e72. Tech Savvy to Farm Savvy with Mason Lantz

On this episode, we sat down with Mason Lantz, a first-generation farmer who transformed his life by diving into farming without any prior experience. The discussion delves into Mason’s journey, from learning about grazing and homesteading through YouTube videos and books to managing his own cattle farm. The episode also covers the challenges of setting up a cattle farm, the integration of IoT devices in farming, and Mason’s innovative strategies for cost reduction. Finally, Mason shares valuable advice for aspiring and experienced farmers alike, discussing details about grazing, breeding cows, and buying calves. This episode provides an inspiring and insightful look into the life and work of a modern farmer.

Social media:
Instagram: @elmsofbigcreekfarm
Facebook: Elms of Big Creek Farm


These transcriptions are automatically generated. Please excuse any errors in the text.

0:00:00 – Cal Hardage
Welcome to the Grazing Grass Podcast, episode 72.

0:00:04 – Mason Lantz
Create guardrails where, if something goes wrong, you’re not losing the farm, the cows aren’t dying, that kind of stuff. As long as you have those guardrails, just go do it. You’re not going to learn by sitting there analyzing and thinking about it over and over again.

0:00:18 – Cal Hardage
You’re listening to the Grazing Grass Podcast, helping grass farmers learn from grass farmers, and every episode features a grass farmer and their operation. I’m your host, cal Hardidge. On today’s episode we have Mason Lance. He’s a first generation farmer just getting started while working a full-time job and his farm is located an hour and a half from him. But I think just those two things will hold a lot of interest how he manages his animals when he’s not there close by and just getting started as a first generation farmer For 10 seconds on our farm.

It’s really not much different. It’s been hot. I did not get all the mowing and cool seasons planted I wanted, but we do have a ray of sunshine or maybe maybe a pail of rain. We got rain last night, which was really nice. Of course I’m happy for the rain. A little disappointed I didn’t get all the cool seasons in, but there’ll be another time. It does seem like occasionally I just can’t get to everything, but I try. Let’s talk to Mason. Mason, we want to welcome you to the Grazing Grass Podcast. We’re excited you’re here today.

0:01:35 – Mason Lantz
That’s great. I appreciate you inviting me on.

0:01:38 – Cal Hardage
Mason, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your operation?

0:01:42 – Mason Lantz
Sure, yeah, so I’m first generation. My grandfather took care of cows for someone and lived on a house on the ranch and did a little bit of that, but he passed away before I could help or really know anything other than seeing a couple of Brahmin cows behind the house. So from that, no experience. I guess probably in 2015 or so I was my first year out of college, I was a developer. I didn’t want to be a developer. I’m not a good developer, but that was a way to get into corporate America and I had a tech degree. I just wanted to be on the business management side of tech.

So I was kind of disenchanted sitting there trying to figure out how to code and listening to YouTube videos. I started with the Jeep, off-road camping and EDC bushcraft and then it got into self-reliance and then somehow I found myself on grazing and homesteading and so I was watching Justin Rhodes with my wife and young kid at the time and they did the Great American Farm Tour. I thought it was a good thing to watch as a family, for my first son to kind of watch that as entertainment and set up some other stuff, and he was going to places that did like permaculture and then he went to Greg Judy’s and all these places and I just went down the rabbit hole from there. From then I started reading some books and no risk, ranching all that stuff and I found Salatin and Savory and all the normal names you hear online and so I was thinking of how do I do this with a full-time job? Family I was Uber and lifting on the side because we decided we were going to be a single-income family, my wife’s going to stay home and take care of the kids. So I was just trying to get rid of student debt, really just attack debt and get as much money in the door as possible, especially since I was young and I didn’t need as much sleep.

