Author Archives: blackinkwithcab

Ride along with the Certified Angus Beef supply development team as we work to help cattlemen put more black ink in their record books with cattle management news, tips and ideas to profitably improve quality. CAB is a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Angus Association. It was founded in 1978 as the first fresh beef brand based on specifications, and remains the largest in the world. We spend every day working with cattlemen and women across the country to help them better supply the CAB brand with high-quality beef. Join us for a view from many a pickups' passenger seat.
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On the ranch, On the road

‘Worth the squeeze’

Used cars. Potential dates. Bred heifers.

A prudent shopper for any of the above is wise to wonder: How well were they cared for before I came around? What impact did the last person leave for me to deal with? What shape are they in now?

It’s no different in journalism.

A quick google search may reveal if a family I’m preparing to interview has been written about before, but it doesn’t tell me about their experience with the journalist.

So when a conversation starts with… “I did an interview for this paper once, and let me tell you…” I cringe a little. Was the last writer looking for a story this person’s experience didn’t play in to? Did they twist their words on purpose, or just accidentally use them out of context? Or did they nail it, leaving such a memorably positive experience that this rancher just can’t wait to share in hopes my story will mirror it?

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Robin Frank says he’s built his cow herd by listening to the markets.

In this case, Robin Frank pointed out the peculiar way journalists can pick up on some small detail or off-the-cuff comment and upgrade it – perhaps disproportionately – to a headline. It was something about a purple cow… how he didn’t care what color it was, if it was making the most money, he was going to work to breed it, build it and sell it.

He rolled his eyes a little at being then dubbed the ‘purple cow’ guy.

“Of all the things they could have picked for the headline, that’s what they went with?”

And yet, I couldn’t help myself. After all, he did come up with some colorful analogies. And, he used the phrase no less than five times in our afternoon together on their Hatfield, Missouri, ranch, so it wasn’t exactly obscure: “the juice has to be worth the squeeze.”

As in, if you’re putting extra work in, there better be extra pay at the end.

2017_03_CAB FrankRanch-10smallThat easily became a headline – set to publish in an upcoming edition of the Angus Journal.

“Listen to the markets – consumers will let you know what they want, and they’ll buy the heck out of it,” Robin says.

That’s the juice, but how do you calculate the squeeze? The only way to truly tell the value of what’s leaking out of the bottom line is to study the numbers, he and son Shannon agree.

In the past 11 years, while transitioning to an all-Angus commercial herd, they moved from an average 1,425-pound (lb.) cow to a 1,217-lb. average in the spring herd, while pushing weaning weights up to fill the gap and achieve an average 49% percentage of weaning to dam weight.


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“It may look like you’re losing from the outside, but when we really put the numbers to it–and we’re running a smaller cow, with a smaller bull and a smaller calf—we’re talking about cost per acre to produce this, and it works,” Robin says.

Looking further down the line on the feedyard side, they’ve found a worthwhile balance in carcass premiums. In 2012, a group of their steers finished with 53% Prime carcasses. A couple years later, another group hit 81% Prime.

“With that many Primes, it’s worth the squeeze,” he says.

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Shannon Frank joins his father in the quest for a smaller cow, producing more pounds of quality beef.

Shannon speaks a touch more plainly: “I’m trying to make the most money a person can make here, so that I can keep doing this for a long time.”  

Straightforward, much like their approach to building the efficient, data-driven herd you can read about in their feature.

Until then, keep questioning.


lnelson-mugLaura Nelson is based in Big Timber, Montana, where she writes, captures images and tells farming and ranching stories. She’s a former CAB Industry Information Specialist who became passionate about the brand and the pursuit of high-quality beef while working at the company headquarters in Ohio. Then wide open spaces, small-town living and those beautiful Crazy Mountains wooed her back west.


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On the road

Chow down in Cowtown

When I met my husband eight years ago, I was living in Fort Worth, working for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association as associate editor and social media manager for The Cattleman magazine.

Since we got married in 2010 and I subsequently moved to his hometown of Electra (population 2,722), people will frequently ask if I miss the big city.

The answer is always the same: No. I’m much better suited for life in the boonies, and the view outside my office window these days — Angus cows — sure beats the skyscrapers.

But there is one thing I do miss. The restaurants. Fort Worth is home to some of my favorite eating establishments in the country. There truly is something for everyone — especially beef lovers like us.

