Brad and Cathy James founded Touchstone Angus in 1993 with the help of their two young children Austin and Kate. The first ranch was established near Elizabeth, Colorado with the purchase of 15 registered angus cattle from Bill Corbin of the Tail N Ranch in Oklahoma. Our intent was to continue the development of a pure strain of angus cattle known as “the Emulous line” originally developed by Bill’s father and uncle in the late 1950’s. This family of angus cattle had become widely recognized for their ability to produce exceptionally tender and flavorful beef.
In the 1970’s the cattle industry moved to a high production model that encouraged the out-crossing of angus cattle along with crossbreeding them among different breeds. While these production models increased the total tonnage of beef, overall beef quality suffered. Specific lines of purebred cattle that had been developed over centuries were being lost rapidly. Angus cattle had originally been developed in Scotland over many hundreds of years by the royalty and nobles. Their selection focus and breeding objective was to maximize the tenderness and flavor of beef.
As genetic strains and even breeds of cattle were being lost so was the ability of individual animals to reproduce the strengths (breed true) they had once been developed for. While there is a place for these hybrid cattle, we believe there should also be a place for a pure strain of angus cattle the royals of Scotland developed.
To that end we began small but with a bigger dream in mind and named our family ranch “Touchstone Angus Ranch.” We felt the name symbolized the “noble” idea of preserving and improving a pure strain of angus cattle that offered the best tasting beef in the world. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a touchstone as: 1)A hard, black stone, such as jasper or basalt, formerly used to test the quality of gold or silver by comparing the streak left on the stone by one of these metals with that of a standard alloy. 2) An excellent quality or example that is used to test the excellence or genuineness of others.
In 1999 we sold our ranch in Elizabeth and were able to purchase the ranch we operate today near Lusk, Wyoming. It is larger and better suited to year round grazing. The grasses found on the ranch include a balance of both early and late season species. This extends the time the cattle can graze on green forage which they greatly prefer over brown dormant grass. None of the pastures need to be chemically sprayed, tilled or reseeded because we practice “rotational grazing”. Rotational grazing mimics the natural cycle of the North American Bison who grazed an area intensively for a short period of time and then moved on allowing for a rest period. This practice can dramatically improve the health and forage production of the native ranges that have been traditionally grazed by cattle year round. It also improves wildlife habitat for the many native species that are now thriving on the ranch.
Our cattle are able to spend their entire lives grazing in open pastures although for short periods of time on any given pasture. If there is such a thing as cow happiness it is most evident when they move from a pasture they have been in for a period of time to a freshened new pasture. Their heads are held high, ears and noses focused forward, a spring in their steps often times breaking into running, bucking and playing with each other. Because our cattle are not confined or concentrated in feedlots eating unnatural diets (grains) there are virtually no sickness or health issues.
Today, after many years of utilizing ultrasound and DNA marker assisted tests to identify individual animals for beef tenderness our cattle average in the top 10% of the angus breed for this trait. In fact, a number of individuals in this year’s calf crop are in the top 1% of the entire angus breed for possessing the DNA markers known to produce tender beef. Beyond offering the most-tender and flavorful grass fed beef available, you can be assured the cattle will be raised in a healthy, respectful way while preserving and enhancing the native ecosystem.