Yeah, so I was trying to figure out how I was going to get in the door because I had no experience, so never even been in a field with a cow and then walking by to go to a fish like fishing at cattle tank, like no experience at all. I grew up in a small town. Everyone had cattle, everyone roped, everyone rode bulls, all that stuff, and I never was involved. So I was just trying to figure out how do you get in the door if you had no experience and no land and no money. And so a couple of those Judy addresses with the like, no land, and then the no money he’s talking about, like someone else’s land, someone else’s cows. But I quickly found out they laugh at you if you have no experience, especially in Texas, because everyone has experience in Texas, like everyone. So I’m in I guess that’s another thing I’m north of Austin Texas. I got my first job in Austin Texas but I’m from Waco Texas and I went to college in Waco Texas, so I’m not far from home, about 40 minutes from my childhood home.

So I’m hearing of like people that have been ranching for 20, 30 years losing their leases because they transferred it to someone else. I’m like I’m definitely not going to be able to do this because no one wants some guy that has never owned a cow in his life to come experiment on their property. I decided I was going to take my money and like my skills of like paying attention to, like getting rid of debt and just saving and all that stuff and just really make it down and make sure I could get a small property. It didn’t have to be enough to support cattle, it just had to be enough to support education, of learning how to have some cattle, how to move them around, how to set up an electric fence, how to set up water systems, that kind of stuff, so that when I did get the chance I could try to convince someone into a bigger lease and then start. So I ended up finding some community in that time.

I was searching online because I was like I’ve only seen people do this in like Missouri and Virginia and these are such different climates, like grass does not grow, like that where I’m here. I had the same like it’s not going to work where I’m at problem that everyone kind of runs into oh, that won’t work here. So I was like, well, I recognize that I, that could be just me saying that. So I needed to find someone doing it here and I came across a YouTube video of Doug Winters who’s trail of faith ranch. He does regenerative stuff in central Texas area with long horns.

So I was also interested in long horns because I’d heard about how well they were adapted to the area and a few other things. And so I just went to their website and hit the message button and was like, hey, I’d love to learn anything I can. I saw you on this podcast and are on this YouTube video and I see that you’re doing similar stuff to what I want to do and you’ve been doing it for a while and I just want to learn. And they basically just said eights open, show up and come see. Yeah, that was probably the best thing that could have happened at that point, because I probably would have been just like sit there and analysis, paralysis forever. That hadn’t happened, so I drove up there. It was a little interesting because they’re like three hours away. So I was like, let’s just drive up there and hope that they’re normal.

I don’t know, but yeah, so that was, that was the next step.

0:06:46 – Cal Hardage
That’s great, just taking that initiative for you to step out on that leap of faith and send them a message to say, hey, can I help, how can I help? I just want to learn One thing. We’d mentioned earlier talking a little bit about the bigger pockets podcast, and that’s one thing they talk a lot about is mentors on the bigger pockets podcast, and they’re always like don’t just ask someone hey, I need help. Tell them how you can help them, how you can benefit them. But that was great, they gave you that opportunity.

0:07:20 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, and comes to find out that that’s just them. They are that type of people, everyone in the area that wants like this, the different, like salt, brine style minerals, the ACV type stuff they all get it through them. So it turns out that they’re just those people there. The whole area kind of revolves around like talking to them and getting stuff from them and they’re really involved in great people. So I they say luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. So the opportunity just showed up when I was lucky.

0:07:51 – Cal Hardage
So you got the chance to go up there. How did that go for you?

0:07:55 – Mason Lantz
It went great. I pulled up and I messaged them that I was here and they were on the phone with. I don’t know why I’m blanking on his name at the moment, but he’s famous for the salt brine mineral.

0:08:07 – Cal Hardage
Oh yeah.

0:08:08 – Mason Lantz
Anyways, he is all over the internet talking about this and they were on the phone with him and they were like, oh, lucky, this person’s on the phone, like giving me the like nod, nod, that I shouldn’t like. Oh, you should know who this is. And so I got to sit in and listen to that conversation and I had no clue who it was. I was like I’ve never heard of this person. But then I went and researched it later. I’m like wow, that was actually a really interesting opportunity to sit there and listen to a consult call with this guy. And so that’s how it started. And then from there he was like hop in the side by side, let’s go move the cows. We went up to a lease property he has like down on the corner, because they were there and I, and it was the middle of the summer in Texas and there’s grass taller than my head, and I was like this is not real, there’s no way. And so we’re like driving through. We came to see the cows because the grass is taller than us. A lot of it’s Johnson grass, but either way, it’s not like that anywhere around where I’m at, it’s just bare ground. I was instantly struck by that. And then also the longhorns are very impressive.

