Author Archives: blackinkmiranda

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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.)
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Keeping after it

“You’re a great mom!”

When people say that, I hope it’s true.

But sometimes the remark comes as I’ve just luckily (somehow) managed to get through church with relatively quiet, happy children for an entire service.

Sometimes strangers say that when we’re at a restaurant. They’re impressed we have six little people at the table, most eating and carrying on conversations like mini adults.

Still, I try not to get too confident. I know as quickly as all the things can go right, they can turn for the worse. Somebody gets bored. Somebody gets crabby. Somebody gets unruly. (And I’m not just talking about the kids.)

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Being a good mom is all about consistency, from the everyday to the days like this one at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Not unlike having a good herd, you’ve got to keep after it.

I know motherhood is not defined by slices in time, but rather how each of those add up. It’s about how you’ve interacted with your children all along. It’s about what you’re doing in the moments everybody sees and when nobody is looking at all. Every experience shapes their attitudes and characters.

Even if I’m a “good mom” today, if I don’t work at it, the classification could easily change. Those same kids could become spoiled brats by next year.

This isn’t a parenting blog and maybe I’ve got motherhood on the brain because I just got back from maternity leave, but I’d say there are situations like this in the cattle business, too.

Think about your good cattle today. What do the buyers like about them?

They’re uniform. They gain and grade. They’ve got good attitudes.

You’ve probably focused on making them that way for several years, decades even.

When you have a goal you’re working toward, a lot of the progress is made in the mundane, the everyday. It’s in the breeding decisions and studying the sale books or AI catalogs. It’s in the processing and weaning day logistics and execution.

But it’s a journey. Having “good cattle” isn’t a destination you reach—you have to keep after it.

Interviewing for a story earlier this year, I asked a veteran cattleman, “Do you think we maybe have enough quality in our cattle today that we can start selecting for something else?”

Bill Rishel’s answer was clear and direct.

“If you have a high heritability for a trait, you can take it out just as fast as you can put it in.”

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Angus breeder Bill Rishel says the idea that we’ve got enough marbling and should move on to something else is dangerous thinking.

Marbling would be one of those traits. Docility may be another, especially when you figure in the environment moms provide.

It might not change as quickly as a toddler’s attitude during a homily, but unless you keep a disciplined approach, you could turn around one day and find a different herd looking back at you.

Every decision adds up.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

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Catching up on those quality records

It doesn’t sound like a busy salebarn café or have the same ambience as a back table at the farm supply, but I’d argue that our weekly supply team conference calls are a CAB version of a coffee klatch.

We aren’t gathered around the same table (but video conferencing helps us feel connected!), we don’t talk about the weather every single time, we don’t even all drink coffee (I type while sipping a Diet Coke), but we do use it as our time to catch up on what’s happening in the beef business.

We talk projects and upcoming events and the markets. We share what we know from the week behind us and what we hope to know after the week ahead.

When I was on maternity leave earlier this year, I missed those conversations. I mean, I had a good reason and I wouldn’t trade Laney for a decade’s worth of calls, of course, but I felt a bit like an outsider.

Laney and me

Our newest little Reiman was a good excuse for missing my team updates over the past several months, but it is good to come back to good news, too!

“Another day, another week, another record. This is fun.” The e-mails came several weeks in a row. In fact, the entire month of February, each week set a new all-time record high for CAB brand acceptance (the percentage of black-hided cattle presented to USDA graders for evaluation that made it into our brand). Choice and Prime percentages were breaking records, too.

But I didn’t get to hear about it on the call.

I wanted to know: Why now? Is this too much of a good thing? And, what’s the real impact of a percentage-point hike like that?

When I got back to full-time work last month, I called up Mark McCully, our vice president of production, to ask.

“The first question when we look at this kind of quality is, ‘Have we reached some point of market saturation?’ If we had,” he says, “that would be showing up in some really narrow Choice-Select spreads, and that’s just not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing that the demand continues to grow and that spread continues to stay strong.”

The first 16 weeks of 2018 averaged 34.9% CAB, compared to 30.3% for 2017. That’s an added 13,188 head branded each week.

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The first quarter of 2018 shows an added 13,000+ additional carcasses accepted into the CAB brand.

“The idea that we’ve matured or hit some sort of a quality ceiling, I understand why people say it, but I don’t believe the economic signals support that,” he continued.

The CAB boxed beef premium averaged $8.76 per hundredweight (cwt.) during the first quarter of 2018. A quick glance shows that compared to $9.19/cwt. for the same period in 2017.

That’s down, you might say. True, but the math tells the more complete story: the certified head count increased by 20.4% (from 1.3 million to 1.6 million, or 300,000 head), but the spread only declined 4.7%, or $0.43.

“There’s a customer base out there today that’s now accessing high-quality products that maybe just never thought they could before,” Mark says.

And when you look at a greater slice of time, the story gets even richer.

Rewind to the first 16 weeks of 2010: 1 million head certified with a 24.1% CAB acceptance rate and the CAB-Choice spread was $6.20/cwt. Comparing 2018 to 2010, we have increased acceptance rate by more than 10 percentage points, increased certified head count by 55.5% AND increased the CAB-Choice spread by 41.3%. 

