On the ranch, On the road

Black ink in the Black Hills

It’s not what most would call “ag land.” The Snyder family’s Piedmont, S.D., ranch hugs I-90 to the east and the Black Hills National Forest to the west.

It would make a beautiful campground.


The calf with the milk mustache is not phased by I-90 humming along in the background. Many a tourist will pass by this pasture this summer.

“Our opportunities for expansion are sure limited because of where we live,” Ken Snyder told me, as he and sons Andrew and Daniel drove me around the land they Snyder family has called home since the 1940s.

But there are no plans to build a lodge or sub-divide.

Expansion is squarely focused on breeding better cattle and getting more for each head.

That’s the game plan started as Ken graduated from South Dakota State University in the 1980s, and it’s how the ranch has grown to be able to support three households when two of three sons came back after studying in Brookings, too.


Brother Andrew (left) and Daniel (right) have each been bringing their own strengths back to the operation. They completed internships and summer jobs that gave them outside experience such as agronomy, construction and landscaping.

They’ve retained ownership since 1987.

“We had some neighbors that were successful and some other ranchers that were feeding their own cattle and so my dad was open to it,” Ken says.

Many years, that generated more income on the same land base. But, as we talked, it became clear that today the information they get back is an equally valuable piece of that equation.

“Ken and his boys are really into the data. They’re very inquisitive and they like to learn,” says Tom Williams, Chappell (Neb.) Feedlot. The owner-manager has fed their cattle for more than a decade. “I’d say they’ve been one of our best customers for overall, across-the-board improvement.”

He’s ultrasound-sorted and returned individual carcass data back since day one.


Grandpa’s Herefords can still been seen here and there amongst the baldies and the blacks, but the younger the group, the more Angus influence you’ll see.

“That is what turned us more and more Angus,” Ken admits.

They’ve improved grade and muscling at the same time. Last year 233 steers went 58% Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand and Prime, with just 5.2% yield grade (YG) 4s.

Using that feedback helps them to further hone their artificial insemination (AI) program.

“AI has just done a tremendous job of moving us,” Ken says. Twenty-one years ago, they started with a small group of heifers, but today they AI about three-fourths of the cow herd, too. “Even if you just move quality grade up a third of a score, that’s a lot more money in your pocket.”

Fellow SDSU grads and Angus fans, who are interested in all the black ink they can get. No wonder I enjoyed my late May visit so much!

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,


P.S.–Watch Angus Media for their full feature story later this fall.



blackinkmiranda Visit Website
I love God, my kids, my hubby, rural life, agriculture and working for CAB. I’m officially the director of producer communications, 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.)
Related Posts
Black cattle and blue water
IMG_5037 2small
A story unfolds
That is adaptability

Leave Your Comment

Your Comment*

Your Name*
Your Webpage