Author Archives: BlackInkNicole

BlackInkNicole
Raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon, I’m a fan of wide open spaces and rural life. I didn't grow up in the beef industry, but I got here as fast as I could. My love for great stories, a well marbled steak and black cattle led me to Ohio where I consider myself blessed to blend my many passions into a "job" at CAB.
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On the ranch, On the road
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Tall Tales and High Standards

I’ve always been a big fan of good stories – tales of great adventure and overcoming adversity. The type of stories with characters who throw out the rulebook and make one of their own.

Minnie Lou and daughter Mary Lou Bradley, along with Mary Lou’s husband James Henderson are those type of people. By creating their own standards of success for doing business, they changed the beef industry for the better.

When I turned down the dirt road that leads to Bradley 3 Ranch, I knew I was in for a good story. I didn’t realize I would hear jaw-dropping sagas including characters like Beyoncé or Bonnie and Clyde. All true, all almost unbelievable, all worthy of repeating, but the most moving stories were about those sitting right in front of me.

It might just look like a hole in the ground, but it's name is 'Black Hand Cave'. When up close a black handprint can be seen marking this old hideout of the famed criminal duo, Bonnie and Clyde. It's just one of the treasures hidden in the B3R pastures.

It might just look like a hole in the ground, but it’s name is “Black Hand Cave.” When up close a black hand print can be seen marking this old hideout of the famed criminal duo, Bonnie and Clyde. It’s just one of the treasures hidden in the B3R pastures.

When people doubted that the rough Texas panhandle in the middle of a drought was a good place to start an Angus seedstock operation in the 1950’s, Minnie Lou proved them wrong. By being a ‘grass person first,’ shipping any cow that doesn’t produce a calf and breeding Angus genetics that have to work for the cattleman she built a legacy.

When most producers stayed close to the ranch, Minnie Lou spent hours in grocery stores, standing at the meat case and asking consumers questions — seeking to understand what they were truly looking for when shopping for beef.  She then took those experiences to the board room where she became the first woman to Chair the American Angus Association board of directors.

“You can do what you want to do, if you want it bad enough,” Minnie Lou says. “You’re going to be challenged, you’re going to work hard and not everything is going to come together like you want it to. But I guarantee, if your heart is there and your head is there and you have integrity, are focused in one direction and if you are honest with yourself and everyone else — there is always a way.”

It’s a mindset she passed on to her daughter.

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Mary Lou and James Henderson have both worked on the ranch and meat side of the beef business. The new painting on the side of their barn is something special to each of them, as it’s a brand they strive for every day with their cattle, one they own and help lead and the logo that they’ve proudly helped make better through the years.

While others shrugged Natural beef off as a ‘consumer phase’ and said there was no way a small packer could survive, Mary Lou dug in her heels. At 25 years old she built her own packing plant and launched B3R Country Meats. She flew to New York to visit the meat packing district and elbowed her way into the market there. In 2004 it was her plant that became the first packer licensed to produce Certified Angus Beef ® Natural.

Value-added products were a risky line extension for Certified Angus Beef in the 1980s, but James knew they could work. He helped create the first Certified Angus Beef ® corned beef product before he joined B3R in the early ‘90s. Currently, he serves on the CAB board of directors and manages the Bradley cowherd.

A fierce determination to create what the market and consumers demand helped them create history — a history that’s deeply intertwined with our brand. From conception to consumption and everything in between, this family understands what it takes to make great beef.

“I’ve been around cattle my whole life and I always thought I understood it,” Minnie Lou says. “But until you see your own cattle hanging on a rail and see how they perform in a feedlot…it changes your perspective.”

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The Bradley Ranch Logo includes a nod to the family’s meat packing days. Although no longer in the packing business, they still focus on making sure their cattle perform on the rail, too. Family friend Faith (left) drew a special sign for the painting celebration.