“It’s a little bit unbelievable,” Mark said, as if he was reading my mind.

The only difference between this and a far-fetched coffee shop tale? This one is true and seems to keep repeating itself.

People want quality beef, they pay for it, and cattlemen continue to respond to the signals to produce more.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

 

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On the ranch, On the road
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Behind the scenes: the ranch from the movie scenes

It was the first time I’d waited for a cattleman in a gift shop and visitor center.

Ryan Schultz, at Kuoloa Ranch, was just getting back from his first chores of the day as tour buses started to roll in. Those travelers came to see where dozens and dozens of movies and TV shows—from Jurassic Park to Lost—were filmed on the 4,000 acres of Hawaiian countryside. Others had booked the ATV tour, horseback riding or a trip out to the private island.

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The restaurant, visitor’s center and gift shop was bustling with people from the moment I arrived until I left several hours later.

I was probably the only one interested in how Angus cattle fit into the mix.

But the remaining Godzilla rocks scattered in the pasture didn’t fool me. The herd that started in the 1870s, shortly after the sugar mill folded because the soil isn’t conducive to cane, is still an important enterprise.

“Cattle do the natural landscaping. You could never hire a full-time landscaper to do what they do,” Ryan says, motioning toward the foreground that sets off the dramatic Ko’olau Mountains.

He may have to move cattle to a different pasture from time to time, but mostly the animals just coexist with the commotion that they’ve come to regard as normal.

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Ryan Schultz, a third generation Hawaiian cattleman, showed me around the ranch. Just over his left shoulder is evidence of a movie in progress. They’re usually sworn to secrecy while something is being filmed.

While I was there, the row of cars lined up near a catering tent gave it away: they were filming that day. What I assume might be a bit of a pain, Ryan shrugs off. The people are accommodating enough and it’s just part of the everyday “routine.”

I guess ranching around Show Biz isn’t much of a challenge, compared to the logistics of sending calves to the mainland or trying to remain profitable when you start at something like a 40-cent/pound discount due to shipping costs.

Angus genetics help.

“We’ve just found they do really well for the program,” Ryan says, noting docility, birthweight and carcass quality top his selection criteria. “To produce a consistent product, genetics are the key.”

At weaning, the heavier end are sorted into their own grass-fattening program, where eight head per month are finished at the ranch and processed at the only beef facility left on the island.

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Trail rides and ATV tours come right alongside the herd several times a day, but they pay the extra visitors no mind.

Ryan and his crew of two measure the calves against the chute, and if they’re under 49 inches, they’ll be preconditioned for at least two weeks before boarding a boat for California. The cattlemen set up a four-compartment, 40-foot container with alfalfa pellets, and ship the animals and one lonely stocktender off on a weeklong journey.

The breed helps them when they get there, too. “Because Angus are so popular on the mainland, we get more for them,” he says.

Even though they have rich grazing (1 to 2 pair per acre) year round (just think, no putting up winter feed!) they have tightened breeding down to two seasons. It helps them get like-sized cattle to market.

Once upon a time, there was a registered Angus herd on the ranch. The team wants to get back to that. They do rely heavily on AI, but there aren’t many bull suppliers left in the state.

Ryan is no longer full-time with the ranch but works on a consulting basis. He wants to keep the herd moving forward.

He’s as quick to help out as he is to flash a smile. When Ryan walked into the gift shop that morning, I knew it’d be a great day. He’d already saddled an extra horse so I could tag along (and basically try to stay out of the way) as we pulled bulls from a nearby pasture.

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They still use horses for much of the cow work, because they make it easier to navigate the diverse terrain.

From my vantage point, being around the cattle, the land, the work….it suited him.

Later I discovered why: Ryan grew up on The Big Island, where his grandfather traded a background in training polo horses for ranch management.

“I was always looking for an excuse to stay home from school and help out,” Ryan says. “You learned pretty young that it was a lifestyle and there were sacrifices you had to make.”

Personal histories combine with the legacy of the ranch and the Judd (now Morgan) family, who have owned the land since purchasing it from King Kamehameha III.

Even their “33” brand tells a story.

“When you drove around the island from Honolulu, we were the 33rd ranch,” Ryan says. “Now we’re one of three main ones left.”

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See that smile? It’s one that says, “I’ll work any day of vacation, if it’s a day like this.”

My husband was is in Hawaii on business, and I could have spent my days reading a book on the beach. But I feel pretty lucky. Instead, I got a “behind the scenes” scoop on the ranch that is so often in the scenes.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

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On the ranch, On the road
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The green-hand, fourth-generation rancher

“That was a close one.”

You might say that as you narrowly miss a car accident, or when a cow runs by and not over you, but for cattleman Jay Stomprud, it’s the first expression that comes to mind when thinking of his pre-rancher life compared to today.

Growing up an “Army brat,” Jay lived everywhere from Wall, S.D., and Germany to Virginia and Hawaii before settling in Bozeman, Mont., where he and wife Jen started a family. When his dad, Larry,  retired from the service, he came back to the family ranch in western South Dakota, and Jay’s family would visit on holidays.

