better.

“Everybody will say they want small cows, but not many guys will stick to that,” Troy says.

As he’s sent older cows down the road, the producer leaves sentiment out of it. It’s a simple fact: “Their calf is going to do better than what she’s replacing.”

Troy learned to AI when he was a senior in high school, and he’ll use that skill again as the next round starts next week.

“I know the value of good genetics and I always want more of them,” he says.

As the cattleman shares the success he’s had in reaching premium quality goals—up to 74% Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand and Prime—the critics come out.

“People keep asking, ‘What are you sacrificing?’” Troy says.

Whether he’s in the pasture or studying data from his desk, the answer is apparent: “Nothing.”

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

PS–To catch Troy’s story from the start, read “Rapid change,” “Proud to pass it on,”Not in South Dakota Anymore,” and “When plan B scores an A+.”

You can also visit ranches in Oklahoma and Montana in our other “Following the calves,” series installments.

 

 

 

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Hot topics, Research, The Meat Market
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Not there yet

We were bringing a little preschool friend out to our house for the afternoon. She was a town kid and about every three miles, she’d ask, “Are we ALMOST there?”

Turns out 12 miles is a really long way when there’s the anticipation of a playdate.

But I get it. I like that sense of accomplishment when I’ve “made it.” I’m a list maker and nothing feels better than putting a line through completed items.

I understand why it’s tempting for cattlemen to ask, “Do we have enough quality? Can we start selecting for something else?”

Not yet, says the data.

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See this Prime strip steak? It’s exactly what consumers want more of, and will pay more to get.

Let’s take just take the Prime grade for example. For the last decade, the average annual spread between Select and Prime ranged from $25 to $50/cwt., averaging $35 for 2016—all while cattlemen produced more of it.

During the last half of that period, weekly Prime production on a carcass-weight basis rose 8.9 million pounds, from 13.7 million pounds per week in 2012 to 22.6 million in 2016.

While working on an article about the whole category of Prime, I talked with producers, packers and distributors.

The cattlemen knew they could make more money by aiming for that highest target, while those in the direct business of keeping consumers happy said the same. The more of that beef they had to sell, the better.

“I don’t see a time in my lifetime when Prime’s not a big premium. I just don’t see it,” a packer told me, as his cohort added, “that’s the highest demanded product we see.”

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You can have it all: Prime carcasses and solid females. The research says so.

When you can select for marbling and not hurt any other traits, as research says we can, why wouldn’t you?

If you’re making your own list, I suggest you set high goals like, “Get 20% Prime.” When you reach that, try to best your personal best.

Just imagine how satisfying it’ll be to cross that off…only to set the bar even higher.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

P.S. The first in this series on Prime recently came out in the May Angus Journal. Check your mailboxes and get the whole scoop!

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On the road, The Meat Market
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For the love of beef

A salesman’s job is easier if he likes what he sells.

Ask Patrick Ambrosio what his favorite cut of beef is. The reply is so quick, if you’re not looking him straight in the eye you’ll miss seeing them light up. “Ribeye. Grilled, pan-fired, anything that’s a ribeye. The next day, even, it’s still good.”

Make that, “if he loves what he sells.”

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Patrick Ambrosio says it’s easy to sell good beef, because it’s fun to talk to customers about it. Foodland has been a Certified Angus Beef brand partner since 2008.

Patrick didn’t set out to be a meat manager, but right out of high school, he needed a job. After working his way up from the deli to meat wrapper, cutter and eventually, manager, the career looks good on him.

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Cutting meat may look the same in Hawaii as it does in any other state, but there are logistical challenges unique to the island.

It’s 4 a.m. when the 32-year-old arrives at one of the newest Foodland locations in Kapolei, Hawaii. His eyes dart across the meat case looking for anything that’s not up to his standards. After he executes “pulls,” he files orders, makes grinds and eventually, cuts.

