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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.
On the ranch

Telling our story in Texas

It’s no secret that consumers like to know where their food comes from, but you may be surprised that those who prepare and serve it like to know too.

And it’s a good thing they do, because it would be quite the task making it to all of those CAB licensed restaurants come suppertime.

Linking arms along the supply chain, some of our CAB staffers joined 80 team members from longtime partner Saltgrass Steakhouse to gather at a Texas ranch for a day of learning and camaraderie.

Cattlemen and restaurateurs gathered at Bodey Langford’s ranch near Lockhart, Texas.

Cattlemen and restaurateurs gathered at Bodey Langford’s ranch near Lockhart, Texas.

The Saltgrass folks wanted to know our story, and we were excited to tell them.

The quintessential cowboy cookery is known for blending the latest food trends with tried-and-true western flavors. Respected from foodies and cattlemen alike, the Texas-based eatery draws in consumers from all parts of the country.

With locations in five states, the business requires a fearless leader. Enter Ric Rosser, executive chef and friend of the brand. He was there to share stories and serve delicious barbeque for all.

“This is such a great event because it allows us to educate our younger managers on what happens before this product ever comes in our back door,” Rosser said. “To be able to show them the real, live animal and talk to the people who raise them, you can’t quantify that.”

The daylong training kicked off with a brand overview, followed by rotations that covered topics from genetics and prediction tools to feedstuffs and sustainability.

CAB Beef Cattle Specialist, Gary Fike, talks EPDs with the attendees.

CAB Beef Cattle Specialist, Gary Fike, talks EPDs with the attendees.

Our own Gary Fike was on hand to lead an interactive seminar on genetic testing and its ability to increase the reliability of EPDs. Gary asked participants to compare two bulls from a phenotypic standpoint and then look at their respective data in order to rank calves they sired.

“You just can’t begin to imagine the impact,” Gary said.

Equally rewarding was interaction with the dozen Texas Angus Association (TAA) members who attended.

Each with their own background and experiences, together they represent what it means to be a cattle rancher today.

Members of the Texas Angus Association joined CAB staff in telling the ranching story.

Members of the Texas Angus Association joined CAB staff in telling the ranching story.

“These ranchers have so much passion about what they do and how they raise these animals. We hope our managers share that passion and bring it back to Saltgrass,” Rosser said.

Current TAA president Rayford Pullen called the day an “irreplaceable” experience.

“One on one, face to face is still the best way to conduct business,” Pullen said. “Producer-consumer relations are one of the primary keys for a profitable future.”

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,


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On the road

See it to believe it

The year was 1999. Paul Dykstra walked into a packing plant in southern Nebraska and walked out changed for the better.

Eyes brighter, passion brewing, he liked what he saw.

With a background in production, he knew the live side but was captivated by what took place after the cattle left the pens.

“Aside from avoiding getting lost,” he says with a grin, “the fabrication floor was probably the most amazing thing to me. The efficiency, the speed at which that all occurs. It’s a precision operation.”

Fast forward more than a decade later and Paul is still bright eyed and passionate. As one of our beef cattle specialists, he often leads folks through plant tours all across the country. For cattle ranchers with a deep understanding of the industry, he enjoys witnessing their reactions, seeing their eyes grow in admiration as his did years ago.

“I think we understand the process very well, conceptually,” he says. “But it’s one thing to know what happens, and it’s another to view it first hand.”

Last month a group of Montana ranchers did just that. In a winter calm between production sales and spring calving, they visited with partners in the Wheat State.

“Touring the National Beef Packing plants, they gained a new appreciation for the packers in our industry,” Paul says. “A highlight was the grading, when they get the mark of what the final quality level is, that’s where the efforts of all cattle production labor come to fruition.”

Shipwheel Cattle Company, Chinook, Mont., arranged the trip to Kansas, including this feedyard.


While in Kansas, it wasn’t all packing, though. A visit to Poky Feeders, near Scott City, provided many of the ranchers the opportunity to take a look at some cattle sourced to the yard last fall. They explored the pens, feed mill, hospital and processing barns of the 70,000-head feedlot.

The farmers and ranchers from Montana took a quick break to visit with some of their Kansas partners.

Education was at the forefront as guest speakers, representing Zoetis, Elanco Animal Health, Poky Feeders and a consulting veterinarian to the feedyard discussed topics from health and preconditioning to grid marketing. Paul was on hand to discuss the brand’s ten specifications and the use of DNA technology in production herds.

“We can never go wrong with educational opportunities,” Paul says. “By increasing the understanding of ranchers, particularly from non-feeding and packing regions, they are better prepared to raise cattle that fit the system and hit the premium points. It benefits the entire chain.”

As quickly as it began, the trip came to a close and it was time to head home to a new season and calf crop. As beef people, we understand the sacrifice and determination it takes to be successful in this industry we love, but oftentimes it can help to put a mental image to what we know to be true.

Because at the end of the day, sometimes you just need to see it to believe it.

Montana believes it, and so do I.



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Flashback Friday

A Throwback to Way Back

Fresh off the heels of an eventful Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, spirits are high around cow town. Bringing together nearly 7,000 cattlemen from all over the country is always a good time to look ahead, to learn from others and set goals after a hard year’s work. But who says looking back is a bad thing? Sometimes the reminiscing makes what is that much sweeter.

At CAB, remembering the past is a joyful process. We learn from history and appreciate the changes, while admiring the many elements of the brand that are essentially the same today as they were in the very beginning.

I recently had the honor of sitting down with Dr. Bob VanStavern (Dr. Bob as we refer to him around the office) to talk about the early years of the company and how he developed the set of specifications that have withstood the many changes in the industry over the past 35 years.