Traveling down the winding, 3-mile driveway after one such visit, the couple made a decision that would change everything. “Before we hit the mailbox,” Jay says, they’d decided they wanted to give ranching a shot.

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When Stompruds moved to the ranch, the family included two toddlers and an infant. A decade later, those kids have known grown up working alongside their parents, grandparents and siblings.

“God was really speaking to us. We pulled roots and put the house up for sale and started moving; it was crazy. We sold the house in three weeks for the asking price.”

Shortly after closing, the local housing market and the global economy tanked.

“Our life in Bozeman would have been a real struggle with what happened next,” Jay says frankly. “I worked for an RV company and you know what people don’t buy when a depression hits? They had to lay off a bunch of people. We walked away from the house, paid it off. We moved out here owning our vehicles, with almost zero debt.”

By April, they were living out of his parents’ basement, figuring out ranching and rural life in tandem.

More than ten years had gone by when I was at Jay’s kitchen table this summer, learning about all that he’s learned in that time.

From the musical instruments set up in the living room to the leatherwork shop off to the side, it was easy to see they brought pieces of their “old life” with them to the ranch.

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Jay Stomprud didn’t give up all of his old life when he moved to his family’s ranch. His leatherwork shop, set up in the living room, gives him a creative outlet.

They also brought a different perspective.

“Being’s I didn’t grow up on the ranch, I lived in the regular world, I guess you’d say. Also, being a people person myself,” Jay says, “when it comes to viewing our industry, I do try to look at it through the eyes of what a beef consumer would say.”

Low-stress handling has become a major focus, while Larry, the data-focused one of the pair, selects cattle that will work for every segment.

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“I was shocked,” Larry Stomprud admits, but he didn’t have to think twice when his son and their young family wanted to return to the ranch a decade ago.

Both father and son would like to retain ownership some year, but this wasn’t the right one. With less than 10 inches of moisture, something like 60% of normal, cows moved to leased pastures further east after weaning.

Financially, it will be a tough year, but Jay doesn’t second guess the decision to move.

“We came out to the ranch later in life, and we have really come to love the lifestyle and what goes with it,” the rancher says. “In the process, we’ve learned a lot about conserving the land, taking care of the grass and how to try to make a living doing it and raising kids at the same time.”   

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Mud Butte far off on the horizon, the Angus cattle thrive on the hard grass prairie that’s native to Stomprud’s South Dakota ranch.

Faith and a little experience assures them, it’ll all work out.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

PS- Look for the rest of the story in an upcoming issue of the Angus Journal.

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As big as a barn

Nebraska history books talk about it, barn aficionados know about it, and for something like 75 years, the 18-sided barn that stood along the Niobrara River sat on land that my in-laws now operate near Butte, Neb.

It was originally built by a local who had a contract to supply horses to the army. With 24 stalls and a 60-foot-high hayloft, it fit that bill.

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My husband’s grandpa submitted this picture of the 18-sided barn for inclusion in the “Barns in the U.S.A.” book by Wilson L. Wells.

 

Long before I became a Reiman, a bad windstorm (possibly a tornado?) took down what was left of the structure that had been in disrepair for years. You see, the generation before my father-in-law saw it as an old relic, a rather dysfunctional structure too far from the main farming operations.

Such is the way of many barns across America, really. I can appreciate the old structures, but that’s probably because I never had to put hay into them. As a young kid, I’d watch the high school boys my dad hired throw bales as the John Deere elevator brought them to the second story of our own barn. We switched to round bales shortly after. I get why many have replaced these worn buildings with new metal calving sheds and better feed storage options, but I love the nostalgia of them just the same.

Turns out, I’m not the only one.

When our Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) team started talking about ways to celebrate our upcoming 40th Anniversary in a big way, somebody brought up the idea of a barn painting tour, similar to the Mail Pouch Tobacco advertising and others of yesteryear.

This is where you come in.

Since our very beginning back in 1978, we’ve relied on farmers and ranchers who have focused their high-quality Angus genetics to supply the CAB brand with greater and greater success. Over those decades, the logo, product and breed have been making a mark on the beef industry. A big mark.

Now we want to leave our mark on 40 communities across the country. We’re taking nominations for barns that will be painted throughout 2018, and we plan to touch each community we visit by giving back in a unique way.

So how does your barn or your neighbors’ get on the list? We’ve got a simple application process that asks a few questions and requires photo submissions.

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Proud CAB supporter? This could be your barn.

If you’ve got one in mind, hurry! Nominations close Dec. 1.

Then the selection committee will review all options, giving priority to those in high traffic areas, close to well-traveled roads and to wooden structures with ideal surfaces.

If your barn is chosen, we’ll look forward to getting to know you better.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what gems we uncover.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

P.S. The lead photo of my husband pulling a bunch of Reimans on sleds a few years back shows their current barn in the background. It’s used to warm up a new pair during the coldest of winter nights or to house the occasional orphan calf. It’s most permanent residents are the barn cats that call it home.

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