But so I helped him run a high tensile line pound in a fiberglass post.

He had some of those huge like pipe fiberglass sucker rods that he used as in posts, so I got to help him drive one of those in and he showed me how to tie the knot for it and he showed me how to like. He showed me some some nipx pliers that he likes a lot that actually cut through the high tensile line and all kinds of stuff Like. I have like a whole page of notes from that because I was after like the third set of like like actual wire cutter pliers that I like bent cutting high tensile wire. I was like, okay, I guess he’s right, but that’s how that whole trip went. He, he gave me all these like different tips on using the like salt brine as a mineral and throwing some ACV out there for for them every once in a while and like how he moved with different reels and setting up like the ladder style like strip grazing and all that stuff, and I was like man, this is like a college education in one day of visiting someone.

0:10:06 – Cal Hardage
Yeah, so. So you left that day thinking I’ve got to do this, this, this is what I should be doing.

0:10:12 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, and I knew that I wanted to do that. But that was the point that I was like, oh, I’m going and I have to do this. I got to figure it out.

Oh yeah, yeah, because before that I was making all kinds of excuses, like only people that have a ranch, that they inherited or have a lot of money can start this, or they’re just willing to be a cowboy and have no money. So I got on Facebook on a couple of groups I was on and I messaged on there. I was like hey, anyone willing to like let me come out and do a day of working with you, fix a fence, whatever. And I met a guy on there who he was. He was really interested in some permaculture stuff and we were making some biocharts, setting up some fences and clearing a forest area he has, because he had a drainage area of like really tall woods that he was running.

In Catalan. He was decently new too, so that was interesting that we were just kind of learning there together. So I stayed in touch with him. He has like a grazing group, but he introduced me into Jim Elizondo, which I had not heard of before that, and so he told me of like a course on YouTube that he has, and so I went and watched that and I’m like this is completely different than what I hear on every other grazing like thing. So I’m like now like I don’t know which is good, because I was thinking before this is how you do everything right, this is how you do everything like, not thinking of, like alternatives. And then that came up and I’m like, okay, this is way more complicated of a system than just move the cows. Take 50%, whatever the normal, whatever the thing is of the day.

0:11:51 – Cal Hardage
Yeah, take half, leave half. Or take a third trim, pull a third, leave a third. Alessandro, he is total grazing.

0:12:00 – Mason Lantz
He still leaves residual, but it’s a lot different. It’s like 90% utilization or 95 or whatever.

0:12:07 – Cal Hardage
Yes, yeah.

0:12:08 – Mason Lantz
And so, seeing that, I’m like, okay, there’s a lot more to this. So then I kept trying to make connections with people. So that was what I started with. But actually getting into it, I had been looking for probably five or six years. We were just in a small house downtown, first family, like a thousand square feet, like little house. I’d been searching. I’d finally got rid of student debt, finally started saving like a little nest egg for my down payment and I was getting bonuses at work and I was just kind of nesting everything away. And then I was starting to give up. I was like I don’t know how I’m gonna find a small property Like. I was even looking.

I was like maybe I can do it on like five acres and have like two cows so, and like, learn that way, I just need to learn first. But so then everything started getting a little weird around 2020 COVID, all that and we had another kid and so we were thinking we’re out growing this house. We can’t live in a thousand square foot house with all these people and there’s two dogs and everything and I have chickens in the backyard and yeah, and I was still like really into real estate investing at that point and I was like let’s just get a new build house in an area that Austin’s growing to we know it’s gonna grow. Let’s just move, get a DR Horton new build house and let’s rent this house out downtown in this nice area that everyone’s moving to. It’s kind of hipster and there’s a brewery that they built next door and live music and I’m like someone would love to rent this house. So I was like this thing’s like a gold mine.