Since so many of you will be visiting Fort Worth this weekend for Angus Convention, we’ve pulled together a list of our brand partners in the general vicinity of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Because no doubt one of the biggest perks of being in the big city is getting a chance to eat at some of the restaurants featuring the high-quality beef you work hard to raise.

convention center

Here’s where you’ll be: the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Check out some of the great eateries below while you’re in town, and be sure to visit this page for options on where to purchase the Certified Angus Beef  ® brand wherever you are.


Check out these steakhouses in Fort Worth to enjoy a sizzlin’ steak hot off the grill!


Cast Iron Restaurant
1300 Houston Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
Inside Omni Hotel

Riscky’s Steakhouse
120 E Exchange Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76164
3 Miles from Convention Center

Silver Fox Steakhouse
1651 S. University Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76107
3 Miles from Convention Center
Convention Special:  Certified Angus Beef  ® brand bone-in filet

Saltgrass Steak House
5845 Sandshell Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76137
9 Miles from Convention Center

Casual Dining

Cheesecake Factory
455 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
.5 Mile from Convention Center

Cantina Laredo
530 Throckmorton Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
.6 Mile from Convention Center

Riscky’s BBQ
2314 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76164
5 Miles from Convention Center

Poor Daddy’s Smokehouse
7509 Boulevard 26
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
12 Miles from Convention Center

54th Street Restaurant & Drafthouse
9251 Rain Lily Trail, Fort Worth, TX 76177
12 Miles from Convention Center

Johnny Rockets
2201 Road to Six Flags St. E
Arlington, TX 76011
15 Miles from Convention Center

Next Wood Fired Bistro & Bar
5003 Colleyville Boulevard
Colleyville, TX 76034
15 Miles from Convention Center

Fast Casual

Jersey Mike’s
6318 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76116
6 Miles from Convention Center

9127 Boulevard 26, Ste 140
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
13 Miles from Convention Center


Katrina Huffstutler is a freelance writer based in Electra, Texas. She’s a frequent contributor to the Black Ink team and lover of functional cattle and quality beef.

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Following the Calves, On the ranch, On the road

Following the calves: Trade-offs, but never satisfied

It’s a trade-off most Montanans welcomed with open arms.

Snow in September brought moisture that easily trumped any ideals of a long Indian Summer or an idyllic fall.

“We didn’t have a drop of rain starting the 15th of June, and so much hot weather this summer, you couldn’t find green anywhere,” Bruce Keaster says. “The dogs were kicking up dust it was so dry.”

They were fortunate, Bruce says: Just one fire two miles west of them that burned 500 acres was pretty darn good in a season marked by more than 1 million acres burning in Montana—and a full month of smoke so thick, most of the state registered unhealthy air quality for days or even weeks at a time.


This photo was taken when we started following Bruce’s calves, but I bet his smile was just as big when the snows came last month.

Gathering this year’s calf crop off the parched land to precondition, he’s been pleasantly surprised. Little to no respiratory issues from the smoke and so far, weaning weights are right on track. That’s the resiliency and performance he and long-time feeding partner Ryan Loseke depend on.

As they prepare to ship the 2017 calves, they review the 2016 crop we began following almost exactly a year ago.

“They’re just solid, stout cattle that gain well, convert well,” Ryan says. “These would be really fun cattle to feed until July.”

But market pressure can take the “for fun” right out of feeding cattle.

“The market was sliding; it was telling us that the first week of May and April was the time to sell them,” Ryan says.

While he aims to finish at 1,400 lbs. at 14 months of age, the May-harvested calves were averaging 1,375 at 13.5 months, converting at an impressive rate in the high fives, in pounds of dry matter to a pound of beef. The first set of steers, harvested in mid-April, graded 81% Choice, with 23% meeting carcass specifications for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand.

They could have been 1,475 lb. two months later, and would have expressed more of their genetic potential to marble, the feeder noted, but it was a marketing trade-off he had to make.

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As Nebraska cattle feeder Ryan Loseke was making decisions about marketing the 2016-born calf crop, the 2017 calves were thriving.

Just a couple weeks later, when the next load went to harvest, they sacrificed less. With a bit more finish, they stepped up to more than 90% Choice, 39% CAB and 2% Prime.

“At 180 days on feed, I think it’s pretty hard to see more Primes than that,” Ryan says, adding that the shortened feeding window and aggressive implant strategy suppressed marbling.

“Performance has always been my No. 1 priority in bull selection, and I’m happy with where we are on that. It’s in there,” Bruce says.

A few years ago, he did a HD50K DNA test to get an idea of how years of studying EPDs were playing out on unproven bull calves. While it confirmed his exacting focus in many areas, he found marbling potential to be about average: “That was a bit of a disappointment that it wasn’t better, but that’s how you learn,” he says. “So, from where we were a few year ago on the carcass, that 40%, that’s an improvement.”

