Author Archives: 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.
Award/contest winners

It takes a team

We lived in a two bedroom apartment in the middle of the city when my husband made the first livestock purchase of our marriage. Bidding in an online pig sale, he made us the owners of a beautiful crossbred gilt with nowhere for it to live. No barn, no plan, no pig feed, no truck or trailer, absolutely nothing we needed to start a livestock business. We couldn’t even fill out the shipping information for where this gilt would go.

The planner in me panicked. What in the world had he we just done?!

He calmly turned to me and said, “The world is run on partnerships.”

Though not necessarily comforting at the time, he wasn’t wrong. There was no way we were going to be able to start a livestock business alone. Whether you’re raising pigs or cattle, it takes a good team to get the job done.


For Jamie Hoffman of Hoffman Angus in Otwell, Ind., winner of the inaugural Certified Angus Beef Angus Value Discovery Contest, his herd’s success stems from his original partnership with his dad. The late Albert E. Hoffman, instilled a disciplined focus on quality genetics and animal care in his son — values Jamie has continued to integrate into their herd.

The hard work has paid off, in premiums and recognition. His grand champion pen of 40 graded 100% Choice or better, with 75% qualifying for the Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) brand, including 32.5% Prime.

But the success wasn’t his alone.

When Jamie couldn’t find the balanced carcass and performance genetics he needed, his search for a new bull supplier led to James Coffey of Branch View Angus, in Hustonville, Kentucky. Jamie’s cattle buyer introduced the two and understood their shared vision for producing cattle that perform on the rail.

“From my first conversation with Jamie, I knew he and his wife were dedicated to raising and feeding high-quality Angus cattle,” Coffey said. “This winning group that won didn’t happen by chance. They’ve concentrated on raising the right kind for years.”


In November at the 2017 Angus Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, the two stood next to each other on stage as Jamie accepted the Grand Champion Award.

The reserve winners of the Angus Value Discovery Contest went to a partnership that spans the beef industry. Mark Gardiner of Gardiner Angus Ranch, Ashland, Kan., nominated long-time customer Randy Bayne of nearby Protection, Kan., along with his feeding partner and veterinarian, Randall Spare of Ashland.

A customer of Gardiner’s for more than 20 years, Bayne said he has leaned on his suppliers’ expertise when selecting carcass genetics and Spare for creating the optimal health program. Both Gardiner and Spare credit the commercial cattleman’s management skills and business sense as a key success factor in producing high performing profitable cattle.


“Randy is very disciplined in selecting cattle that provide end product merit,” said Gardiner. “He’s worked toward selecting cattle that are in the upper percentiles without compromising reproduction and maternal function.”

I snapped photos as the winning cattlemen received their awards and headed back to my seat reflecting on the people that have contributed to the success of my family’s own livestock business. The night we made a snap decision to buy a pig could have been a bit of a disaster, but with the help of great friends and business partners, a spontaneous decision has grown into a profitable business.

Although hanging show pig banners is a bit different than creating high-dollar, high-quality carcasses, neither version of success happens alone. It’s about more than hard work and great genetics — having the right people in business with you can make all the difference.

Producing high quality beef requires an excellent genetic supplier, a superior health program, a great feeder, a careful rancher making sure those calves never have a bad day and of course patient mentors who pass along their wisdom.

When it comes down to it, genetics and management are vital, but the right people by your side help drive the decisions that produce profitable, high quality beef.

Until next time,


P.S. Want to enter the 2018 Angus Value Discovery Contest? We’ll start accepting entries in January and more information will be available at Look for more on this year’s winners in upcoming issues of the Angus Journal!

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Stika at Cudlobe Farm
On the ranch

A Story So Good Even the Dog Wants to Listen

Dyce Bolduc was a teenager when he bought his first Angus cows at an auction in Alberta, Canada. It was 1967 and Angus calves sold at a discount. Dyce and his brother David distinctly remember market reports that included the phrase “and the black calves sold for 10 cents less.”

Not a good market signal to get into the Angus business.

Dyce and David didn’t care. They had a vision few others could have imagined. Betting on the ability of the Angus cow and the opportunity the brothers saw for the breed, they transitioned their parent’s Shorthorn operation to Angus. Originally they focused on quality phenotype but over time transitioned their emphasis to what is underneath the hide — they wanted cattle that looked good AND produced beef that tastes great.

Cudlobe Ranch1 (1)

It’s a philosophy many of their customers follow today.

In 2016, a group of calves sired by Cudlobe Farm bulls and raised by Cross Cattle Company, Okotocs, AB, graded 16.5% Prime and made 51.3% CAB (premium AAA) to total 97% AAA (Choice) or better. Compared to the Canadian average that same week, 1.3% Prime, 18.4% CAB and a total 55.4% AAA, it’s easy to see why their genetics sell for a premium.

“There’s a lot of room for growth of Certified Angus Beef here in Canada,” says David. “There needs to be more cattle harvested that can make the grade and the CAB specifications.”

CAB President John Stika stopped by the Cudlobe Farm near Stavely, AB, in August to share with a group of Dyce and David’s customers just how high the demand is for cattle that make the CAB brand in Canada. At the field day, cattlemen from across that country packed the Cudlobe barn to hear John speak.

As the chatter dulled and John began to talk, even the Bolduc family dog knew the message must be important. He ran in and grabbed a front row seat to hear:

“Consumers have shown us time and time again that they are willing to pay more when the value proposition offers them more — as it does with CAB compared to commodity beef,” Stika said.