At CAB's Education & Culinary Center, Dr. Bob stopped by the VanStavern Room.


I walked into his home a young lady with a passion for the beef industry and CAB and walked out with a deep admiration for a groundbreaker. As I stepped through his door, I stepped back in time and quite frankly, I wish I could have remained there longer.

As Dr. Bob so poetically told me, his job is to teach; I feel mine is to share:

Dr. Bob resides in Ohio and recalls the early years as if they were yesterday.

When asked about Mick Colvin, the first CAB chief executive, visiting him at Ohio State, Dr. Bob said, “He came down to the office and said he wanted to talk about specifications, and I said, ‘We don’t need to talk, I got ’em right here in the drawer.’”

Or remembering some of the hurdles, Dr. Bob said, “All we had to do was get people to work together — which wasn’t easy,” and “I think the toughest sell we had was the academic community. Most of them had been ingrained with producing lean cattle, simply because they’d been fighting fat for so long.”

These are just a few teasers to the rest of the story. I welcome you to take a seat at one of the best tables I have ever had the pleasure of joining and listen in to the conversations that shaped what is now the largest branded beef company in the world.

Today, I say tomorrow can wait. Let’s look back for a bit.

Please enjoy: Father of the Specs, A Q & A with Bob VanStavern.


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On the ranch

Quality beef is a team effort

While I get to work with a number of individuals from many parts of the beef business, there is nothing quite like talking with and learning from the producers who raise and market the high-quality cattle we love to support. Sitting down and chatting with these folks makes a good day great. So let me introduce you to the Greene family. –Laura


At the fork of two rivers, lies Covington, La., a quaint town on the eastern side of the Bayou State. The southern city is home to veterinarians Gary and Kim Greene, who together with their son Matt, run Greeneline Angus and share a passion for high-quality cattle.

The Greene family got their start in the Angus business in the late 1950s when Gary’s father and uncle began raising cows in the northern part of the state. Early days spent on the farm developed within the young boy a love for cattle and the outdoors and, in 1993, after the original family farm was planted with Pine trees, Gary and Kim purchased four Angus cows – all they could afford at the time.

Today the family of doctors – Matt is in his third year of veterinary school – care for more than 200 cows on the upland coastal plains. Under the shade of towering pines, cattle thrive in the temperate climate as they graze on Bermuda and Bahia grass. Run with ease and shared responsibilities, Gary boasts, “It’s a family operation.” From paperwork to mending fence, the rancher says, “All of us are involved with it all the time.”

Gary continues to run a veterinary practice where he specializes in reproductive work. His knowledge of genetics led him to emphasize quality in their herd of Angus cattle.

“I’m true and blue, all up and down, an Angus man,” Gary says with a grin. “You can produce a product that you know has reliability in the genetics. That’s very important to me.”

The man who raised two sons amidst nature and around cattle states with assertion, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” They focus on raising and feeding beef that will standout for quality and consistency.

“Certified Angus Beef means everything,” Gary says. “Everyone recognizes the brand, and I think it gives the Angus breed that much more credibility.”

This was written as a part of an ongoing series that introduces consumers to cattlemen and women on our product website. To see more of the producers profiled across the U.S., head over to our “Meet Local Angus Ranchers” tab.



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On the ranch, On the road

History in the making

One of the wonders we experience in agriculture is growing up with country roots. Here’s a great example from Florida native Laura Conaway, who interned with us a couple of years ago from her home state and again more recently in Ohio. She wrote this for our consumer blog, but we think it will have many heads nodding in agreement on our site as well. Enjoy!

I’m a ranch kid through and through, and there’s this bond that we ranch kids share. It’s something we don’t have to speak about but all feel (at least that’s how it seems in my head). We have all experienced the late nights and the early mornings, the homework put on hold or the nice shoes ruined because we just had to do something really quick in the barn. We know what it’s like to see a baby calf stand up for the first time, wobbly but so strong, and have felt the freedom that can only come from riding a horse full speed. So, needless to say, I’m drawn to these people. It’s as if they know me, prior to any formal introduction.

I’ve been in Ohio for several months now, and I’ve had the chance to spend some time with local farmers and ranchers committed to raising high quality beef. I recently visited with Mike and Aaron Atterholt, their wives — both named Mandy, and their daughters. As is the case with all the families I’ve met, they welcomed me with open arms, warm smiles and a walk in the pasture.

Here’s the entire family, dog and all. She was a little more excited to be photographed than the girls were! Mike and Aaron’s grandfather spent many an hour in that barn you see in the background.

It has since been renovated but the hard work put into it back then can still be seen in the old floors and support beams. Apparently red is a favorite barn color in Ohio.

Perhaps there is nothing more rewarding about my job than when I get to visit with hard-working folks who have a passion and zest for this kind of life. They love the long hours and the unexpected happenings that come with working and living with animals.

For me, a visit with them is a little like coming home. But what was really special about my time with the Atterholt gang was watching the little girls with the cattle.

As we moved throughout the field one child walked, another struggled but was determined to make it over the high grass, and one wasn’t quite ready to leave the comfort of mom and dad’s arms. I couldn’t help thinking about all they have to look forward to, all they will get to experience.

Because though I don’t necessarily relate to them today, give them ten years and I will. I know what lies ahead: happy times and stories to tell for generations … times when they will get to help dad check the heifers on a cold night, or help mom prepare a warm meal to feed the cowboys. They have so many memories just waiting to be made, and I know — without a doubt — that they will grow up with a special love for life.

It will be impossible not to.


Greetings from the field,


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