I got into it super cheap early because I was willing to move far out and I was looking for something I could afford and I didn’t want to live in Austin. So we got into that house of really good price and we stayed there for seven, eight years and so then we decided we’re gonna keep it. We were gonna rent it out and you can kind of qualify by saying you’re gonna rent it out and then as long as you, after you close, you have a contract and all this stuff. And so we were working on that. We signed our new house and then the next day after we signed, like there was like a thousand person waiting list for these neighborhoods and I was like something is going on in the market. But we just built out that house and then about halfway through the housing market exploded and they went crazy and I calculated and it would take about 10 years of getting rental income just to get to the money where we’re gonna get above what we owed on it.

And I was like the longterm play is to hold this house. We will get more money in the longterm but in the immediate 10 to 20 years I’m gonna be ahead. So that’s a long time of working, keeping rental people, people messing up your house, like all this stuff to be worth it. So I was like let’s just sell the house and I’m gonna accelerate the land thing, like I know that I mean I’ll move further out, whatever. And so we had our new build house and we had the other one and then we sold it. So at that exact same time we were working with a realtor for like ranches and land and hunting and stuff and we had found one. So the downsides it’s an hour and a half from our house. The good plus is it’s a decent rainfall area plus 30 inches of rain Not and it turns out, not in the two years I’ve started, but normal it’s whatever normal is. So we just used that money. We kept some back and used a little bit of it to get into a property. We had found that property about 24 acres.

I was pretty specific on the property. I didn’t want any like weird mineral ride stuff, no, weird restrictions and that stuff. So some of that just took a long time, just cause I’m really picky, but ended up finding that property. It was really well laid out. It was long and skinny 24 acres, it’s probably about 700 feet or so wide, and so the back is a drainage area that has like seven, eight foot gullies and an elm forest. So that is a project I wanna do in the future. I haven’t done that yet. I wanna try to figure out how to keep some water down there, mess around in the forest. But it’s fenced off, which is good, cause it’s a drainage between like four properties and then it leads to like a 2,000 acre cattle. So all these are connected by that drainage area. So thankfully it’s fenced off and then from there to the front it’s clear pasture with some shade trees and pasture.

So we ended up closing on that and then I had to work on getting it usable. So I got a meter pole for electric and then I had to fix the front fence on the road, cause my most important thing is keep them out of the road. They can get in the neighbor’s properties because they don’t run cattle. Well, one ran cattle and he has a really stout fence, like it’s probably four different types of fence that he’s put in over the 20 something years he’s lived there. So like got some chain link in it, it’s got some like woven wire, it’s got like a couple barbed wire fences so nothing’s getting through there. And he had a bowl and it didn’t get on my side. So I was like his fence is good. The other neighbor, she doesn’t care. She’s a widow and she has about like 50 acres total and she couldn’t care less if cattle got on her property. So I decided that that was the least of my problems, cause she didn’t care, and so I was making sure they didn’t get on the road. That was my thing.

It’s a slow road and it’s dirt, so it wouldn’t be a huge deal. But it just seemed like a huge deal to me cause I didn’t have any experience. I didn’t know how to get the cows back on the property, like, how do you do that if you don’t know how to do that? So I did that first, made sure I had a pretty stout front fence.

0:17:27 – Cal Hardage
Talking on that Mason for a second. You go out there and did it have enough of a fence that you repaired it, or did you have to put in a new fence?

0:17:38 – Mason Lantz
At the on the roadside. It needed a new fence. It was not even there, like I could grab the barbed wire and snap it.

0:17:43 – Cal Hardage
I’m assuming you had not built a barbed wire fence before, or did you get opportunity when you were helping some other people?

0:17:51 – Mason Lantz
No, no, no experience. I hadn’t like helped my dad with some chain link at our house growing up and I built wood like residential fences, just because stuff gets blown down by a tornado or whatever. But that was about my fencing. But I’ve worked on cars and I like YouTubing how to do something between, like software development, which I’m not good at, and I had to do as a job, or working on cars or just any kind of thing Like I can figure it out, like look it up and then learn a little bit of the basics and then just make it work.

0:18:24 – Cal Hardage
So you were able to use YouTube to get it figured out and you were able to get a fence up.

