Panelists Showcase Passion at 2021 Angus Convention
Passion is the driving force for countless faces in the beef production chain.
Passion is the backbone of the cattle industry. No matter how many hours a producer puts in or how high of quality of cattle he produces, it’s the passion in his voice that truly resonates when he shares his story.
Attendees of the 2021 Angus Convention gathered Nov. 6 to hear from a panel of five passionate people all tied to the beef industry as they shared how they let their love for business guide their lives.
Blonde, bright-eyed and adorned with a smile, Josh Jasper stood under the beaming lights of the Convention stage, reminding listeners of what it’s like to be an enthusiastic 21-year-old in the Angus industry.
The Kentucky native was born into the cattle business — he said his passion stretches back two generations, beginning with his grandpa, Billy. Jasper’s father and uncle continued the family legacy, competing with their livestock across Kentucky and even ranking in the top 15 showmen in the National Junior Angus Showmanship Contest.
When Jasper was ready to start his own journey in the Angus industry, he purchased an embryo and worked with the female from the moment she was born.
“I was super excited, young, green, ready to go,” he said recalling the first year he spent at the end of the show halter. “That year, it wasn’t how I planned it.”
He says the heifer didn’t do as well in the show ring that first year as he had hoped, but when she came back as a cow-calf pair, they reached new levels of success.
“I ended up getting reserve champion cow-calf at the Kentucky State Fair,” he said, “and boy, let me tell you, I was hooked after that.”
From that moment forward, Jasper said he started seeing this deep, inborn passion for Angus cattle in every breeder he met. He then started searching for his own path as a cattleman.
“I wanted to make my own connections in the Angus world,” he explained.
In 2014 that path sent him marching towards his first airport experience to travel to Philadelphia, Pa., for his first Leaders Engaged in Angus Development (LEAD) conference.
With each LEAD conference attended and each year spent in the industry, Jasper said he found himself falling more in love with the Business Breed. Memories of cherished days spent ringside during auctions with his “nanny and pa” allowed him to find the courage to make his next big move in the cattle business.
“Just getting down there and watching them and their passion for that sale day, it really does something to you,” he said. “I wanted to be an auctioneer, and I knew it was going to be hard to get in there and a long road, but by God, I knew I wanted to do it.”
After hours dedicated to watching YouTube videos about how to call out bids and count numbers, Jasper attended the World Wide College of Auctioneering in 2018. He now spends his days working with cattlemen he’s long admired and even had the opportunity to hear himself say, “Sold it your way, A-rod.”
When he isn’t up on the stand in a silver belly hat, hitting the gavel down, Jasper can likely be found sporting the green coat of the National Junior Angus Board (NJAB) of Directors. He currently serves as the Foundation Director.
For this young man, passion is more than just enjoying the sight of black-hided cattle grazing out on pasture. It’s more than just securing the winning handshake in the show ring. It’s even more than chasing cowboy dreams.
For Jasper, the Angus business is all about people — the Angus family, to be exact. That’s where his true passion lies, with the people who share his love for livestock.
“I’m so glad I’m a part of this breed,” he said. “It’s just in my heart. It’s my passion. Because of my grandpa, because of going to these shows, going to these conferences, I fell in love.”
It’s a passion Jasper said he hopes he can share with Angus members, young and old, for years to come.
“Why in the world could we not just work five days a week, eight to five?”
Debbie Lyons-Blythe’s question was met with a few chuckles of cattlemen likely picturing early mornings and late evenings spent out in tremendous storms and temperature extremes.
“We’d have evenings and weekends off,” she continued. “Why can’t we do that? Why can’t we be like other people?”
Lyons-Blythe offered her own explanation for why she chooses the life of an Angus breeder rather than the comfort of a predictable work schedule.
“It’s all about raising kids,” she said. “It’s all about family.”
Everywhere you look in the Angus industry, Lyons-Blythe said you can find ties to family.
It starts with the cattle herd. After a calf takes it first breath, Lyons-Blythe awaits the perfect moment to hear a sound she treasures.
“One of the things that I love is when a cow has a calf, and those first calls of that mama cow — it just chokes me up,” she explained. “The first low calls that mama cow makes to that calf, you don’t hear it any other time.”
Every second past that birth is one Lyons-Blythe said fires her up. She gets the chance to watch a calf she worked to produce grow and develop. As those babies run through the Flint Hills, she thinks of her family.