This year, he’ll HD50K the latest generation to check progress.

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Always looking to the future, and asking questions to help guide him, Bruce Keaster is excited to keep moving the needle forward.

“I don’t know if I’ll see the day where everything is CAB, but we’re working on it, that’s for sure,” Bruce says. “I’m happy they did as well as they did, but I’m never satisfied. Ryan said the health was really good, I’m always glad to hear that. They gained well – that’s great. But I’m not satisfied, because I know we can be better.”

Of course, that’s the spirit that has made this past year of “Following the Calves” so fun for me from behind the camera and keyboard, and I hope, for you, the reader, too.

I thanked him for his time and willingness to open up the ranch and his family to all of us, and Bruce returned the gratitude: “Your questions have kept me thinking, made me examine these things even more, kept me questioning.”

I think back to my first interview with Ryan, where he noted Bruce’s questions and interest in how his calves did after the ranch as one of the characteristics that made being in business with him so much fun, too.

Those questions we ask ourselves and others, in the search for answers, we trade our complacency or the comfort of “status quo” for continual improvement. Thanks for following along this year, and until next time… keep questioning.


P.S. – If you want to read all of the Keaster family’s story, catch up on the ‘Following the Calves’ posts: Maternal instincts, predictable cattle; Keaster family checks in, Friends and neighbors 1,000 miles away.

And travel to the Hadrick ranch in South Dakota, too!


Laura Nelson is based in Big Timber, Montana, where she writes, captures images and tells farming and ranching stories. She’s a former CAB Industry Information Specialist who became passionate about the brand and the pursuit of high-quality beef while working at the company headquarters in Ohio. Then wide open spaces, small-town living and those beautiful Crazy Mountains woo’d her back west.

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On the ranch, On the road

The Footsteps We Follow

“Now, I don’t want you to focus on just the carcass on this deal,” he said as we pulled off the gravel road to a pasture approach.

It was a soft-spoken plea, not a demand, but still: Gulp. Pit in my stomach.

Had something changed in the past 15 years since Senior Editor Steve had visited this Rea, Missouri, pasture? I got out of the passenger seat to open the gate, then watched Johnnie Hubach pull through, wondering if I was watching my story pass by, too.

2017_03_CAB JohnnieHubach-2“I know you work for CAB, so that’s what you care about – and that is where they end up – but you’ve got to have a functional cow out there, too,” he said when I hopped back in and we approached the herd. “That’s what I care about.”

Now that’s a story, and it builds on a previously told one.

Back in 2002, when Steve and intern Heather Hopper first visited Johnnie to highlight the family’s 2002 CAB Commitment to Excellence award win, the title was “Taking The Luck Out of It.” Indeed, luck had little to do with 55% of his calves meeting the Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) specifications when industry average for black-hided calves was just 17% at that time.

Even then, Johnnie preferred to talk about the cows, and the mentors who influenced and helped grow them.

“It wasn’t just a carcass deal with him, either,” Johnnie recalled of his early work with C.K. Allan of Woodland Farms. “He wanted to make a good cow and a good package there for a lot of different traits, not just the carcass traits.”

Still, the updated data is worth mentioning: In 2014, 2015 and 2016, 100% of the Hubach cattle earned the CAB mark, while 15% on up to 29% of those cattle graded Prime in the past five years.

2017_03_CAB JohnnieHubach-6That caught Aaron Walker’s attention in a conversation with Gregory Feedlot manager David Trowbridge. The Springfield, Missouri, cattleman is about where Johnnie was in 2002—a dozen years into decisions and building a foundation, seeking good cows and even better mentors.

He bought a group of six-year-old cows from Johnnie last year based on their progeny’s carcass data and mothering ability.

“We’re picking up Johnnie’s cows at six years old and we’re expecting at least three more calves out of them, and I’m confident there will be more than that. They look like black refrigerators out there – their feet, their mouths, maternal instincts are just solid,” Aaron said. “Johnnie is just a really good example of what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s a good role model.”

Just as Johnnie continued to guide my carcass-driven questions back to the cows at hand, Aaron and another young cattleman from Springfield, Rick Aspergren, kept moving from the cows to the man behind them.

“Johnnie’s kind of our hero – he’s doing what we want to do. He’s got that perfect set of cows, those cookie-cutter cows,” Rick said. “They’re foundation cows.”