0:18:30 – Mason Lantz
But that front fence I hired out because I wanted to do like a tall woven wire fence with piping, like oil filled piping welded together like a barbed wire at the top. So I don’t have any welding experience. So I was like I don’t want to have to do the little like bullet things and it’ll not look as great or end up doing like some wood cedar posts or something and it wrought out in however many years. So I just ended up paying for that, cause it was only I mean like I think it was like 700 feet or so at the front, so I mean it’s not crazy large. And then so I found some people on Facebook that were willing to do it for cheaper, which sometimes isn’t good.

Doing it for cheaper You’re going to get lower quality, but it was good enough for me. I did hire that out. But some of the other fences I did have to secure up, but I didn’t change them yet. I really need to like start replacing stuff, cause my cows decide that they can just walk through barbed wire fence, cause it’s not good at all.

0:19:26 – Cal Hardage
It all comes with time and you’ll figure out. There’s a never ending list of things to do. So when you you got your fence up, what’d you do then?

0:19:35 – Mason Lantz
So then it was figuring out water and electric and then also buying cows. During that time I had kind of been looking for some lower cost options and I had found Corrientes, which are like the Creole cattle that the Spanish brought over, and they got wild and some in the north were more longhorn, what we know of. And then South Texas, mexico, was more Corriente, and I had just from Longhorns had found them also and Creo and the firecracker ones over in Florida and stuff, and just learning about how well they work, what they ate, more like various forages. They don’t have calving problems, all that stuff. But the downside is they didn’t have they’re not beef cattle. So but I wanted to start there. So I was trying to find cattle, but then also I wanted to have some infrastructure set up before I got.

It Turns out that I found the cattle after I had ordered the materials but I hadn’t set them up yet. So I created a crunch time because I said I would buy them and all I had was the. I had an energizer in a box and I had a roll of high-tensile wire and then I didn’t have any posts yet like step in posts, and I had two rolls of polywire in the mail, not even there yet. I had to make sure that that all worked. So I started with the energizer and of course I plug it in and it pops the GFCI instantly and just pops it off every single time. And I’m like I don’t understand what this is. And I was talking with someone and they basically were like you can’t use a GFCI with the energizer that you bought. I’m like I thought you had to have a GFCI if it was outside. I am not an electrician. So I basically was like I ask a few people and they’re like I ought to be fine, and so I just swapped it out for a standard one, put a waterproof box on it, plugged it in and it worked. So from there I started setting up.

Greg Judy around that time had put out like what do you do when you’re starting out, like 10 acres, whatever? What do you look for first? And so I took a lot from that video and basically I just created a lane down the center since as long as skinny with the polywire from front to back to the woods or not polywire, the high-tensile wire on T-posts, even though people don’t like that. But I was like I can’t figure out the like I’m not gonna pay for timeless posts yet because I don’t know what I’m doing and I can’t find any of the fiberglass rods that people are saying to use. I was looking all over the place, all over the internet, and then when I did find them, people were just selling them for too much to ship to me so I couldn’t go pick them up or something. So I was like I’m doing T-posts and insulators.

So I did that T-posts, insulators, single wire down the center, and I had this idea that I was gonna like use these pin insulators and then like lift it with a PVC pole and use that as like if I need to move to the other side. That’s just an instant gate. I’ve tried that a couple of times. They’re not really a fan, and then later I’ve decided I don’t really wanna teach them to go under the wire, so I haven’t used that much. But from front to back.

And then I figured I’d put my water line down the center also, and so I got the water line somewhat set up. I was trying to find the HD polypipe. I can’t. I could never find anybody that told me like go, go get it here or you need these specifications. So I ordered some from Home Depot that I thought was correct, and it turns out that there’s SIDR and SDR, so there’s like the standard outside diameter and the standard inside diameter, and so I got the standard inside diameter and then I got all the like pressure fittings and everything that you, that Dreg Judy uses, and the like pop in like quick connects, quick couplers.

So I go to set it all up and I turn the water on and they all just explode. They felt like blow apart. And this is when I have the cows there, and so I have my spicket from the road. That’s the only water I have on the property, so I have them in like a half bucket with a float valve on that spicket and so I’m like, okay, good, they can be here for not very long, like a week or two.