 

I see in them what I’m sure is the same grit those who launched our brand in 1978 had and the vision that’s kept us going for 40 years. It just wouldn’t be right to have a 40th Anniversary celebratory campaign without including Bradley 3 Ranch. Their barn will go down in history as #10 on our tour.

The logo on the side of their barn is a mark of quality, but it’s also the beginning of a story. When someone points to the mural and asks “why?” each family member has their own tale to tell of what the symbol means to them and their role in making it mean something valuable to the consumer.

“The main thing I think has helped the Certified Angus Beef ® brand be successful all these years is setting their standards so high and living with them,” Minnie Lou says.

I would argue the same is true about her own success.

It’s said that the greatest legends are those rooted deeply in truth. They inspire us and create stories that span generations because the individuals and their feats are worth repeating. Over the generations, the details get fuzzy, but the core lessons remain. Not to disagree with the esteemed cattlewoman, but I think the real key to this brand’s success is Angus breeders who live stories like these. The kind that I’ll never tire of telling and that 40 years from now will be looked back on as catalysts for moving our industry forward in the quest for better beef.

Until next time,

Nicole

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On the ranch
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Time and Data Will Tell

My red Ford Focus looked out of place at the Richmond, Kentucky auction barn. Surrounded by pickups and trailers, my Ohio tags were a long way from home and looked it. But when I walked through the doors of the salebarn restaurant, I was greeted like family.

It was clear I wasn’t a regular, but Billy and Scott Turpin waved me over to their table. They insisted we order lunch before we talking cattle over a checkered tablecloth in the hometown haunt.

Scott (left) and his father Billy (right) have always enjoyed their commercial Angus herd. However, it wasn't until they both retired from careers as agriculture teachers and FFA advisors that they were able to transition the focus of their herd to producing high quality beef.

Scott (left) and his father Billy (right) have always enjoyed their commercial Angus herd. However, it wasn’t until they both retired from careers as agriculture teachers and FFA advisors that they were able to transition the focus of their herd to producing high-quality beef.

The father and son can only be described as good ‘ol Kentucky boys. Passionate about their farm and family, they are commercial cattlemen with deep tobacco farming roots. On the drive from Richmond to what they call their ‘main farm’ they pointed out where they had gone to school, told stories of their grandfathers and memories of what the farm had been before today.

The Angus cowherd, once secondary to the cash crop and their vocational ag teaching careers, have now become Billy and Scott’s sole focus.  Pulling into the drive, I saw a familiar sight for the state of Kentucky — a traditional big black tobacco barn. Today it serves as their headquarters. Inside hang pictures of their successful land judging teams, Billy judging at the North American as well as relics from the time when they regularly harvested tobacco. Though you can see what it once was, they’ve added updates to better serve its new purpose. Next to where the tobacco plants once hung to dry is a warming room that serves as a haven on days when a newborn calf needs to be sheltered from Mother Nature.

Like most in the cattle business, they sell by the pound, but have always focused on ways to provide added value. Their goal is to be a supplier of a premium product, with their sights set on the Certified Angus Beef® brand.

There is a place for commodity cattle,” Billy says. “But there’s a place for upper-end cattle too.”

Scott explains, “We’d rather be on the premium end than the commodity end.”

However, feeding cattle and getting carcass data has never been in the cards from a cash-flow perspective. The father and son have worked on choices that pay off at the ranch level, including an emphasis on selecting for Angus bulls with optimum Angus Dollar Value indexes including $B and $W, investing in developing quality forages and health programs.

But so far, they’ve only been able to hope that it’s working for the consumer, too.

“If you’re going to invest in good, high-quality genetics, you should be able to get some of that value,” says Scott. “I know there’s a lot of value in these cattle that we never see.”

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Scott and Billy have always wanted to feed out their own calves to see how they perform beyond their Kentucky pastures and decided it was time to see how their calf crop would grade.

Cattle buyers sent signals that always seemed positive, but this year they retained ownership on a few, wanting the data to tell them the truth. Partnering with other local Angus producers, they sent a partial load to Pratt Feeders in Kansas and soon hope to discover the results.

