When Brian Good became a field representative for Independent Breeders Service in the 1990s, a fellow fieldman offered some simple yet valuable advice that’s served him well through the years.
Keith Coates, then a fieldman for the Canadian Hereford Association, took Good under his wing in his early days in this role.
“One thing he said was ‘treat everybody the same.’ The guy that has a good bull or a bad bull, it doesn’t matter because guess what? They all pay the same amount of money. Don’t forget that,” Good recalls.
Treating everyone with respect and fostering genuine connections has allowed Good to become one of the best-known figures in the Canadian beef industry. As the top field representative for the Canadian Angus Association (CAA), Good worked for two decades to bridge the gap between purebred and commercial sectors. He’s developed an ability to remember names and details about people that others have to take Dale Carnegie courses to master, something that he notes makes a difference in building relationships, and you’re sure to see him at field days, bull sales, auction markets and cattle shows across Western Canada.
Good announced his retirement in February, after 21 years of representing the Angus breed across the country and on the international stage. The scores of well-wishers who sent their best at hearing this news are a testament to his success in creating connections.
Good’s career path provided opportunities to experience a variety of facets of the beef industry, and Angus cattle have always played a starring role. His father, Glenn Good, started their purebred Angus herd, Black Browe Cattle Company, at Red Deer, Alta., in 1957.
“I was four years old, so I’ve been in it all my life,” says Good. His grandmother named their farm, he explains, for the “black cattle and the brow of the hill, because that went down into the river valley.”
Good’s father was a well-known figure in the breed who served as CAA president in 1983. The farm’s entry in the Canadian Angus History Book published in the 1980s lists numerous noteworthy bulls and females from the Black Browe breeding program, cattle that left their mark in the show and sale rings and on purebred herds across the country.
As a teenager, Good spent three summers working for friends of his father’s, Berwyn and Leta Wise of Boa-Kae Ranch at Irricana, Alta., travelling to cattle shows and taking care of their large show string of Shorthorns. It was a valuable experience for Good, who learned much from the Wises and looked up to them.
In the fall of 1971, Ken Cox, who worked for San-Dan Charolais of Erskine, Alta., invited Good to come along to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “Ken was a great teacher and a great guy to work with,” he says.
They travelled to Toronto by train, taking care of the cattle in uninsulated boxcars. They often had to wait hours in the cold before the train stopped and they could return to the passenger cars.
After these early experiences on the road, Good returned to the family farm where with his wife, Lynanne, they raised their two children, Kevin and Tracey. In 1991, they dispersed their main herd, and Good looked towards new opportunities in the beef industry. He worked for a time with Gary Smith of Alta Exports. Smith connected Good to Harry Haney of Lethbridge, who then owned Independent Breeders Service and was looking for a fieldman.
To help increase business for Independent Breeders and raise its profile, Good quickly realized he needed to visit more potential customers. “You’ve got to go to a sale, and when the sale’s over you’ve got to over there and visit the guy that bought the bull,” he explains. “I was lucky because when I went to some of these deals, I happened to know a lot of people.”
He met many beef producers through his involvement with Red Deer Westerner Days, chairing the beef committee for several years. “I was never scared to approach people anyway. That’s half the battle.”
Good enjoyed his time with Independent Breeders, and he speaks highly of Haney. “He was probably one of the greatest guys to work for,” he says.
This role required him to be on the road quite frequently, travelling throughout Canada and the United States. He recalls one year where he made at least 11 trips from Red Deer to Lloydminster to attend sales. “I got to the point where I could go up and back in the same day.”
Tying together purebred and commercial sectors
After Independent Breeders, Good worked briefly in sales management with two of his mentors — Rob Holowaychuk of OBI Livestock Ltd. and Doug Henderson of DJH and Associates Ltd. — and on his own, but decided it wasn’t for him. The opportunity to step back into the role of fieldman came when he mentioned to then-CAA president Mabel Hamilton of Belvin Angus at Innisfail, Alta., that it would be valuable for the association to have a fieldman focused on commercial producers.
Good took on the position of commercial fieldman in 2000, primarily serving Alberta and British Columbia. As an ambassador of the breed, he’s travelled across Canada, the U.S. and to international beef events, always with the goal of connecting the CAA to the commercial cattleman.
