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Source: Certified Angus Beef news release

Sam Hands, Triangle H Grain & Cattle Co., is in the entertainment business.

The Garden City, KS, cattleman doesn't operate a dude ranch nor moonlight as a country music singer, but he says everybody in the beef industry is in entertainment.

"Today's John Q. Public does not go to work to put a roof over his head and food on his table. He goes to work today so he can pay for what he wants to do on his time off," Hands says. "Most entertainment involves eating and that's where beef comes in."

The beef industry must not only recognize that, but also respond to it, he says. "The consumer is boss and we've got to keep that in mind."

It's that longstanding commitment to improvement, willingness to try new strategies and respect for the larger industry that earned Triangle H the 2010 Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) Progressive Partner of the Year award.

Hands and his wife Janet accepted the award on behalf of the family at the company's annual conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. Triangle H, which includes a farming operation, several cowherds and two small feedlots, is a partnership among brothers Greg, Cedric and Sam Hands and Greg's son Tyler Hands.

The family looks at the cattle as a means of upgrading the value of their grains, but producing just any beef won't accomplish that by itself.

"Packer constituents have always told me the profit is in quality cattle," Hands says.

He and his dad started the cowherd when he was 9. A decade later they were using artificial insemination (AI) and retaining ownership at a commercial feedyard, but were getting frustrated with the cash market. Their first grid sale showed 40% Choice.

They wanted to improve and so they forged a relationship with Gardiner Angus Ranch (GAR).

Hands wanted to get cow size down and increase marbling, but figured going to straightbred Angus would cost him in other areas. "Now the cattle are grading 90% Choice or better, gaining 4.25 pounds (lb.) per day and we've got pay weights in excess of 1,350 lb., so we didn't give up anything, but actually gained more."

Triangle H bought a feedyard in 1985 and Gardiners became feeding customers and eventually an integral part of the supply development model.

Today, nearly all the cattle fed at either of the two 4,000-head yards come from GAR or Fink Beef Genetics or their customers.

"We are able to give individual attention to cow-calf producers, coordinate health programs with them, and sort for market readiness," Hands says.

Thirteen years ago, they developed an index to identify the most profitable cattle.

"We essentially rank every animal based on average daily gain (ADG), feed to gain and carcass traits," he says. "We've established a constant value. We send that information back to the producer so they can utilize that to make better decisions in their future breeding programs."

Clint Cope, manager of Doyle Creek Land and Cattle at Florence, KS, says he's "hands-off" so trust is key.

"He's going to do everything for me that he does for himself and he is going to try it out for himself before he becomes a big believer in it," he says. "Sam is probably one of the best as far as communicating any issues back or even discussing new ideas."

When Hands finds a method that works, he cultivates it. That's how Triangle H has grown. First they added more cows by converting a few pivots to cool-season grass. Then when they wanted to increase numbers without adding more grass, they contracted with custom operators. Triangle H now has 2,000 cows spread across eight satellite herds in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. They provide genetics and vaccination programs and retain full ownership on the steers.

It seems the circle was complete with the inception of U.S. Premium Beef (USPB) in 1997. Triangle H was a founding member.

"This gave us a chance to vertically integrate a little further," Hands says. "Today we get individual carcass data on practically every hoof that goes through our feedyard."

Hands says customers routinely bring back $60 to $150 in per-head premiums by selling on the USPB grid.

Triangle H was the first feedyard to formalize its relationship with CAB, too. In December 1998, it signed as the inaugural member of the Feedlot Licensing Program (FLP).

Hands says he made that move because CAB's goals fit with his.

"It's given a lot of encouragement to yards across the country to follow a similar pattern and focus on quality," he says. "It shows the big profits really are in the quality cattle."

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