Author Archives: blackinkwithcab

blackinkwithcab
Ride along with the Certified Angus Beef supply development team as we work to help cattlemen put more black ink in their record books with cattle management news, tips and ideas to profitably improve quality. CAB is a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Angus Association. It was founded in 1978 as the first fresh beef brand based on specifications, and remains the largest in the world. We spend every day working with cattlemen and women across the country to help them better supply the CAB brand with high-quality beef. Join us for a view from many a pickups' passenger seat.
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On the ranch
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Nothing owed

Groups more humble than cattlemen and women are few and far between, but I’ve often heard ranchers called “salt of the Earth” people. Many lessons applicable for working with livestock come from simple wisdom, and now and then it’s the livestock doing the teaching.

I’m not talking about the cow that gets protective or feisty around her newborn calf. Nor am I referring to how they always find a pasture’s prime location — where the breeze gently blows and they can ruminate in the shade on hot days. No, this lesson is years in the making.

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No. 122 stands in front as a veteran of the Arndt cow herd.

The Arndt family, living only about 10 miles from my parents’ place in Kansas, own a cow with a lesson to teach. Ear tag No. 122, has earned its spot among the tried and true. It’s an outlier. Over 14 years, she’s given cow-calf manager Ryan Arndt, Emporia, Kan., two sets of twins. Just this year, she finally came up open. Ryan says after those many years, “She doesn’t owe us anything.”

The salt of the Earth recognizes how much an animal gives so that they may make their livelihood out in wide, open spaces.

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Ryan Arndt’s family began business with yearlings and expanded with a commercial cow herd around the turn of the century when Ryan finished college.

For an even better image of No. 122, “all winter long if they’re a mile away, she’ll be the first one at the feed truck every time,” Ryan says. “She just hits a long trot and she’s there. She’ll get there with her nose and throw the spout down and be in it until you stop feeding.”

A personality like that stands out, just like her fertility over the years.  She continually produced viable calves. While her maternal traits definitely did contribute, the advancement of high-quality bull genetics surely played a part in her raising ever-better calves.

What about how she fit in her surroundings? Ranchers often consider how their cattle mesh with their environment and how they, too, could set themselves up to have a No. 122. It’s understood by most that to identify as “quality” requires balance, including performance in a particular environment. This cow had to be fleshy enough in the winter and maternal enough to be a good momma year after year. The stocking rate has to fit the forage available, its quality and so on.

But do ranchers consider the ultimate environment for performance? Justin Sexten, director of supply at Certified Angus Beef, recently said, “The plate is an environment every animal has to perform at.”

When Ryan sits down at the dinner table with his wife Amanda and their four girls, he expects his beef to be delicious and, of course, nutritious for the growing cowgirls. Better yet, he manages their cow herd for such, targeting improved quality over time through a variety of means.

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The Arndt daughters are ages 12, 9, 6 and turning 1 this fall.

I know others would agree that those removed from rural life deserve the same mouthwatering eating expereince as those in the middle of it. If anything, we owe that to the herd.

Doing my best by beef,

Sarah

Watch for more about the Arndt family in future editions of the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin


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Sarah Moyer interns at the headquarters office in Wooster, Ohio. The senior in ag communications at Kansas State University aims to improve her writing by sharing stories of high-quality beef producers, as they work to improve their herds.

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On the ranch, On the road
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Dreamers and doers

If you could have one wish, any wish, what would it be? More resources, greater assets, the best genetics or something else?

My recent time back in Kansas reminded me that everyone works with what they have. It’s fun to dream, but at the end of the day some factors won’t change overnight. Progress requires hard work, focused decisions and effective management.

Take, for instance, the Voran family near Kingman, Kan. Today, they make better breeding decisions and repeatedly finish with higher carcass merit using collected data.

Carol Voran was not involved in 4-H or FFA. Her formal education was to be an educator. Her husband, Dale, has emphasis with crops, not cattle. “So we basically came from zero,” Carol says.

When I hung a right onto their rural dirt road, their operation’s story was yet a mystery to me. I knew little more than what contest awards they won at Beef Empire Days in recent years, and that they had been recommended by neighbor and seedstock producer Gordon Stucky. As I sat with Carol and Dale in their kitchen, they told their tale.

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Carol and Dale Voran rank traits for easy handling high on their list.

After starting a small cattle herd, they took a risk. Carol describes herself as the eternal optimist and Dale her eternal pessimist. They weighed both sides of the risk and decided to retain ownership of their cattle through the feedyard. Now they’ve seen results, collected data and made changes, continuing to build up their dreams.

There are days where a slower pace sounds appealing, but Carol says, “There’s trade-offs everywhere.”