“Between the purebred and the commercial side of it, you have to tie them together,” he says. “To me it’s so simple: work with your commercial customers. Go to the auction mart, pat them on the back for selling their good set of calves.”
He believes it’s a mistake to give less attention to the commercial sector, and he feels that some purebred producers don’t truly consider the needs of these customers. Meeting countless commercial producers provided a better understanding of what matters to them, and learning what traits and numbers really matter to them is just one example of this. He’s had ranchers who run large operations tell him that they leave the EPDs for the purebred breeders, preferring to focus on performance data instead when purchasing seedstock.
“I think the purebred guys could listen a lot better to the commercial guys,” he says. “Why would you try to raise something that they don’t want?”
This extends to taking the time to get to know your customers. “What I always thought was a good deal in the purebred business, if you’re having a bull sale, is delivering the bulls,” he says, mentioning the importance of not being in a hurry to leave once you arrive at the customer’s place. “You have a visit with that guy, and (say) ‘Okay, this is the bull, let me have a look at your cows.’ You’ve got to help them out that way.”
Being visible, available and knowledgeable about what he promoted was key to doing his best as a fieldman. His favourite events, bull sales, provided the perfect opportunity to see as many people as possible at once. This is true for producers as well, he adds, pointing towards breeders who attend as many community events as possible to build connections and market their cattle.
“If I ever had to do it over again — start in the purebred business — I don’t think I’d have much trouble selling bulls because I know all the little tricks,” he said laughing.
It’s a people business
In addition to his love for the Angus breed, Good has always respected other beef breeds and believes in the value of purebred breeders connecting with each other. On social media, he shares posts promoting the sale of cattle of all breeds, not just Angus.
“You’ve got to reciprocate,” he says, adding that the perception of arrogance on the part of one breed can lead to trouble. “One of our problems in the beef business is that we don’t respect the other breeds.”
Respect in every capacity is vital when navigating a job that, at its heart, is all about people. “One thing that I’ve always known about this business is it’s a people business, and I think that’s probably true in a lot of businesses,” Good explains.
His most important lesson in working with others has been to truly listen to them. “You’ve got to learn to be a good listener,” he says. “When you go one-on-one with somebody, when you drive into their yard, they don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say… unless they ask. Let them do the talking.”
It’s people just as much as cattle that have made this job memorable. From mentors such as Bob Prestige to colleagues such as Belinda Wagner and Bob Toner, industry figures such as Dave Callaway and Grant Rolston to breeders such as Bob Switzer, Millie Boake, Stacey Stauffer and Jon Fox, Good is quick to mention those who stood out during his time with the CAA.
“Those people have always been pretty important to me over the years.”
In turn, Good has been important to many people in the beef industry. His commitment to going the extra mile to establish mutually beneficial connections is illustrated by the partnership he fostered between the CAA and the Livestock Markets Association of Canada (LMAC). Building a relationship with LMAC executive secretary Rick Wright allowed for greater access to the commercial sector.
Early on Good facilitated the association supplying all the beef to LMAC’s annual convention. Later, the CAA sponsored the Livestock Auction Market of the Year award. This visibility at a gathering of auction markets and order buyers from across the country was valuable for the CAA, and Good encouraged field representatives at other breed associations to sponsor the annual conference. Together with the Canadian Simmental, Limousin, Charolais and Hereford Associations, the five breed associations sponsored buckles for the top Canadian auctioneers. This sponsorship is now rotated each year.
To recognize how he’s gone above and beyond to support its members and build these relationships, LMAC presented Good with the special Industry Champion award in 2019, which has only been given out three times in 20 years.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” says Good. “That’s the biggest honour I ever got.”
To transition from raising cattle to a job that allowed him to be a “professional visitor,” as his wife describes, in the industry he loves, has been a rewarding experience for Good, who reflects fondly on the people and cattle that have shaped his time as a fieldman.
“It’s been a great career for me because when you sell your farm you’ve got to go and do something else,” he says. “To me, this has been an ultimate job because I’ve got do what I wanted to do — I get to see cattle every day, get to see people every day.”