Hot topics, On the ranch, On the road

Seven in ’17

Celebrating our blog-iversary with the top posts of 2017

“Do you have a blog?” they’ll inquisitively ask.

Strangers on airplanes, friends at Christmas parties – it’s a strong assumption given the writing gig.

“I don’t,” I’ll smile and say, “but my team does and it’s better than anything I’d do on my own.”

Steve, Miranda, Nicole and I, Katrina, Lauren Nelson, and some interns, too. We’re states apart and decades different but share a love for good cattle, even better people and the ability to tell you all about both.

So as we tip our hats to 2017 – a year of tragedy and triumph, of rebuilding and reevaluating what’s most important – here’s a look back at your favorite stories we’ve told.

Neill and Patti Sweeney and grandson Riley Bock, Belt Creek, Mont.

Neill and Patti Sweeney and grandson Riley Bock, near Belt Creek, Mont.

7. The golden rule in the golden triangle

“We don’t crossbreed anymore – it just seems like if it has a black hide, it has more value,” Neill Sweeney says, “plus, we feel like we can get enough growth out of those black calves and not worry about it. The breed has come a long way, and we know that’s what the Losekes (Nebraska cattle feeders) want.”


Steve Suther, Onaga, Kan., and part of our Black Ink team

6. Turning point

The words should make a lasting impression on people who raise beef cattle. That was my goal: to make their commercial herds more profitable by producing better beef each year. My practical experience was as a part-time cattleman with 100 mostly black cows. The people I wrote for (not the editors, the readers) mostly had much more experience, so I never saw the mission as promotion or trying to tell anyone else what to do.

We had time. I would find examples of successful Angus producers to share their stories about turning to Angus genetics, and their realization that they needed to include carcass traits.


Ty, Terry, Becky, Katelyn and Trevor Walter, Hudson, Colo.

5. The herd that calmed my nerves

The Walters will tell you they raise “working cattle that pay the bills.” On top of using handpicked, quality and performance-focused genetics through AI, they provide their commercial and registered herds with all they need to be successful. Then they expect the cattle to do their part.

“When you come up to a cow and see snow on her, well that is a wonderful cow,” Terry says of the grit his Angus show. Like their owner, they deliver on a promise. Never fake, you see what you get.


Tom and Sally Donati, Oroville, Calif.

4. When Tom met Sally

“I think because Tom’s family had the cattle there, that’s why I got through college,” Sally Donati says.

We’re sitting at the couple’s kitchen table near Oroville, Calif., and it’s quotes like this one that remind me that cattle do so much more than pay the bills.

They drive people, challenge them, at times can cause great stress, but they bring families together and draw their keepers back to the basics of life.


Jim and Melissa Moore, Charleston, Ark.

3. One-man show, part I

“The thing about the Moores is, it’s them, it’s their deal,” Jerry Jackson says. The manager of Stampede Feeders, Scott City, Kan., where the family sends two pens of cattle every fall, has seen it firsthand. “They don’t sit inside the office and tell everybody else to go to work.”

To the contrary, Jim asks for critique before getting up and fixing the problem himself.

“We have to be critical of ourselves if we want to improve,” he says. “What I want to hear is the truth.”

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Mark Sebranek, Garden City, Kan.

2. Following the Calves: Not in South Dakota anymore

On paper, Mark Sebranek doesn’t own very many of the 28,000 head of cattle on feed at his Garden City, Kan., yard … but don’t tell his heart.

“That’s my feeling – every animal out here is mine. How do I make the most money I possibly can?” says the 20-year manager of Irsik and Doll Feed Yard.


Braden Schaal, Burlington, Colo.

1. Winning in extra innings

DNA testing lets him see on paper how his cattle are performing. Artificial insemination gives him freedom to correct problem areas by custom mating. Being able to collect data is a priority at Schaal Cattle Company.

“I’ve seen results,” Braden says. “It’s not all on paper, I’ve actually seen results with some kill data, average daily gain and weaning weights,” which can all be found at the click of a button, thanks to electronic (EID) tags.

No, I realized at the end of our visit. It wasn’t just luck. This guy has worked his butt off for this.

These are snapshots. Just seven from a year that left our friends list longer and our hearts fuller. From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best in 2018!

Thanks for allowing us to tell your stories,


blackinklaura Visit Website
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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