“Wheat pasture may be cheap,” she says. “But I’ve been told time and time again that if they’re out on wheat pasture, it probably will reduce their ability to grade. So there’s trade-offs any way that you look at it.”

They’ve stood their ground and found ways to not compromise much on quality and still make a profit. And it’s taken time and their fair share of mistakes, they admit.

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Carol Voran held other jobs prior to raising cattle, to include teaching school.

So what are their greatest tools for maintaining progress in the herd? They say a notebook and a pencil — low input recordkeeping tools. Excel might be tossed in as well.

Diligence over time pays into their operation. Of course, there are many other critical tools they use, but they say it’s important to not discount the basics. They still very much value time spent studying EPDs (expected progeny differences) and regularly reading articles about management or industry news. All contributed to where they stand today.

“I want to encourage other cow-calf operators to follow their cattle all the way and take advantage of the good practices that they’ve been implementing all along,” Carol says. “It’s possible.”

In review, dream a dream, but then go find the load-bearing factors in your operation — genetics, record keeping and feeding probably. Then strengthen them. Think about Carol’s advice. Producers who dot their i’s and cross their t’s can use a little to improve a lot, because no wish could replace the foundations of success with cattle.

For now, with a drought in the heartland, these ranchers will only wish for rain. They already know wishing won’t cover the rest.

Doing my best by beef,

Sarah

Watch for more about the Voran family in future editions of the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin


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Sarah Moyer interns at the headquarters office in Wooster, Ohio. The senior in ag communications at Kansas State University aims to improve her writing by sharing stories of high-quality beef producers, as they work to improve their herds.

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Hot topics, Uncategorized
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Bigwigs in barbecue

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, it’s prime time for barbecue. Many pit masters pick beef as their meat of choice — think classic, smokey brisket and tasty beef ribs. Yum!

The Culinary Center recently hosted the annual Brand Ambassador Summit, welcoming chefs from all over the country, including a handful of barbecue specialists who sat on a panel with our resident meat scientist, Diana Clark.

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Chefs spent several hours in the meat lab prior to the panel, so meat quality and carcass characteristics were front of mind. This table decoration agreed that it was no time to talk salad.

What might have been most compelling about the panel was a comment made by Clark. She spoke about getting started with barbecue, because it is still a community despite regional differences. “You ask a question,” she says, “and people are willing to give you all their secrets because they know you can’t do it as well as them.”

How can cattlemen become such good herdsmen and so well-versed in their programs that they can’t wait to share their management or genetic “secrets?” I think that attitude is already in the mix, but how can the beef community continue to embrace it as a young, up-and-coming generation finds the balance between tradition and innovation?

That’s some barbecue food for thought.

Comments below feature a snippet of other discussions had among chefs during the panel.

The balance between tradition and innovation is something that Black’s Barbecue is challenged by and the Chicago Culinary Kitchen writes its own rules for.

Towards the end of the panel, moderator Chef Michael held a speed round. The consensus on those quick-fire questions was that the most popular sides dishes are beans and mac & cheese, everyone prefers low-and-slow cooking with dry woodsmoke, and whether the fat side should be up or down is smoker dependent.

Finally, the debate on sauce or no sauce was simple.

“It has to taste great both ways,” Barrett Black says. “It’s the customers choice.”

Texas, Chicago, Kansas City, Carolina, Memphis or whatever it is — choose your barbecue, but always choose to aim for your best Angus beef. It’s what the customer really wants, and hopefully you see them become a patron like you might be at the local barbecue joint.

Doing my best by beef,

Sarah


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Sarah Moyer interns at the headquarters office in Wooster, Ohio. The senior in ag communications at Kansas State University aims to improve her writing by sharing stories of high-quality beef producers, as they work to improve their herds.

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On the road
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The Kansas coincidence

Driving from Kansas to Ohio, farmland stretches out to the north and south of Interstate 70. Rolling hills that remind me of home soon begin to climb higher, and trees grow thicker alongside streams.

“And people say this isn’t scenic?” I say aloud behind the wheel of my neatly-packed Nissan headed east last week. It is not the familiar prairie I know well, but still I think, “In this country, the farms are always my favorite.” Farms connect communities, and families gather for events such as harvest or branding. The “Wheat State” tends to ooze pride for its agriculture. However, no yellow brick road lies between the Certified Angus Beef ®(CAB®) brand office and my home state.

A recent influx of Kansans to the Wooster office causes some to wonder about that; as this summer’s Producer Communications intern, I further contribute to the coincidence.

My university's Beef Stocker Unit runs its Kansas State research trails amidst my favorite landscape — the Flint Hills.

