Author Archives: BlackInkNicole

Raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon, I’m a fan of wide open spaces and rural life. I didn't grow up in the beef industry, but I got here as fast as I could. My love for great stories, a well marbled steak and black cattle led me to Ohio where I consider myself blessed to blend my many passions into a "job" at CAB.
Following the Calves, On the road

The Road Ahead


I’ve always loved a good road trip. The opportunity the open road provides, experiencing new places, different adventures and seeing how diverse different parts of our country are is incredible.

The backroads of rural Kentucky provided welcome new scenery and opened my eyes to a place where the bourbon is exceptional, tobacco farming roots run deep and one that might surprise you, the cattle are quality.

Cattle from the Southeastern states have a mixed reputation for delivering carcass merit. Pockets of excellence lift that overall image.

Those center around ranchers like James Coffey, who help drive value by working to breed the type you hope to end up on your plate.


“For a lot of people their horizon ends at weaning,” Coffey says. “I try to have a larger vision, one that encompasses adding value all the way down the beef production chain.”

The rancher is kind, focused and dedicated to making each year better than the one before. He’s a fifth-generation Angus breeder, but his approach to the business is different than those who have come before him. It was his involvement that drove an emphasis on data-based decision making. He introduced artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer, ultrasound, performance testing and Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR®) when he returned home to the ranch 20 years ago.

He’s a man who loves data, a natural fit for his first career as a CPA. Now, he manages a sporting goods company that supplies major retailers around the world and of course, the cowherd at Branch View Angus, Hustonville, Ky.

For him, there can never be too much data. A vision and affinity for numbers in business led him to begin feeding steers out of his own bulls to understand how they performed for those even further down the production chain. The average for his first nine loads was 86% Choice or better, with 31% earning CAB, including 3% Prime.

But that was 10 years ago.


“When I came back to the ranch twenty years ago, I wanted to do things better,” Coffey says. “That natural progression led to us wanting to produce registered cattle that in turn produce CAB-type cattle.”

“The real opportunity is to own the cattle all the way through,” Coffey says. “That’s the only way you can capture every nickel that’s in that animal.”

It’s a lot of nickels, not just for him, but for the commercial cattlemen that use his bulls.

“This is all about maximizing the sale value of our customers’ calves,” he says.

This year, he sent four loads of his own and customers’ spring 2017 calf crop to Pratt Feeders in Kansas. The calves will be marketed on the grid this spring and summer and Coffey is eager to see the numbers.


It’s been since 2008 that Coffey has seen how his genetics perform beyond the ranch level. “I feel like our genetics are miles ahead of where they were then,” he says.

“It will be a data set large enough to be able to show people what the cattle can do,” he says. “I know if I can show backgrounders and feedlots how the cattle perform, then we can get bids for our customers and maximize their price.”

It’s a chance to discover just what opportunities the future might hold, changes he might need to make in his genetic selections and what direction to go next.

I drove away from Branch View Angus through twisty roads toward Hustonville, knowing it wasn’t just me with an exciting road ahead.

Until next time,


Look for more on Coffey’s calves as we follow them to Pratt Feeders in an upcoming post and check out upcoming issues of the Angus Journal for more of Coffey’s story.

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On the ranch

Better beef on the horizon

The sun was just peeking over the hills surrounding Hardyville, Ky., when I drove right past Jay McCoy’s ranch. My GPS told me I had arrived, but I knew there was no way his was the place surrounded by Holstein cattle.

On the hunt for pastures that told me I had arrived at a commercial cattle ranch, I found nothing and begrudgingly turned my car around and up the driveway towards the Holsteins, wondering exactly what I was about to find.

Jay quickly set my heart at ease.

“We run a dairy backgrounding operation too, but let me tell you about my real passion — the cow herd.”

You can hear it in his voice, the way he cares about his 150 Angus-cross commercial cows. From the backseat of the pickup, his mother and business partner, Sharon, tells me all he’s ever wanted to do is work with cattle.


Jay, pictured with his wife Renata and son Zackary, is passing on his passion for quality cattle production. As we stepped out of the pickup, he pointed out the cows that are the beginning of Zachary’s herd.

“This is what I want to do everyday,” he says gesturing to the beef cows grazing in the pasture. “Keep breeding black cows that will grow our numbers and perform here on the ranch and beyond.”

In 2002, when the mother and son duo purchased the land they run cattle on today, their herd consisted of just 20 cows. Since then, they’ve focused on consistently investing in the best Angus genetics they can afford to make progress toward their goals.

“The end consumer is always on our mind because, ultimately, that is the determining factor whether we survive or fail,” Jay says. “We want to produce the very best animal we can that works both for the farm and the restaurant.”

It’s something he and his seedstock supplier, James Coffey, agree on.

“We focus on adding value all the way through the production chain, beginning with genetic selection and ending with the Certified Angus Beef®  brand,” James says.

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In addition to his spring calving cows, Jay calves a small portion of his herd in the fall. He is waiting to see carcass data on the load sent to Pratt before he decides how to market the fall group this calf belongs to.