So then I get that all set up and I turn it on and it just blows all the fittings apart and I’m at a loss. I’m like I don’t understand. This is what everyone says to do and any grazing thing. I’m like I don’t understand my problem. And so I started looking at it, asking the Placin, people at it, asking him. I think Placin was the or was the T’s too. I can’t remember who made the compression T’s, but I asked them and they were basically like send us a picture, send them a picture. They like, yeah, we don’t do SIDR. I’m like then what does it do with this? It’s just HD poly pipe, isn’t it? And they were like no, the SDR, this is an out, this is an inside. We need the outside so that it can clamp to it.

Then I was trying to do just like barb fittings with hose clamps and I’m like I don’t understand. I’m tightening these hose clamps until they break and they’re still leaking. And no one has any answers for me. They’re like I’ve never had one break. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

So I think just now, like just maybe, like a couple months ago, I figured out why all that was happening is that I don’t have a pressure reducing valve on my line. So it’s like however many hundred PSI from the road, I feel dumb for not knowing that. I’m like Of course it was just blowing the fittings apart. Of course I couldn’t get the hose clamp tied enough. If it’s however many hundred psi, all the money I’m spending, all the time I’m spending, is just my tuition, since I didn’t have any growing up learning on how to deal with cattle. So I finally found all of that out and I found fittings that were made for SIDR. They’re very expensive but they have like a almost like a barb fitting that goes on the inside, then something that goes on the outside and the two clamp together. So if anyone is in that problem where you have the inside one, there is a fitting. You just have to find someone that will send it to you, like they had to mail me one from Hawaii. That was interesting.

So I got that set up. I got it partially set up because I miscalculated how much pipe I need, because I didn’t calculate going from the side where the spigot was and going around the corner then through the center. So I only got about halfway down the property. But by then I was like I’m not spending more money and I’ll figure it out when I get there. So for the first bit I only rotated maybe the first three quarters of the property. I went down and back just because I couldn’t get to water and so I just started going from there.

0:25:45 – Cal Hardage
It’s always curious to me on the corientes. I have some corientes I’ve mentioned on the podcast before, but I was very apprehensive about getting them initially because I just didn’t know. I thought they may be crazy. I just had no clue because I’ve been around beef cattle and dairy cattle and dairy cattle especially are so tame so I just never knew and I’m not a fan of horns. So how did those first corientes do for you? And I’m assuming you got corientes to get started.

0:26:21 – Mason Lantz
Yes. So they did amazing. So I didn’t have all the preconceived things. So I was like this is just a skinny version of the thing that would crush me if it leaned up against me. So maybe this one won’t crush me. And the horns didn’t bother me too much just because they’re so much smaller than long horns that would they’d accidentally just knock you out with one. So they didn’t bother me too much because I didn’t plan on like being too close at first. Now I’m trying to like pet them on the head and stuff, but they still won’t let me touch them. But the first. So I bought six originally because that’s what the guy had. It turns out he had an Aberdeen Angus that I really liked that they were bred to, so I was really impressed with the bull. I was like I’m getting some bull genetics that I would probably be looking for later, like shorter, fatter, like older style Angus. I was like this is a pretty interesting opportunity.

And it was 2022. So people were in Texas, were struggling and people were just selling off cattle. I met these people online and turns. I still talk to them today. But they were getting rid of these six because of the drought and they didn’t want to feed them anymore and they were bred to this bull and so I pulled the trigger. They were amazing.

I was terrified because that’s one of the reasons I went to Corrientes, just because I’m too far away. So if one has calving problems, it’s not going to be good for either the calf or the cow, and so I was on pins and needles that whole first time. They were calving. They were fall calving, which was my only downside that I want, because I wanted spring calving. Just from what? All of red. So it went amazing, no help. I just went out there and there was a calf on the ground.