The gap between demand for high-quality beef in Canada and the supply of cattle that can make the grade is wide, especially during the summer grilling season. A recent CANFAX report shows the difference in value between the below-average marbling AA grade and the AAA grade grew to historic levels for the summer of 2017. Spreads as high as $42 per hundredweight one week this summer show the premium value for AAA beef in 2017 is higher compared to the three-year average of an $11/cwt. spread for the same week.

Canadian AA AAA Spread

“Producers who align genetic decisions and herd management strategies with that demand signal will be the most likely winners moving forward,” Stika told the crowd. “Canada is the largest market for CAB outside of the U.S., yet Canadian producers have only been able to supply enough quality cattle to roughly meet two-thirds of the demand that exists. That represents quite an opportunity for those willing to focus on quality.”

It’s exactly what David and Dyce knew long ago when they purchased those first Angus cows — that the future of the Canadian beef industry relies on quality cattle production. Fifty years ago, black cattle sold for less than the market average. Today, their customers earn $50 to $90 head above average.

With premiums like that, no wonder even the dog wanted to listen.

Until next time,



*Photos provided by the Bolduc family. 


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Hot topics

Record Breaking Quality

Confession: I’m not really a “numbers” gal. My friends and I often joke about me doing “journalist math” as I am definitely more blessed with an affinity for words over anything numeric.

I do however, love when numbers tell a story.

While most spreadsheets would make me yawn, a quick look at packer data for the last week in July had our team smiling. For the first time ever, more than 100,000 beef carcasses were “certified” for our brand in one five-day period, the week of July 23 — meaning they all met the 10 CAB brand specifications. That’s a 10% increase in certified head over the same week last year. What’s even more impressive, it’s a 60% increase over the same week five years ago.

Certified Head

“It’s a good thing,” says Clint Walenciak, director of packing. “We can’t sell what the industry doesn’t produce.”

So how did that number grow so big, so fast?

Clint says it’s a combination of good management, cattle industry conditions and (positive) repercussions no one could have expected looking at that data sheet five years ago. In 2012, drought and market conditions spurred a steep culling of the beef cow herd, reducing the number of cattle in the U.S.

“As we rebuilt the cattle herd, it gave ranchers an opportunity to choose high-quality Angus genetics for replacements,” says Walenciak. “Those genetic improvements set the stage for a speedy growth in certified carcasses.”

A high-quality herd producing more cattle that meet Certified Angus Beef® brand specifications is a much better thing if demand keeps a similar pace.

It just so happens that for the very first time in the history of Certified Angus Beef LLC, July 2017 also marks the only time 100 million+ pounds of CAB has ever been sold in a single month. The record for certified cattle is matched with a record for CAB sales.

Monthly Sales

“It’s a statement to where we are in the cattle production cycle,” says Justin Sexten, director of supply development for the brand. “It’s exciting. There’s more cattle and higher quality cattle at a time where demand for the CAB brand is at an all-time high.”

5 years, 100,000 certified cattle in just one week, 100 million pounds of CAB sold in one month. It’s a lot of numbers to follow, but when we connect the dots, it’s a story of success that is evidence of the hard work of Angus ranchers.


Until next time,


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Nicole_Erceg_Certified Angus Beef_Internship
Hot topics

Guess Who’s Back?

One of the first assignments I had as an industry information intern for Certified Angus Beef was to write a blog post. Simple task, but when I finished hammering out my word quota, the pressure suddenly mounted.

What would I use as my “sign-off” phrase?!

This photo and story visit was exactly three years ago to the date I’m writing this post! Click on the photo to read about the Lienemanns.

Everyone on the team had a witty or thoughtful ending that consistently wrapped up each post. For example Miranda’s: “May your bottom line be filled with black ink.” To me, this was my moment to create my own version of Walter Cronkite’s “and that’s the way it is”. The bar was set high.

Want to know what I finally decided on?


I couldn’t choose! I just signed my name for the first few posts. Lame, I know. Then… it came to me. Each blog thereafter was signed:

Until next time.

That’s probably a silly phrase for an intern to use since my time with the brand technically was limited. From the day I started, there was already an end date set in stone. However, something told me that somehow, someway there would always be a next time. Until next time seemed a fitting phrase because everyone I met that summer, on my adventures with the brand, I wanted to see again. I also hoped that you feel about this blog the way that I do — that the quality here is as excellent as the beef we write about and it always keeps you coming back for more.

I’m someone who believes in trusting your gut and it was right.

In the years since my CAB internship ended, I took other internships; I graduated from college (go K-State wildcats!); I got married; I moved across the country (North Carolina is beautiful y’all); and took a full-time position with another company. Yet, I continued to appear (although infrequently) on this blog.

Our latest Black Ink team picture with the "newbie" was at Ag Media Summit earlier this summer!

Our latest Black Ink team picture with the “newbie” was at Ag Media Summit earlier this summer!

Recently, I had another opportunity to go with my gut and take a much bigger leap of faith. Two weeks ago, my husband and I packed up our North Carolina home and relocated to Wooster, Ohio, so I could begin my career with CAB officially as the producer communications specialist. Now, you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of me on the blog (and other Black Ink platforms) and the time between my appearances will be much shorter.

I’m so excited to be the newest member of the team and I consider myself blessed to be “back” writing about the business breed, exceptional quality beef and the people who raise it.

Until next time,


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