Author Archives: blackinkkara

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Although I've been with CAB since 2009, I'm the newest member of the Black Ink team as a Supply Programs Manager. I'm the third generation to thrive from my family's Angus farm near Orleans, Indiana and am a proud alumni of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. I'm a gypsy at heart, yet my constant love for God, family and agriculture keep me grounded no matter where I am on the globe. I like my meat red, my cattle black and my basketball Kentucky blue!
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Gratitude and Gifts

Time is a very abstract commodity. We charge for it and pay for it, so we can’t deny its significance, yet unlike our cattle, equipment, dollars or other valuables we all become guilty of losing track of it. After nearly a week of post-time-change hustling to get outdoor chores done before dark, I can no longer deny the days are getting shorter and we are quickly approaching the conclusion of another year.

As the early months of 2014 start creeping up on my schedule planning, I am very excited to share a small piece of that with our Black Ink followers. Each year, our team produces a calendar to send to our partners as a way to say “thanks” for all they do to target our brand throughout the year.

Although monthly photos are staff generated, we’re honored to feature Lauren Chase’s photo from our Covergirls contest on Facebook as our 2014 calendar cover.

Seedstock producers leading the charge in genetic selection, commercial producers who refuse to settle for raising average calves, feedlots that purchase and grow for carcass quality, and packers that propagate a market for CAB carcasses all play an essential role in the success of our brand. Our calendars are just a small way to say “thanks” and in some cases, highlight partners through photos. Each month features some kind of production tip from our team or a success story of a ranch or feedlot.

Since the calendars are our token of appreciation, we don’t offer any for sale, but also realize that there are many beef producers and industry supporters that we may not have an intimate relationship with that also sustain our brand in some way. To say “thanks” to all of you, too, we’re offering several chances to win a piece of 12-month wall art for your home or ranch office.

Starting Monday and each week through the end of the year, we will hold weekly giveaways on our Facebook page. Be sure to follow Black Ink, from the Certified Angus Beef ® brand on Facebook for details of the weekly giveaway. We’re looking forward to your participation and can’t wait to send copies your way! Good luck and thanks for being a part of our brand!

Kara

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A Monday Marketing Tip

If you glanced at the calendar over the weekend, you know we’re officially into the fall season, which means that along with weaning, calving and harvest, the fall cattle sales won’t be far behind. I spend a lot of time talking with producers who are considering different means to add value to their calves before marketing.

You can add value to heifers that will stay with them for life.

Many turn to one method or another because they know buyers will pay more at the auction for cattle with those qualifications. However, I get a lot of questions about who is looking for cattle with added DNA-based genetic verification, and where can they be marketed.

Knowing how often I get that question, I wanted to share some information here about an opportunity for anyone looking to market heifers with genomic information. If you’ve been using GeneMax™ to learn more about the marbling and growth potential of your commercial females or you’re breeding to bulls verified by genomic technology, check out this flyer for a marketing outlet you may not have considered.

Happy sale season!

Kara

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On the ranch, On the road
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Cattle thriving in the southeast pasture

There is a lot of good to appreciate in the Southeast, even beyond the great people, culture and climate. Although the region represents a smaller percentage of the U.S. cowherd than most of the central belt states, my recent week of meetings and farm visits throughout Georgia and South Carolina was a great reminder of the contributions these breeders make to our industry. Some management practices may be different, but the fundamentals are the same. I hope you enjoy some of the highlights I took home from last week.

I remember what green grass looks like

My first day in the area, I heard folks talk about the blessings of rain they’ve had since the first of the January. Needless to say, many of the cattlemen I visited were most proud of their grass, and rightfully so. I mean, look at that grass – I repeat, LOOK at that GRASS!
The combination of rye and rye grass that many rely on for early spring grazing is thriving. Some will eventually be baled; other fields are strictly for pasture. Terry Kirkland of Saluda County, SC, even has some of his cattle on an intensive grazing program using the abundant resources.

Even though the sandy soil absorbs moisture quickly, this year, the rainfall has allowed intensive grazing to work.

Fall calving can fit
The timeline for commercial cattle production in the southeast can be very different from other parts of the country. They’re not shying away from calving in the first four months of the year for fear of frost-bit ears (Did I mention it was in the 70s for the first day of spring in Georgia while it snowed at the CAB office in Ohio?), but rather to get calves developed and weaned, sometimes even sold, before the heat of the summer. I saw a lot of calves that hit the ground between the first of Sept and the end of November. While that may not work for everyone, many producers find a way to make that a profitable age bracket to market calves.

Good genetics go a long way

Clinton Clark reviews pedigrees with Kevin Yon and David Gazda. Clinton purchases bulls from Yon Family Farms for use on his commercial cows.

I saw a total of at least nine different breeds represented in cowherds last week. Many outcrosses were a result of retaining heifers during a transitional time in the herd when maybe there was encouragement to chase a fad, causing some extreme diversity and inconsistencies. How does a smart cow-man increase the quality of his calf crop without liquidating all of Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors? Breed them to a high-quality registered Angus bull. Retaining the best daughters out of those matings year after year has improved the factory, not to mention the quality of steer calves they turn out.

There’s no substitute for quality and customer service

He may refuse to carry a cell phone, but Don Havird knows that you have to be progressive in cattle production to stay competitive.

Don Havird has years of farming success in the peach business. Although that wasn’t why I was there to see him, Don promised that the principles he lived by in peach farming are 100% applicable to how he raises cattle. “You have to sell a premium product at a premium price,” Don says. Raising the same level of quality as every other farmer in the county isn’t good enough, but you also can’t afford to take the same price for them.