But once again, I had to learn everything from scratch. So I’m like now, what do I do? How do I tag the calf and what do I do? So I went back to Doug Winters, who I had originally visited. I’m like, hey, what do you do? And he’s like, oh, I use a big game scale with some OB chains and I hook it on a couple of the legs and then lift them up and get the weight and then, while you have them, you just tag them. So I tried it out and the rain in November, freezing, and I got it done on the first one. That’s been pretty much the story of everything. It’s just I’m not at all sure about this, but I’ve done enough research to get rid of the like crazy risk and just go, just try it.

0:28:42 – Cal Hardage
You’ve got to start somewhere and just doing it, that, like you said, that’s your tuition and you’re learning so much as you go through it.

0:28:52 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, it’s great, like even little. Like how much grass does a cow eat? Like. And during the winter, like how much hay do you like am I buying? Like hundreds of round bells, what am I doing? Like I didn’t know at that point. So it’s like, thankfully it’s less than that.

So, learning all of those things, but it went well. I started moving around. Thankfully, those first grant days they had seen an electric fence before because I actually got them and went on a vacation for over a week. The night they got on the property I was like this is great, but if I back out now from this vacation, my wife is going to be more dangerous than the cows.

So on top of that, something that I do that is a little money, a little bit of money, but it also is peace of mind is I bought a pan tilt solar 4G camera that I have mounted to like a PVC. I have mounted to a piece of wood and then that piece of wood is mounted to a PVC pipe and I just stick it on T-post around the property, like mainly for water, since I’m hooked to city water. If something busts, I’m spending a ton of money on water. So that was one of the main reasons and then also just making sure the cows aren’t doing crazy things. So I had that camera already in and set up and watching them in the water while I was on vacation. So that helped a lot, knowing something’s not going to go terrible wrong because I can watch them.

0:30:14 – Cal Hardage
I’ve got a solar fence charger and I have thought about and I just haven’t done this thought about putting a Wi-Fi access point on that charger or energizer, because I got a battery and I got a solar charger putting an access point there so then I could put multiple cameras or whatever there and connect them through Wi-Fi. I would still have to have a cellular up connection, so I’d have to have a mobile hotspot or something. I’ve thought about it. I haven’t done it yet.

0:30:44 – Mason Lantz
I’ve wanted to well my tech background. I’ve been like looking at these like like map programs and all these, and I’m like why we should have like a, like a software that like all you have all these IEOT devices kind of like you do on like a plant floor, which is my background. Like have all these devices sending in data, creating analytics platforms, that kind of stuff Like here’s your water, however many gallons per minute, if it passes the threshold for a certain amount of time, either they’re like drinking for a long time or you have something busted off or whatever. All these different. And they have all these different collars for cattle these days that’ll like read different blood tests or they’ll do like events like a virtual fence type thing. I was just like all these devices could easily connect through like a analytics platform and like make all these decisions, have these gates that you can open and close, or something from that hub, yeah. So I’ve been kind of playing around. I was like I should start a company and just create one of these applications. Yeah.

0:31:42 – Cal Hardage
Well, and you think about your end users. Most of your end users do not have the technology, technological ability to piece those things together and get them going. To be honest, now, there’s people out there that can, but there’s a lot that do not.

0:32:00 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, it’s crazy and like the platforms and software are so easy to build that kind of stuff these days, like it almost exists, and you just connect the devices and they start building analytics reports and you could just like tell the report what to put where. We do that at work all the time. So I feel like it’d be easy to do it at this level. And then I’m thinking like I’m far away, so how do I move the cows without being there? And so I started looking into bat latches and I built a bat latch out of like a timer and a spring gate and a cabinet lock. I haven’t got to use it yet, I haven’t talked myself into using it yet, but it works, it releases it on time and everything. So I’m probably going to try to do that a couple of times.

My problem is like setting up the gate where it has enough pressure to like hold that spring open and it doesn’t like just collapse on itself. So I’d probably need like pounding some tea posts and at that point is it too much work? So I was trying to think of how do I hold this gate up to open and let the cows without being a crazy amount of work, where the one or two days a week that I go there. I’m spending a ton of time making this extra area and it really wouldn’t. I mean, I’d rather just make a bigger area than spend most of my time trying to set up a split in the area.