Lyons-Blythe can’t look out on her property without thinking of her family. From her grandma who enjoys riding in the truck to look at the livestock to her son, Eric, who married his wife, Cece, out in the pasture, the grassy views of eastern Kansas are more than just a pretty picture.
When Lyons-Blythe’s mind turns to her family tree, she realizes just how much the industry has touched her and her kin.
“We don’t use our kids to raise Angus cows,” she explained on a smile. “We use our cows to raise kids.”
It’s a theme she sees reflected across Angus families through the nation. They might live in different places, ranch differently, raise their cattle differently — but they all love Angus cattle, she said.
The Angus family is real and ever-present in the life of Lyons-Blythe. She can list example after example of times when fellow cattle producers reminded her it’s the people behind the breed that form the foundation of the love she has for this business.
Christmas card photos for years have been taken at the backdrop of the National Junior Angus Show (NJAS). Names and phone numbers have been volunteered for help as children have moved across the country to pursue their dreams. Money, messages and prayers were plentiful as a family member struggled with a health crisis.
“You helped us,” she said to the Angus breeders gathered around her. “It’s family. It’s you all — you mean so much to me.”
Lyons-Blythe is driven by the desire to promote the legacy of ranching and farming to the next generation. She said her passion is about learning more every day about herself, the land she calls home, the livestock she raises and the people she calls family.
It’s a passion she shares with cattlemen across the nation, and it’s this passion that stops her from seeking out that five-day work week.
“We’re not like other people,” she laughs. “But I’m proud to be an Angus rancher.”
A small house in Selma, Ala., stands alone in the middle of a bull pasture. To one side of the home is a water source for the livestock, and the feed can be seen opposite.
Every night and every morning, the bulls that resided in the pasture would march around the house to get to feed and then come back to the water. It was during this procession that Bodey Langford can recall his first memory — a deep, guttural sound echoing across the walls of the home.
“Those little bulls, just lining up single file, going in there and what I call ‘lowing’ — it was the first sound that I remembered stuck in my brain at that very early age,” Langford said with a smile. “It’s still in there somewhere.”
Langford’s family is deeply rooted in the cattle industry. His great-grandfather had his sights set on being a cowboy and homesteaded a place in Sterling County, Texas, during the 1870s. The land is still intact and operated by the family today.
Though the family spent time in Alabama to escape the drought when Langford was young, there wasn’t a day he can recall where cattle weren’t at the top of his priority list.
In 1978, Langford started Langford Cattle Company. The Texas land Langford calls home is harsh country, and when he first ventured out on his own in the industry, he said he succeeded in breeding some of the biggest, meanest cattle in the state.
After the passing of his grandfather, Langford was introduced to the Angus breed.
“He had just bought two of the prettiest, young, long, yearling Angus bulls that I ever saw,” he said.
Those two Angus bulls produced the best set of feeder calves Langford had ever raised.
“They were uniform in color. They were moderate-framed, and they had better dispositions, and the little heifer calves made great replacement calves. And I was hooked on these Angus,” he said.
Over the years, Langford’s success with the Angus breed grew alongside his passion for the breed. In 2009 he left the commercial cattle business and has raised purebred Angus ever since.
“The real meat of my business is breeding bulls and trying to improve the cattle in South Texas,” he said. “We’re really proud to be doing that for the people.”
He said his customers report uniform, market-ready calves when they utilize the Angus genetics Langford is so proud to offer.
While Langford finds a great deal of satisfaction knowing he’s positively affecting the Texas cattle industry, it was a day with his 2-year-old grandson a month prior to Convention that he pinpoints as his proudest moment.
The pair was sitting in Langford’s home in Texas, where the house stands alone in the middle of a bull pasture. To one side of the home is a water source for the livestock, and the feed can be seen opposite.
The bulls lined up, single file, and made their march around the home.
“We were sitting in the living room, and he said, ‘Grandpa, what’s that sound?’” Langford said. “And I said, ‘Son, that’s just a little Angus bull, just lowing around, walking, doing their thing.’ So maybe that’s the first sound that he’ll ever remember — just like I did when I was his age.”
For Shane Tiffany of Tiffany Cattle Company, a custom cattle-feeding business in Herington, Kan., he and his brother, Shawn, have never wavered in their passion for the agriculture industry.