“It’s like a gamble when you’re ordering. You don’t want to buy too much or too little,” he says, noting a blade in his hand came naturally, but the biggest learning curve was, “merchandising the meat and not wasting anything.” The balance took more study.

He knows what ad features are coming up, watches prices and tries to manage all he can control. He can’t predict challenges like drought on the mainland or unexpected shipping delays.

“At least if there’s something out of our control, like the oceans are real rough and the shipment can’t come in, there’s always a backup plan,” he says. “If we don’t have that particular product, we’ll sub it for something even better.”

That’s because Foodland wants to keep shoppers happy.

“We captured a lot of customers going to Certified Angus Beef ®,” Patrick says, remembering when they first partnered with the brand nearly a decade ago. “It’s not hard to sell high-quality beef.”

Some of the most popular cuts on the island include thin-sliced short ribs, for making the Korean-style kalbi, and steaks.

“Because it’s Hawaii—it’s always nice over here, so everybody’s always grilling,” Patrick says.

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Foodland has 33 stores, giving the brand a presence on all the islands.

Indeed, during my March visit, it was pretty much an even 80 degrees and sunny the whole trip.

But as I stepped into the cooler, I realized it takes some dedication to walk in out of the sunshine, throw on a white jacket over a long-sleeved shirt and settle in with one goal: help the customer make the best meal they can.

But that’s what Patrick and his team do. Any given day there’s three to four of them, cutting and refilling, answering questions for regulars or for tourists that stop in. They take the job seriously.

If Patrick’s enthusiasm is any indication, they love it.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink (because people like Patrick are counting on you to be successful),

Miranda

PS–Read about fellow meat cutter Thomas Tangaro, who says he’ll “retire on” CAB, in yesterday’s post.

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On the road, The Meat Market
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‘Making it’ as a meat cutter

“All of my mom’s prayers have been answered,” says Thomas Tangaro.

He’s just steps from the meat case he proudly restocks each morning when he gets in at 5 a.m.

I was on a bit of a working vacation when I dropped in mid-morning, the 36-year Foodland meat manager already halfway through his shift at the Pupukea, Hawaii, store. He’d already made his first and second batches of poke (a locally popular raw fish salad, served in the deli), placed orders and started cutting.

Thomas brighter

Just like most ranchers I know, when Thomas Tangaro isn’t at his Foodland store on Oahu’s North Shore, he’s thinking about it.

Thomas smiles at the memory of his mom lighting a candle and clutching her rosary, her 10 sons and three daughters on her mind. She knew they’d need a little faith—there were no easy breaks for the children of Filipino immigrants.

The Tangaro kids used to clean the school cafeteria to earn a token for lunch the next day. By 14, Thomas and his brothers each had jobs. His first was in the small packing plant where his dad worked, and it was a stepping-stone to his current position.

“I love Foodland,” he says with the same emotion he might use to talk of his wife of 39 years, four kids and 15 grandkids. “What other company is going to take care of you and your family for 36 years?”

In just five months he made journeyman, a leap that typically takes a couple of years.

He simultaneously gave me a tour of his space while greeting customers, suppliers and fellow employees with the same warm smile and called their names. In between, he told me about one of the biggest changes he’s seen over the years: the switch to the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand in 2008.

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Restock the meat case, make poke, place orders, cut steaks, make poke–it’s a rhythm Thomas has delighted in for 36 years.

“I thought we were going to have another flop. We went through so many suppliers. Now I am going to retire on this.”

He’s sold.

“We got into CAB and we just grew. It’s so easy to talk about the product.”

Tourists and locals come in to buy cuts to BBQ or grill on the beach. The famous Banzai Pipeline is just down the road. That gives him a chance to explain about CAB’s 10 carcass specifications and quality that sets the product apart, noting that his competitors “don’t have meat like us.”

The visitors usually come for middle meats, like strips and ribeyes, regardless of what is on sale.

“They don’t look at the yellow signs and buy, they just buy,” he says.

And as they buy, he cuts and restocks.

