Tradition, passion and hard work keep Reminisce Angus successful
December 4, 2018
Tradition and history play a significant role in Bryan Mussard's philosophy. He and his wife are third generations to raise cattle. "My grandparents fed and finished cattle in Ohio. My wife Marcia's grandparents homesteaded in eastern Montana. We're old-school people and truly appreciate history and how things came to be. I still remember it was 2000 and we were driving through a ranch we were leasing where our cows were and the name Reminisce Angus suddenly came to me.," says Mussard. Mussard purchased his first registered cows 34 years ago in 1984 while he was still in high school.
"We have a lot of respect for history and for what makes an Angus cow the best cow in the world—maternal trait and high marbling. That's what we've tried to install and transmit and hold onto in our cow herd."
Reminisce Angus is located near Dillon, Montana and consists of five segments under the umbrella name of Big West Management. Mussard, his wife and two of their six children are involved in the day-to-day operations.
"Our number-one goal with our bulls is repeat customers," Mussard says, adding that before their 2017 bull sale they recognized seven ranches that have been buying bulls for 20-33 years. In addition to breeding quality bulls, their Big West Management entity includes a cattle feeding facility that can handle 6,000 head simultaneously, taking in between 10,000-12,000 head each year. Not all the cattle they feed are on a finishing ration, they also handle steers to feed and turn over and heifers to AI.
“I call our nutrition program the ‘silent herder.’ Because the cattle stay healthy, it’s allowed us to eliminate one pen rider. When you have a superior nutrition program, you eliminate a lot of sick cattle. When you look at the cattle in our pens, mainly what you’ll see are healthy cattle. Our folks who feed see the cattle three times a day; the pen riders see them once. In addition, most of our cattle are customer cattle with our genetics; we only take about 20 percent sale barn cattle.”Bryan Mussard
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As for keeping the animals healthy, Mussard strongly believes that an exemplary nutrition program keeps animals healthy and gaining. Due in part to a three-times-per-day feeding schedule and an extensive mineral package, the livestock stay healthy. "I call our nutrition program the 'silent herder.' Because the cattle stay healthy, it's allowed us to eliminate one pen rider," Mussard says "When you have a superior nutrition program, you eliminate a lot of sick cattle. When you look at the cattle in our pens, mainly what you'll see are healthy cattle. Our folks who feed see the cattle three times a day; the pen riders see them once. In addition, most of our cattle are customer cattle with our genetics; we only take about 20 percent sale barn cattle."
The rancher admits that although he enjoys all aspects of the ranch, his passion is for the registered Angus. He loves the challenges of the numbers and making a breeding decision that won't see fruition for two years. "Even after those two years it's an additional two years when you buy those cattle back you can see if they're healthy and did they gain – then you know if you made the right breeding decision," Mussard says.
He serves as the ranch auditor, which involves going back to see where they started and what was learned. "What I want to find out when I do an audit: Can people buy cattle from us knowing when we tell them what we tell them, it's going to happen? We're very candid with our customers."
Reminisce has been using the Tracker program—the first source and age-verified program—since 2003. They wanted to be able to track the genetics all the way to the retail store or restaurant, working with Cargill and several feedlots to track the cattle through. "It's important that when we tell our customers and feedlots that our bulls are going to perform, we deliver. The one way to do that is put yourself on the line and see if you can deliver the results."
The future of agriculture
"Our future and livelihood are up to us, not somebody else," explains Mussard who, despite running a large ranch and has taken time to be active in the industry. Currently, he's serving a two-year term as president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. "It's very important to tell your story. Ranchers assume their customers think ranchers are great What you have to keep in mind is they are not beholden to you to eat beef. Customers today have numerous options for protein, so they don't have to buy beef."
He explains that with all of the challenges livestock producers are facing from overzealous environmental regulations to people who believe livestock negatively affect wildlife and cause global warming, it's never been as critical to speak up and speak out as it is today.
"As the saying goes, if you're not at the table, you're on the menu. You have to be willing to take on the challenge," says Mussard. "When you get involved in an organization, you spend time away from home your business and your family. If you say you're too busy, it's a cop-out. We're all busy. Either fork over your time or fork over your money."
Mussard bristles at the claim that cows are a large cause of global warming and are detrimental to the planet. "Cultured food and fake meat are the result of the global warming theory – it's just that, a theory – because people have become worried about it. First, the global warming theory is completely untrue. Meat in a petri dish means that cows aren't using resources, they aren't drinking water and in the petri dish, everything is in perfect harmony. Not true. It's not meat. Fortunately, we have a friendly administration who is not going let it be called meat but called a cultured protein. Meat has to have four hooves. You look at things coming down the pike like fake meat, it's another excellent reason to get involved in an organization that is going to challenge that."
One unique way the Mussards have reached the non-ag public is through two non-beef products; their Gorgeous Potato Vodka (gluten-free) and Cattle Baron cigars. Mussard admits that, much like the name Reminisce Angus, distilling potato vodka and the unique bottle design came out of the blue "When something comes to me, I just go do it. If something comes up it's the result of subconscious aspirations."
Meeting people in the spirits industry led to his next enterprise—cigars. "I've enjoyed cigars for 30 years. I like to drink cranberry juice and ice tea mixed together, so I decided to produce a cranberry tea flavored vodka; I introduced that to the cigar folks."
After a trip to the Dominican Republic and 12 attempts at finding the right blend, the 13th try – the Mussard's own blend – was a success. The vodka has been successful rating with five gold medals and the cigars have received a 93-point rating.
"You have to be a perfectionist to survive," Mussard muses "We've been successful in some tough industries to get into. I was always told my whole life that I wouldn't be able to own a ranch and now we own a ranch because we decided we were going to do it. Cigars and vodka were the same way. Those unique opportunities opened our eyes and got us visiting with consumers away from the ranch. Most consumers like ranching. We listen to them more and it helps us say, "Wow, we can do more things."