Although his humility wouldn’t share it, I later learned second-hand that Don was the first in South Carolina to brand his own peaches long before any of the major produce companies. Don also knows that demanding a higher price comes with obligations to your clientele. “You have to handle your customer with white gloves – very carefully. At the end of the day, they are your most important business partner.”

I don’t know much about peach production, but I think Don could write a page or two for the handbook to raising and marketing cattle above the line of mediocrity.

A big ‘thank you’ goes out to the many cattlemen and women who took time out of their schedules to walk me through their herds last week. Southern hospitality at its finest!

Kara

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Award/contest winners, Hot topics
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What to consider when you’re on the fence

The two most important men in my life are both directly tied to farming and cattle production. And to be honest, it doesn’t matter which one I talk to on any given day, the conversation tends to go in the same direction.

“I sure wish we’d get some rain.”
“Another day over 100 degrees.”
“I had to turn another hay customer down today.”
“I need to get those cows in and start thinking about early weaning.”
“I’d sure like to keep more of my heifers back this year, but I don’t know where I’m going to get the pasture.”

The drought has hands-down been the topic of summer 2012.

If your crops and pastures have suffered from drought, chances are, you might have some difficult decisions to make this year on heifers after weaning. Maybe resources require you sell more of your heifers than usual, which means you need to be more focused than ever on selecting the most elite set to retain in the herd.

At home in Indiana where the corn crop looks like this across the entire county, you can bet my dad will be more selective than ever about the heifers he’ll keep and which ones to take an early payday on.

While you may be on the fence this year about how many heifers to retain or cows to cull, you don’t have to lose sleep at night wondering if you kept the right ones.

While the commercial Angus herd doesn’t come fully equipped with EPDs and pedigrees, there are still ways for those cattlemen to gain confidence in selection.  Often times, the information that you already have can be a huge asset. Good records of how your calves perform can be a key indicator of the maternal quality in your herd – especially if you use similar sire groups. Consider partnering with a feedlot to get more information on feed efficiency and carcass quality. That last piece of the puzzle can come in handy when making cuts in the cowherd for next years’ team.

But what about this year’s heifers?   Last week, Gary discussed GeneMax™ as another tool to cure your droughty blues in heifer retention. Without progeny data, it’s difficult to guess how young cattle will perform as part of the herd. Do you think you could tell without all of the tools?

 A couple weeks ago, I introduced a contest on our Facebook page and asked folks to rank five heifers in terms of the potential each had for gain and grade. While we had several people take a stab at it, none of our entries ranked all five in the correct order. In all fairness, we were being a bit tricky. As some of our contestants pointed out, asking cattlemen to evaluate heifers on phenotype alone for gain and grade is hardly fair – especially when we’re using GeneMax™ scores as official placings.

That is exactly the point we were trying to drive home with the contest. In many cases, commercial Angus cattlemen don’t have data for young replacement heifers. In pastures where multiple bulls are turned out, or clean-up bulls are used to follow AI matings, you may not even be able to accurately identify complete pedigrees. Selection decisions are often made by the naked eye. A good set of feet and legs, a sound udder, and overall balance are undeniably important qualities in potential cows. However, in a year where maybe you can only afford to keep 10-15% of your heifers instead of 30-35%, consider using additional tools from the toolbox.

Just like our judging contest online, it’s difficult to tell which of these western Nebraska calves have the greatest potential for gain and grade.

Whether it’s diving a little deeper into your records or using a genomic test like GeneMax™ to add more information to your females, don’t let this year’s heifer and cow selection be a gate-cut decision. In times where grass is short, corn is sparse and break-even costs are scary, the value of adding predictability to your herd is greater than ever.

Author’s Note: Congratulations to Heather Hamilton for winning our Facebook contest last week! She most-closely ranked the five heifers according to gain and grade potential. Look for your prize in the mail, Heather!

~Kara

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Hot topics, On the road
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You be the judge

This week’s trip down memory lane landed me in Louisville, Ky., for the National Junior Angus Show. While the day-to-day life on my family’s Angus farm built my passion for the beef industry, involvement in the National Junior Angus Association was the best networking experience I had as a kid.

As I sat in the stands and watched the next generation of young Angus enthusiasts take their trip across the green shavings, I thought about the role that visual evaluation plays in our industry. While it is fun to see the attractive show cattle that kids have worked so hard to groom, as part of the Black Ink team, I’ll be the first to admit that visual evaluation can’t stand on its own in a herd.

One of my favorite things to do as a spectator at registered Angus shows is to follow along just as closely in my show program as I do in the ring. My dad and I often sit together in the stands to cuss and discuss how closely we agree (or sometimes disagree) with the judge. Sometimes, to throw an extra element of father-daughter competition, we’ll try to identify which of our “pairs” are related. At the larger shows where classes have upwards of 15 head it’s always fun to look down the line at heifers that almost look like they came out of a cookie cutter. Take a look at the book, chances are they may be from the same cow family, sire group, or even possibly flush mates.

The bottom line is that you can still find out more about those calves. They have pedigrees and EPDs that can aid young breeders in making mating decisions. In the world of commercial Angus cattle that are so vital to the supply of the Certified Angus Beef ® brand, EPDs and complete pedigrees are often nothing more than a figment of the cattleman’s imagination. If you’re a commercial breeder, can you be confident enough to let all your management decisions ride on your own visual evaluation skills? This week, in honor of the junior show in Louisville, we’re introducing our own judging contest.

Check out the Black Ink Facebook page and put your judging skills to the test on our class of replacement heifers. We’re using GeneMax™ Scores as our judge this week for selecting females with the most gain and grade potential. Sort out our grand drive accurately and a CAB® prize package could be headed to your doorstep!

Good luck!

Kara

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