It’s a lot for one man to do. He’s looking toward retirement, but doesn’t know what comes next.

“I’ve dedicated my life to it,” he says.

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The cold of the cooler contrasts the retail floor temps. My camera fogged up yet again when I left the store’s AC and went out to the tropical temps, with the ocean rolling in just beyond the adjacent highway.

My camera lens fogs up as we move off the retail floor. The smell of fresh meat mixes with poke seasonings. Even the meat cooler in Hawaii feels a bit exotic, but the stories he tells of his father sound a bit like a rancher and his son.

“We used to sit out in the parking lot and drink a beer at the end of the day and he would say he was so proud of me,” Thomas says.

It makes sense. Thomas’s career highlights a love of the trade, one that has supported his family through the decades. His siblings have their own successes to note.

“I never thought I’d come this far in life,” Thomas admits.

But Mary Tangaro never doubted. She’d prayed for it.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink (and your heart full of memories as moving as these),

Miranda

PS–Come back tomorrow where I’ll introduce you to fellow Foodland meat cutter Patrick Ambrosio.

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Award/contest winners, Hot topics
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Commitment you recognize

Just when does the lifelong road to excellence start?

For some, it seems it’s inherited as easily as blue eyes or a deep voice. For others, there’s a turning point, some life-changing event that causes a seismic shift in the way they do business or live their lives.

I’m always looking for the clues as I chat with cattlemen and women who earn CAB honors. My summer story trips have included these “Commitment to Excellence” award winners for more than a decade, and even though they all share some traits—work ethics, smarts, tenacity—it seems the path to quality is different every time.

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When the Schiefelbeins won the 2012 Seedstock Commitment to Excellence Award I started my day at their family meeting, seeing their teamwork in action. “Quality.” I heard it many times from each of the brothers, including Don who is pictured here.

When I visited the Schiefelbein family in 2012, they said it was a given.

“Dad always said,If we’re in the beef business, we better raise good beef,’” says Angus breeder Don Schiefelbein. “He’s just been laser-focused on how do we produce efficient, great-tasting beef?”

So the eight brothers continued the tradition, using more technology and implementing marketing that would reward commercial customers for doing the same.

 

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

John Moes volunteered to be a real-life laboratory of sorts for the nearest land-grand university. They test breeding protocols and application of DNA technology on the commercial Angus producer’s herd.

In 2014, commercial cattleman John Moes said his dairy farm upbringing taught him the value of “sweat equity,” but it was a partnership with South Dakota State University that gave him the tools to make sweeping herd improvements in a shorter amount of time.

“You can’t just work hard to make a living anymore,” the cattlemen says, noting his widespread use of timed artificial insemination (AI) and DNA testing. “You also have to work smart.”

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Sam Hands and his brothers operate Triangle H, a diversified farming and feeding operation near Garden City, Kan.. He won the 2009 Feedlot Partner of the Year honors. (Today that is called the Feedyard Commitment to Excellence award.)

In 2009, Kansas cattle feeder Sam Hands talked about the way his father brought he and his brothers in as equal partners from the start.

“We’ve made errors along the way, but we learned from them and kept working to make it better,” he says, noting that the cattle enterprise has always been a way to add value to their farm-raised feedstuffs. That doesn’t mean they’re an afterthought.

“We’ve got a unique product— it can adjust to a lot of different environments, a lot of different feedstuffs, and still put out the most nutritious, most sought-after flavor, but the consumer is boss and we’ve got to keep that in mind,” he says.

Do you know somebody who has taken an interesting path to quality beef production? Perhaps they learned from the “school of hard knocks” or maybe they found quality as the only way to bring back the next generation? Maybe they’re your genetic supplier or your cattle feeder? Or if you’re in the registered business, it could be your customer.

We are currently accepting nominations for our 2017 Commitment to Excellence awards, along with one Progressive Partner award. Read this to find out more about qualifications, but do it fast—nominations close Friday.

I can’t wait to find out who I get to meet next.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

 

 

 

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