“My brother and I grew up in agriculture,” he said. “It’s all we’ve ever known — in particular, the cattle business.”
Although Tiffany’s love for the business stems back five generations, he is the first generation to own the business.
Tiffany’s childhood was spent on the feedlot he now owns. His father managed the facility from 1988 to 2002, and Tiffany and his brother spent hours around the cattle. From the manual labor needed on the feedlot like doctoring calves and shoveling show to the more glamorous hobbies of showing cattle and judging livestock, the pair of brothers found their own voices in the industry.
After attending Butler Junior College and Kansas State University, the young men took different career paths. Shawn managed a registered Angus ranch near Kansas City, and Tiffany traded commodities and served as a corporate cattle buyer.
Six years later, Tiffany said their story truly got started. The owner of the feedlot offered the brothers the chance to buy in, and they jumped at the opportunity.
“Since that point in time, we have had just some tremendous opportunities. We’ve experienced tremendous growth,” Tiffany said. “God’s been so good to us.”
This year, the business is expanding to three facilities and will feed close to 80,000 head of cattle. Owning the feedlot has allowed Tiffany to pursue his passion through different outlets.
“Number one, I’m passionate about continuing my own family’s legacy,” he said, “but I’m super passionate about continuing on the legacy of the man that gave us a shot.”
He is also grateful for the chance to help his customers achieve the true value of their cattle.
Tiffany Cattle Company is unique in that the cattle they feed are almost 100% customer-owned.
“The vast majority of those customers would be retained ownership,” he explained. “Angus breeders that work with us have access to high-quality based grids, so that they can recognize the true value of their cows.”
This is the business’s 10th year in a row of averaging 93% Choice or better, with 45% of those being Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) or Prime.
Last, but certainly not least, he said he is passionate about paying things forward and helping secure the success of the next generation. Each day with the work he and Shawn do on the feedlot, he said he takes pride in knowing he’s giving the best of the best to his employees and his customers.
“I love bringing young people into our operations … teaching them what I was taught and just to empower them to go on to do great things in this industry,” he added. “I’m passionate about producing the best protein source in the world. And, finally, I’m passionate about giving all the glory and honor to my Father in heaven.”
When it comes to passion in the cattle industry, it seems that focus oftentimes shifts to the hands working at the ranch. Although for Curtis Osmond, president of III Forks Prime, being dedicated to the beef business is an entirely different game.
“It is an honor for me to stand here before you today and talk a little bit about my passion with hospitality,” he told listeners. “It really is the ‘why’ behind what I do.”
Osmond attended Oklahoma State University in the early ’90s and discovered his passion when he transitioned from an accounting degree to the hospitality program. In 1993 he moved to Dallas and first began working for III Forks Prime.
“For the next 12 years, I would work hard,” he remembers. “I would work through every position in the restaurant, from the back of the house to the front of the house, from the bottom all the way to the top.”
The company chose to expand their steakhouse operations in 2006, and Osmond had the opportunity to open a restaurant. He described the event as a family affair, recalling how having a young family at home was the reminder of why the hard work was worth it.
Osmond’s family grew as he connected with employees. The boundaries of family stretched further as the dining rooms he monitored became the place where companies celebrated, groups gathered and couples frequented. This idea of family became so large that Osmond said he even developed some cowboy ties.
“We looked at ways that we could increase our knowledge and understanding of the ‘why’ behind what we did what we did,” he explained. “We learned what you did and how that end products works all the way through to the plate, paying attention to every little detail along the way.”
Educational opportunities materialized, and with each television demonstration or fulfillment of a childhood dream, Osmond’s family expanded into a full-fledged community. He has created a community where people feel at home from the moment they enter the restaurant.
“My family starts at the front door,” he said. “Their passion for serving the food that you guys are responsible for producing is apparent every night.”
After the pandemic, Osmond says their focus and uniforms changed, but the business’s attention to detail never wavered. With the strength of the community behind them, he said the restaurant was able to rally together and push forward, fueled by the passion they have for their work.
“I think it’s really important for you to understand that we understand what your passion is. We know that what we’re representing each and every night is the fruit of your passion, of your hard , and we want to represent that in the best light possible,” he said. “My family appreciates your passion for why you do what you do, because it allows us to fulfill our passion.”