Typically, Jay would raise his calves to 800 pounds and then send them on to the local salebarn, but this year, he’s doing things differently. Partnering with James, Jay sent his spring 2017 calf crop to Pratt Feeders in Kansas.

He wants to know if what he’s doing on the ranch is really working, “to get the information back and understand how they are really performing.”

He didn’t mind my asking him to show me around the ranch at sunrise so we could capture optimal lighting for photos and, even with the early hour, excitedly shared what’s on the horizon for his herd.

“This will be the ultimate test, getting some of our carcass data back,” Jay tells me. His goal is to use the data to get a better picture of how his cattle perform after leaving his ranch – something he can’t get at the local sale barn.

He doesn’t know exactly what the data will tell him, but he knows it will help him make decisions that result in higher quality beef.

Until next time,


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On the ranch, On the road

A Day on the Ranch

As someone who grew up in rural America, it’s hard to fathom never having visited a cattle ranch. My upbringing included fields surrounded by livestock, lots of days showing at the county fair and a healthy education about where my food comes from.

Not everyone is so lucky.

You might be surprised at how many people, even in the beef business, have a limited understanding of what happens on the ranch every single day. For the men and women who sell the Certified Angus Beef® brand for licensed distributor Sysco in Houston, a day on the ranch in Buda, Texas, isn’t just a nice day away from the office. It’s good for business.


It is an opportunity to hear from a rancher. It’s a chance to ask questions, ones rattling around in their own brains and ones they get from their customers.

And of course, it’s a time to eat great beef.

Many ranchers would cringe at the thought of hosting a tour bus full of inquiring eyes right before their annual sale, but Kevin Gallagher isn’t most. The manager of Rutherford Ranches opened his gates and sale barn to chefs, restaurant owners and Sysco beef sales professionals eager to learn about the brand’s origins.

The group arrived on a cool South Texas morning. Kevin had a group of heifers penned up close so visitors could get a good look at the Angus cattle as they learned how the seedstock operation fits into the production cycle of the beef they sell.


They huddled around the rancher as he spoke. They truly understand the 10 quality specifications that make CAB stand out in the restaurant and meat case. They’ve done the taste panels and believe in the superior flavor — but aren’t always sure how to tell the rancher’s side of the story.

When one of their customers asks about hormone implants, genetically modified organisms or if our beef is grassfed, they need to know how to answer.

It’s an experience many of us so often take for granted — a day in a pasture surrounded by black cattle, that can help make or break a sale of Certified Angus Beef®. Getting “up close and personal” with calves and hearing how Kevin cares for the cattle? That’s a story and a personal connection these beef distributors might not get anywhere else.


There’s something about seeing the cattle in person and shaking a rancher’s hand that’s a pivot point.

The next time one of their customers asks if Certified Angus Beef® is produced in Texas, the distributors at Sysco Houston can talk about Kevin, the rancher who lives just outside of the city, breeding genetics that produce superior beef.

We live in a world where flavor is essential, but it’s the stories that create connections. These days on the ranch for CAB licencees help drive demand for the best Angus beef, in the personal insight they gain about how that beef really gets to their warehouses.


The group pulled out of the Rutherford Ranches driveway with a different perspective. Leaving with a better understanding of what it takes to produce the beef they sell, it’s a story they can now tell firsthand, from a ranch just down the road.

Until next time,


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Award/contest winners

It takes a team

We lived in a two bedroom apartment in the middle of the city when my husband made the first livestock purchase of our marriage. Bidding in an online pig sale, he made us the owners of a beautiful crossbred gilt with nowhere for it to live. No barn, no plan, no pig feed, no truck or trailer, absolutely nothing we needed to start a livestock business. We couldn’t even fill out the shipping information for where this gilt would go.

The planner in me panicked. What in the world had he we just done?!

He calmly turned to me and said, “The world is run on partnerships.”

Though not necessarily comforting at the time, he wasn’t wrong. There was no way we were going to be able to start a livestock business alone. Whether you’re raising pigs or cattle, it takes a good team to get the job done.


For Jamie Hoffman of Hoffman Angus in Otwell, Ind., winner of the inaugural Certified Angus Beef Angus Value Discovery Contest, his herd’s success stems from his original partnership with his dad. The late Albert E. Hoffman, instilled a disciplined focus on quality genetics and animal care in his son — values Jamie has continued to integrate into their herd.

The hard work has paid off, in premiums and recognition. His grand champion pen of 40 graded 100% Choice or better, with 75% qualifying for the Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) brand, including 32.5% Prime.

But the success wasn’t his alone.

When Jamie couldn’t find the balanced carcass and performance genetics he needed, his search for a new bull supplier led to James Coffey of Branch View Angus, in Hustonville, Kentucky. Jamie’s cattle buyer introduced the two and understood their shared vision for producing cattle that perform on the rail.