2017_03_CAB JohnnieHubach-15I’m happily detoured here, asking more about why Johnnie’s are the footsteps these two have chosen to follow, knowing just how important it is to have those leaders walking ahead.

Because, still, before any story trip – especially one where I know he has actually gone before me, or when I get one of those sinking pits in my stomach mid-interview, I find myself wondering: “What questions would Steve ask here? How would he approach this?” Then, I call Miranda: “I saw this on the feedlot close-out… how do we learn from it? What’s the best way to present this data?”

Ask Johnnie how he’s made strides in his genetics in the 15 years since we last visited, and he’ll tell you, it’s in the questions you ask and those you follow: “I’ll just put it to you this way – I’ve learned a lot. I had good help back then, too. I had people to mentor me, and people I was lucky that they were around.”

We’ll share more about those footsteps and the impressions the Hubach herd is leaving for others in the next Angus Journal.

Until then, keep questioning!


lnelson-mugLaura Nelson is based in Big Timber, Montana, where she writes, captures images and tells farming and ranching stories. She’s a former CAB Industry Information Specialist who became passionate about the brand and the pursuit of high-quality beef while working at the company headquarters in Ohio. Then wide open spaces, small-town living and those beautiful Crazy Mountains wooed her back west.



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Learning about cover crops, forage rotations, and general soil health and grazing practices from Shane Tiffany.
On the ranch, On the road

Genuinely good sharing

As Kara was telling me the story of her weekend, I couldn’t help but appreciate the industry that we have chosen to work in even more. It seems that everybody has their own preconceived notions, and that’s OK. She spent that weekend in May with Josh and Leah, whose preconceptions made them curious of the beef industry. On the other hand, my preconceived notion is that someone who dedicates their life to caring for cattle is probably going to be a genuinely good person.

How does this relate to Kara’s weekend? Let me explain. She’s done some work with the Angus Media documentary, I Am Angus, in the past. Usually, the hour-long show features an individual or family (you know, those genuinely good people) who raise Angus cattle. The segment Kara spent her weekend on tried a different approach.

At Dalebanks Angus, the feedstock operation, Josh and Leah learned from the Perrier kids about ranch horses.

“For this episode, we took two consumers, a young married couple who both grew up in a very urban background but had roots in agriculture from prior generations,” she said. “They were both very interested in the urban farm movement, but more importantly, they’re interested in learning about where their food comes from—and perhaps they were a bit curious and somewhat skeptical on some things.”

Josh and Leah were recorded on video as they met with Angus producers from seedstock to commercial cow-calf ranchers, to a feedlot and finally, at the Price Chopper retail meat counter.


Learning from the ranch to the meat counter.

At Dalebanks Angus near Eureka, Kan., the Perrier family shared the decision making that goes into producing high-quality beef at a seedstock operation, especially when it comes to choosing genetics. That afternoon, the couple learned about the commercial cow-calf side at the Stuewe Ranch, near Alma, Kan.

“We talked a lot before and after each stop. I wanted to know what Josh and Leah thought we were going to do there, and we tried to kind of learn some of their preconceived notions and learn what their questions were,” said Kara. “After we left, we would do some more reviewing.”

On Sunday morning, the group visited Tiffany Cattle Co. near Herington, Kan., where they were invited to join the Tiffany family for church services and lunch before touring the feedyard. What Kara believed was initially the visit under the most scrutiny, she also saw as the most impactful stop for the young couple.

Shane Tiffany of Tiffany Cattle Co. taught Josh and Leah about feedlot rations.

“It was so refreshing to see relationships bloom as Josh and Leah saw the passion for animal care that these producers had,” Kara said. “That’s a first-hand account that you can’t get from a text book or a video, and they felt like they were going home with a higher level of confidence.”

It was a successful weekend of learning, not only for Josh and Leah but also for the weekend’s hosts and for the Angus Media team.

“It’s probably a recurring theme that I see with any of our hosts when we do things like this: they are just as eager to learn from our guests as they are to teach,” Kara said. “And I think that was a very important part of it.”


The “I Am Angus” film crew, along with Kara, Josh and Leah enjoying the weekend of broadening horizons.

What genuinely good people we are blessed to work with.


P.S. Tune in with RFD-TV in November to check out the episode on “I Am Angus.”

resizedHannah Johlman is based out of Wyola, Montana where her lifelong bookworm tendencies and love for writing and story telling, as well as deep appreciation for good beef, has kept her writing about Angus cattle. While going to college at Kansas State Hannah served as an intern for the Black Ink team, but upon graduation, the west called her home. 

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