On the ranch, On the road

A hardware salesman and a hand surgeon walk into a bar…

Replace that last part with pasture and you’re in my boots a few months back.

But for Phillip Smith and Dr. David Taylor, there’s no need for a punch line. Talking with the cousins from Ozark, Ark., it’s just a typical Tuesday afternoon.

“Some of our skills overlap and some of them don’t,” Dr. Taylor says. His comment is matter of fact, as if there’s nothing unique about the producer pairing. But I prod a bit more.

“We work together,” he adds, and I watch it in action.


Cattle have always been in the cards for these cousins. Their grandfather, John Jacob Taylor, settled in the Cecil community after the Civil War and brought cows soon after.

It is obvious, the shorthand the cousins share. A year apart in school, they grew up friends, stayed in touch as David sold his herd and left for medical school and Phillip took charge of his father’s store downtown.

Decades later, an opportunity to purchase land that connected the two families meant a chance for the men to run cattle together, Phillip on site, David traveling to and from Dallas as he approaches retirement.


Of leaving and coming back to the ranch, David (right) says, “I guess, to bring to life The Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it has been.”

“I’m here about every two weeks, or say four out of every 14 days,” David says.

I can tell. What could seem like an ideal situation for a silent partner is anything but. David knows his cattle well. As we walk he studies them intently and I wonder how he makes time to heal hands.


The commercial pairs grazing both sides of the road reflect a commitment to pride and precision.

“I just believe there’s likely no one else in America that puts the detail into selection that he [Taylor] does,” Tom Williams says. The Chappell (Neb.) Feedlot manager feeds four or five groups of STP cattle through the spring and fall. A recent closeout shows 79% achieved CAB® and Prime.

Tom credits the cousins’ use of technology and genetics as reason for improvement. David says it came down to this simple fact: there are economic opportunities and additional profit to be made for those willing to produce high-quality cattle.

So they started doing it.


Discouraged by the cost of replacement heifers that met their strict standards, they began selecting for and breeding their own.

In the seven years they’ve fed at Chappell, STP cattle have improved in marbling, cutability and performance, now setting the curve for what Tom feeds.

“And we feed the good ones,” he says.


“Is there anything you would suggest we improve,” David asks visitors observing the herd. No matter the information he holds from hours of research, he knows there’s always more to learn, something he and Phillip can do better.

“We want to grow something Phillip and I wouldn’t hesitate to eat ourselves,” David says.

It’s a simple statement but one that carries much weight when you know what it takes to get there.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,


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Born and raised in the Sunshine State, I grew up surrounded by more livestock than people on my family’s working cattle ranch. A willingness to address a crowd and an eagerness to ask questions led to my passion for spreading the word of agriculture. A lover of words, cattle and those who produce them, I couldn't ask for a better job. A Gator grad, blessed by years of learning and Tebow football, I’m a firm believer that people should be honest, lyrics should be moving and tea should be sweet. I love music, my family, my God, and of course writing for CAB.
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