On the ranch, On the road

Who knows?

You could say I’m the sentimental sort.

The shelves of my home and every nook of my mind are filled with little details, mementos, hand-written cards and trinkets that take me to another time and place in a glance or a touch.

There’s that hand-embroidered “I love Angus” tea towel that still takes me back to Bobi Hall’s smile as she recalled riding the Point Reyes coastal mountains to gather cattle with her dad; a crinkled United Airlines ticket that occasionally falls out of the book I was reading on my way to Nampa, Idaho, to spend a day bouncing through the Owyhee Mountains; the “CAB Industry Information Specialist” name badge from my last Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville at the end of a special chapter of my professional life.

I wrap my hands around a hot coffee mug, a new favorite, as I scroll through photos of a cool fall afternoon near Circle, Montana. I smile back at the grins on the screen, bringing the words of our interview back to life.


Son Tyrel and his wife Ali are on the ranch full-time with their daughter Justine, while Tell (far left) has followed his passion for woodworking but helps when he can. They work with their dad to continue growing the right sort to feed or to sell. Also pictured are ranch hands Landon Vannoy (back) and Allen Piroutek.

The mug reminds me of that evening around the Massars’ table, surrounded by their family and friends. It was their parting gift to me, even though I had the most to be grateful for. They had already shared an evening meal full of easy laughter and homemade, hearty food. They offered their afternoon in front of my camera, smiling despite the wind. Wade drove me around the ranch, answering my questions, sharing his goals, history and passion for raising the best.

Pulling the mug out of my kitchen cabinet now prods a question Wade asked as we visited: “Why us?”

The easy answer is, we follow a myriad of paths to find stories and the people who share them – this one came through a feedyard. It was a group of 82 heifers, where 45.5% had the marbling to qualify for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand, including nearly 4% Prime. Half made Yield Grade (YG) 3, with 43% in the premium, YG 2 category.

Those numbers – nearly double the average historical CAB acceptance rate combined with an impressively lean yield grade – stuck out to the feedyard manager.


Three things are important to set calves up for success in the feedlot, according to lessons learned on the Montana ranch: calves capable of making money in the feedlot, a good health program and good nutrition.

A year later, there I was, asking Wade Massar how he did it.

His was a typical, humble response: we don’t feel like we’re doing anything special, simply working to do the best for the entire beef business.

“We’re just trying our best to raise the right kind of cattle for the good of the entire industry,” Jeanna filled in later. “We just want to raise better calves each year, to give the right vaccines at the right time, to have healthy, productive cattle and those long-term relationships that work for everyone.”

It’s an admirable goal, filled with details toward its achievement that I hope will get tucked into the memories of the Angus Journal readers this May.

Who knows how a reader’s gears will start turning over their own marketing plan when they read about Wade’s experiences.

“That right there shows a 6-cent premium because somebody thought these calves would meet their program. They were confident enough they would work,” he shared. “I know we talked earlier and said everything was on the average, but it really isn’t if you get to know the right sort of people, looking for the right sort of thing.”


Although the ranch has the ability to put up a lot of feed, it still depends on the market and feed supply. Massar says that sometimes it better to sell the feed through the calves.

Who knows what reader has been wrestling with immunity issues, who might read of Wade’s insight and have a lightbulb moment.

“There are areas here where I know it’s absolutely necessary to supplement this or that,” he said. “We tend to have high sulfate levels in some of our water, and that ties up copper, which is very, very necessary to build up a strong immune system in calves.”

Who knows? That’s the answer I usually give when I’m questioned why in the world I keep all these little boxes and files of sentimental value. Who knows when I’ll need that again?

I sure don’t… but I’ll save it until I do, and pull it out with a smile.

Until next time,



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.


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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