“We want to be able to capture the true value of the genetics we’ve invested in,” Billy says. “And to do that, we need to hang them on the rail and see what they’re worth.”

On the Turpin farm, time tells a story. It’s one where the family hasn’t been afraid to make changes to do what makes sense for profitability. Time will tell what decisions are working and which aren’t, but they know the numbers will indicate what needs to happen next.

Until Next Time,

Nicole

P.S. For more of the Turpin family story, check out future editions of the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin

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Certified Angus Beef corporate office
Hot topics
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What happens in Wooster?

It’s a question we hear often, “So what DO y’all do up there in Wooster?”

Anyone on our team is proud to answer, but it’s not something that’s easily summed up in a few words. In fact, it’s something we all could write, talk, tweet about, photograph and capture on video for years. We have and continue to do so.

The kicker is, nothing beats seeing it for yourself.

We have lots of cattlemen groups visit over the course of a year, but not everyone gets the opportunity to walk through the doors of our Culinary Center, meet the staff who work passionately every day to build demand for high-quality beef (and in turn, registered Angus cattle) and taste the beef innovation.

I’ve always been a “show me, don’t tell me” type of person, so I think the next best thing to being here in person, is for us to show what it is we’re doing up here in the Buckeye State. To do just that, we teamed up with the American Angus Association communications folks to produce an episode of the RFD-TV show, The Angus Report, focused on what’s happening at Certified Angus Beef LLC headquarters.

Aired on March 12th, the show takes you behind the scenes of our brand.

We walk you through the doors of our offices and share our history.

Then tell the story of how we track pounds, sales, cattle and where the brand is used.

We share how our chefs are leading and collaborating with the culinary community.

And last, but not least, bring viewers into the meat lab where we teach about our 10 science-based specifications.

Watch the entire episode over on YouTube or The Angus Report website.

These special segments just scratched the surface of what all the team in Wooster is doing on behalf of Angus cattlemen. There’s a lot more we’d love to show and tell you about, which is why we hope we’ll see you in here during the National Angus Convention, when we’ll be a stop on the National Angus Tour and host an open house.

Visit and experience the brand for yourself — I promise, it’s better in person. And keep those questions coming — we love providing the answers.

Until next time,

Nicole

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Following the Calves, On the road
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The Road Ahead

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I’ve always loved a good road trip. The opportunity the open road provides, experiencing new places, different adventures and seeing how diverse different parts of our country are is incredible.

The backroads of rural Kentucky provided welcome new scenery and opened my eyes to a place where the bourbon is exceptional, tobacco farming roots run deep and one that might surprise you, the cattle are quality.

Cattle from the Southeastern states have a mixed reputation for delivering carcass merit. Pockets of excellence lift that overall image.

Those center around ranchers like James Coffey, who help drive value by working to breed the type you hope to end up on your plate.

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“For a lot of people their horizon ends at weaning,” Coffey says. “I try to have a larger vision, one that encompasses adding value all the way down the beef production chain.”

The rancher is kind, focused and dedicated to making each year better than the one before. He’s a fifth-generation Angus breeder, but his approach to the business is different than those who have come before him. It was his involvement that drove an emphasis on data-based decision making. He introduced artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer, ultrasound, performance testing and Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR®) when he returned home to the ranch 20 years ago.

He’s a man who loves data, a natural fit for his first career as a CPA. Now, he manages a sporting goods company that supplies major retailers around the world and of course, the cowherd at Branch View Angus, Hustonville, Ky.

For him, there can never be too much data. A vision and affinity for numbers in business led him to begin feeding steers out of his own bulls to understand how they performed for those even further down the production chain. The average for his first nine loads was 86% Choice or better, with 31% earning CAB, including 3% Prime.

But that was 10 years ago.

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“When I came back to the ranch twenty years ago, I wanted to do things better,” Coffey says. “That natural progression led to us wanting to produce registered cattle that in turn produce CAB-type cattle.”