My university, Kansas State University, runs cattle for research amidst my favorite landscape — the Flint Hills.

But is it all a coincidence? Reviewing the list of feedyards interested in Angus cattle on our CAB partners website, I notice my state shows a respectable list — 151 in all. Next, I surf over to our consumer website and note four Brand the Barn celebrations planned this month. Then, search results show 21 stores and restaurants within 75 miles of my family’s ranch near Emporia selling our beef on their cooler shelves or menus.

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Barn artist Troy Freeman paints at Ulrich Farms during a Brand the Barn event in Pennsylvania.

Finally, I reflect on my experiences growing up on a cattle backgrounding operation, where we rely on genetic decisions made before cattle reach us, and nutrition and health management plans that help cattle perform. Discussions with other beef community members and neighbors as well as science-based tools support us placing what we believe to be our best foot (hoof) forward.

There’s no question. The brand and its quality goals thrive in Kansas and elsewhere, developing producer resources, analyzing genetic merit and marketing to consumers. But producers’ own efforts to improve their herds, their beef and ultimately the eating experience for consumers is what drives the heart of this brand’s development. It starts on those farms and ranches, where opportunities often appear within reach when the operators seek progressive answers. After all, that’s how CAB originated four decades ago.

Youth Beef Leaders Seminar quiz

During January’s Youth Beef Leaders Seminar, attendees, including myself, competed in a contest over beef cuts, meat science and general brand knowledge.

With my labels of “beef fanatic” and the newly added “intern,” I look forward to playing my part in this story, which has been made successful by many. I carry this perspective with me as I begin my work this summer, also keeping in mind what someone reminded me of this past January at the Youth Beef Leaders Seminar at CAB’s Culinary Center.

A rising tide lifts all the boats.

This saying, coined in economics, easily applies to our mission’s pursuit of economic rewards for consistent quality. Kansan or not, it’s no coincidence that partnerships raise the tide on beef’s chance of being the premium choice for families and retailers alike.

Doing my best by beef,

Sarah


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Sarah Moyer interns at the headquarters office in Wooster, Ohio. The senior in ag communications at Kansas State University aims to improve her writing by sharing stories of high-quality beef producers, as they work to improve their herds.

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On the ranch, On the road
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A Heritage of Quality

The first thing we talked about was how dry the winter had been. It was mid-April and the Kansas prairie didn’t look a day after January. Andy Larson’s cows were out on pasture near Green, Kan., but still being supplemented as, ironically, there was very little green grass in sight.

While it was too early to tell if the drought would last the whole year (it didn’t), the knowledge that it could brought memories of the five generations before him. They persevered and brought Larson Family Farms through the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, 1980 financial crisis and many other difficult times. Today, Andy manages the 500 commercial Angus cows and thousands of acres of pasture and crops with his father Raymond.

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Andy Larson says focusing on quality is simply carrying on a legacy started in 1872. With a degree in ag business and an MBA, he brings his own skillset back to the family operation.

“We’re just your normal Kansas operation, built by generations of hardworking family members,” the younger Larson says.

The family started with a Hereford herd and over the years have bred up to an Angus herd that consistently reaches high-quality marks. Last year 60% of the 181 finished calves sent to market qualified for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand.

Andy says they accomplished that through a combination of breeding, nutrition and utilizing carcass data.

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Andy combines information he stores in Angus Information Management Software (AIMS®) with the carcass data he gets back from the packer to make informed decisions.

“There are a lot of things we do to try to make sure once that calf hits the feedyard, he’s prepared to excel,” he says. “It starts with nutrition, includes health, and some of it comes back to genetics.”

Taught by those generations before him, Andy wants to keep stepping things up. One example? Performance and finishing cattle earlier without sacrificing quality.

“We want to be known as somebody who has a product that can be stood behind,” Andy says. “Everything we do here, we do with the goal of producing beef with the intention of maximizing the quality of that animal, and then doing it as efficiently as possible.”

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Although they have gotten some spring moisture since this early April photo, they are still behind on the year.

His family farm history runs deep.

As the industry changes, he wants to keep up, “but not forget that we’re here for producing a quality product, and that we’re here to do things the right way.”

He knows the operation was not built overnight and that the drive to produce the best was inherited.

“We’re stewards of the cattle. We’re just the caretakers,” he says. “It’s all for somebody on down the line.”

~Jill

PS–To learn more about Andy Larson and his operation, watch for an upcoming story in the Angus Beef Bulletin.


Jill at ECC

 

Jill Seiler recently completed her 2018 spring producer communications internship. Her dairy farm upbringing, combined with Kansas State University ag communications education, gave her experience to draw on when interviewing ranchers and researchers the past few months.

 

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