“From my first conversation with Jamie, I knew he and his wife were dedicated to raising and feeding high-quality Angus cattle,” Coffey said. “This winning group that won didn’t happen by chance. They’ve concentrated on raising the right kind for years.”


In November at the 2017 Angus Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, the two stood next to each other on stage as Jamie accepted the Grand Champion Award.

The reserve winners of the Angus Value Discovery Contest went to a partnership that spans the beef industry. Mark Gardiner of Gardiner Angus Ranch, Ashland, Kan., nominated long-time customer Randy Bayne of nearby Protection, Kan., along with his feeding partner and veterinarian, Randall Spare of Ashland.

A customer of Gardiner’s for more than 20 years, Bayne said he has leaned on his suppliers’ expertise when selecting carcass genetics and Spare for creating the optimal health program. Both Gardiner and Spare credit the commercial cattleman’s management skills and business sense as a key success factor in producing high performing profitable cattle.


“Randy is very disciplined in selecting cattle that provide end product merit,” said Gardiner. “He’s worked toward selecting cattle that are in the upper percentiles without compromising reproduction and maternal function.”

I snapped photos as the winning cattlemen received their awards and headed back to my seat reflecting on the people that have contributed to the success of my family’s own livestock business. The night we made a snap decision to buy a pig could have been a bit of a disaster, but with the help of great friends and business partners, a spontaneous decision has grown into a profitable business.

Although hanging show pig banners is a bit different than creating high-dollar, high-quality carcasses, neither version of success happens alone. It’s about more than hard work and great genetics — having the right people in business with you can make all the difference.

Producing high quality beef requires an excellent genetic supplier, a superior health program, a great feeder, a careful rancher making sure those calves never have a bad day and of course patient mentors who pass along their wisdom.

When it comes down to it, genetics and management are vital, but the right people by your side help drive the decisions that produce profitable, high quality beef.

Until next time,


P.S. Want to enter the 2018 Angus Value Discovery Contest? We’ll start accepting entries in January and more information will be available at Look for more on this year’s winners in upcoming issues of the Angus Journal!

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Stika at Cudlobe Farm
On the ranch

A Story So Good Even the Dog Wants to Listen

Dyce Bolduc was a teenager when he bought his first Angus cows at an auction in Alberta, Canada. It was 1967 and Angus calves sold at a discount. Dyce and his brother David distinctly remember market reports that included the phrase “and the black calves sold for 10 cents less.”

Not a good market signal to get into the Angus business.

Dyce and David didn’t care. They had a vision few others could have imagined. Betting on the ability of the Angus cow and the opportunity the brothers saw for the breed, they transitioned their parent’s Shorthorn operation to Angus. Originally they focused on quality phenotype but over time transitioned their emphasis to what is underneath the hide — they wanted cattle that looked good AND produced beef that tastes great.

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It’s a philosophy many of their customers follow today.

In 2016, a group of calves sired by Cudlobe Farm bulls and raised by Cross Cattle Company, Okotocs, AB, graded 16.5% Prime and made 51.3% CAB (premium AAA) to total 97% AAA (Choice) or better. Compared to the Canadian average that same week, 1.3% Prime, 18.4% CAB and a total 55.4% AAA, it’s easy to see why their genetics sell for a premium.

“There’s a lot of room for growth of Certified Angus Beef here in Canada,” says David. “There needs to be more cattle harvested that can make the grade and the CAB specifications.”

CAB President John Stika stopped by the Cudlobe Farm near Stavely, AB, in August to share with a group of Dyce and David’s customers just how high the demand is for cattle that make the CAB brand in Canada. At the field day, cattlemen from across that country packed the Cudlobe barn to hear John speak.

As the chatter dulled and John began to talk, even the Bolduc family dog knew the message must be important. He ran in and grabbed a front row seat to hear:

“Consumers have shown us time and time again that they are willing to pay more when the value proposition offers them more — as it does with CAB compared to commodity beef,” Stika said.

The gap between demand for high-quality beef in Canada and the supply of cattle that can make the grade is wide, especially during the summer grilling season. A recent CANFAX report shows the difference in value between the below-average marbling AA grade and the AAA grade grew to historic levels for the summer of 2017. Spreads as high as $42 per hundredweight one week this summer show the premium value for AAA beef in 2017 is higher compared to the three-year average of an $11/cwt. spread for the same week.

Canadian AA AAA Spread

“Producers who align genetic decisions and herd management strategies with that demand signal will be the most likely winners moving forward,” Stika told the crowd. “Canada is the largest market for CAB outside of the U.S., yet Canadian producers have only been able to supply enough quality cattle to roughly meet two-thirds of the demand that exists. That represents quite an opportunity for those willing to focus on quality.”

It’s exactly what David and Dyce knew long ago when they purchased those first Angus cows — that the future of the Canadian beef industry relies on quality cattle production. Fifty years ago, black cattle sold for less than the market average. Today, their customers earn $50 to $90 head above average.

With premiums like that, no wonder even the dog wanted to listen.

Until next time,



*Photos provided by the Bolduc family. 


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