“The real opportunity is to own the cattle all the way through,” Coffey says. “That’s the only way you can capture every nickel that’s in that animal.”

It’s a lot of nickels, not just for him, but for the commercial cattlemen that use his bulls.

“This is all about maximizing the sale value of our customers’ calves,” he says.

This year, he sent four loads of his own and customers’ spring 2017 calf crop to Pratt Feeders in Kansas. The calves will be marketed on the grid this spring and summer and Coffey is eager to see the numbers.

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It’s been since 2008 that Coffey has seen how his genetics perform beyond the ranch level. “I feel like our genetics are miles ahead of where they were then,” he says.

“It will be a data set large enough to be able to show people what the cattle can do,” he says. “I know if I can show backgrounders and feedlots how the cattle perform, then we can get bids for our customers and maximize their price.”

It’s a chance to discover just what opportunities the future might hold, changes he might need to make in his genetic selections and what direction to go next.

I drove away from Branch View Angus through twisty roads toward Hustonville, knowing it wasn’t just me with an exciting road ahead.

Until next time,

Nicole

Look for more on Coffey’s calves as we follow them to Pratt Feeders in an upcoming post and check out upcoming issues of the Angus Journal for more of Coffey’s story.

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On the ranch
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Better beef on the horizon

The sun was just peeking over the hills surrounding Hardyville, Ky., when I drove right past Jay McCoy’s ranch. My GPS told me I had arrived, but I knew there was no way his was the place surrounded by Holstein cattle.

On the hunt for pastures that told me I had arrived at a commercial cattle ranch, I found nothing and begrudgingly turned my car around and up the driveway towards the Holsteins, wondering exactly what I was about to find.

Jay quickly set my heart at ease.

“We run a dairy backgrounding operation too, but let me tell you about my real passion — the cow herd.”

You can hear it in his voice, the way he cares about his 150 Angus-cross commercial cows. From the backseat of the pickup, his mother and business partner, Sharon, tells me all he’s ever wanted to do is work with cattle.

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Jay, pictured with his wife Renata and son Zackary, is passing on his passion for quality cattle production. As we stepped out of the pickup, he pointed out the cows that are the beginning of Zachary’s herd.

“This is what I want to do everyday,” he says gesturing to the beef cows grazing in the pasture. “Keep breeding black cows that will grow our numbers and perform here on the ranch and beyond.”

In 2002, when the mother and son duo purchased the land they run cattle on today, their herd consisted of just 20 cows. Since then, they’ve focused on consistently investing in the best Angus genetics they can afford to make progress toward their goals.

“The end consumer is always on our mind because, ultimately, that is the determining factor whether we survive or fail,” Jay says. “We want to produce the very best animal we can that works both for the farm and the restaurant.”

It’s something he and his seedstock supplier, James Coffey, agree on.

“We focus on adding value all the way through the production chain, beginning with genetic selection and ending with the Certified Angus Beef®  brand,” James says.

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In addition to his spring calving cows, Jay calves a small portion of his herd in the fall. He is waiting to see carcass data on the load sent to Pratt before he decides how to market the fall group this calf belongs to.

Typically, Jay would raise his calves to 800 pounds and then send them on to the local salebarn, but this year, he’s doing things differently. Partnering with James, Jay sent his spring 2017 calf crop to Pratt Feeders in Kansas.

He wants to know if what he’s doing on the ranch is really working, “to get the information back and understand how they are really performing.”

He didn’t mind my asking him to show me around the ranch at sunrise so we could capture optimal lighting for photos and, even with the early hour, excitedly shared what’s on the horizon for his herd.

“This will be the ultimate test, getting some of our carcass data back,” Jay tells me. His goal is to use the data to get a better picture of how his cattle perform after leaving his ranch – something he can’t get at the local sale barn.

He doesn’t know exactly what the data will tell him, but he knows it will help him make decisions that result in higher quality beef.

Until next time,

Nicole

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