0:33:13 – Cal Hardage
I have a teeter farm tech gate that I got. Well, actually, I went to Greg Greg Judy grazing conference. I purchased it up there and, embarrassed to admit, it’s still in the pickup, but I plan on getting it set up and it should allow me to do that. Now they use just tread in post with a PVC brace. They had 3D yeah, they had 3D printed some stuff on it to make the brace and stuff. So I’m excited to try it, but not so excited.

I’ve done it. It’s always just something a little bit extra and I’m trying to get other stuff done. I haven’t yet, but I do plan on getting that going and seeing how that goes, because I love the idea getting more frequent moves. When I’m unable to get over there, I have a few pastures to check and some of them’s not super close to the house Not like your situation but it is a little bit over there. So I think it would be nice. So that’s interesting. Actually, that brings up a subject how do you take care of your cows? How do you manage them? You’ve already mentioned the camera, but you’re only able to go out there. Are you going weekly, or how often do you even go out there?

0:34:30 – Mason Lantz
I definitely am not making money just on the gas, so I don’t keep taking the gas into my like farm equations.

I’m like that is just my decision to make the farm not profitable and learning and where I bought something and where I’m living. So I’m like I kind of skews the data. I know that it’s taking it out, here’s my line item, but I don’t want to put that in my information because it skews it a little bit. So I know that it’s there but I don’t have it in my information. So, yeah, I go there probably twice a week. So I will go there on the weekend and move them, and then I also go and I bought my parents old camper because they were upgrading and so I have that out there and so basically I work from a hotspot of my phone there during the middle of the week and so I’ll get there super early, move them before work and then during lunch break I’ll go out and check on them, fill up their mineral, move things around, maybe finish up if I didn’t get finished and then work the rest of the day and then leave.

0:35:29 – Cal Hardage
Very nice, yeah, and with that work from home job, that really gives you that flexibility to do that.

0:35:35 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, and being in tech, like my last job was not work from home but we had some remote opportunities, so just one day a week I would just take that opportunity to go work from the camper instead.

0:35:47 – Cal Hardage
Oh yeah, so nice. Then you look out the window and see the cattle right there. That would be a really great day.

0:35:54 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, and when it’s nice and not 105 for 60 something days straight, I like to go like sit under a tree and take a meeting or whatever it’s nice.

0:36:03 – Cal Hardage
Oh yeah, so you got your cows. You had the first calving last fall. They were bred to arborine angus. How have those calves grown for you?

0:36:14 – Mason Lantz
Pretty good. They are probably a little over nine months. The bull calves have little. So I got four bulls, two heifers, so I’m gonna keep the heifers as replacements. The heifers were solid like chocolate brown, almost black, and they were both cold. So that’s nice.

It’s funny because they were out of the females I was least interested in. I guess it always works that way. And so the bull calves all have little scars, but no horns, just tiny little scars sticking out both sides, and they’re mostly chocolate brown. One of them has some white on his face and one of them has white on his rear and then the other one’s solid black and then the other one looks like it’s mom and is black and white painted. So that’s another thing I’m running into.

So I want to sell them and people are interested because I’d rather sell them to someone who’s gonna use, who’s looking for cattle that have only had like a saltwater brine, no medications, like been moving around, already trained to hot wire If they need them. I mean that’d be helping them and helping me, because I wouldn’t have to pay any like sell barn fees and then I wouldn’t have to figure out how to market meat yet, because that’s another new thing to learn. But my problem is I don’t know how to weigh the cows. I don’t have any infrastructure. Well, I also don’t have a holding pin at the moment, which I’m building at the moment, and with having some long horns, I’m gonna create some sort of squeeze gate situation because they don’t fit through normal like squeeze pin because they have too long of horns, because some of them are long horn mixes.

0:37:39 – Cal Hardage
One thing that I’ve used on my leash property which I’ve had. A lot of people look crazy at me. If they’re used to poly braid, poly wire and you have that thing running hot, it’s amazing. I just put up a poly braid or poly wire, pin single wire and work from that and it’s amazing how well that works. Before I did it I never thought it would have worked. In fact, the first time I weaned calves I just did them on the opposite sides of a poly wire, went out there and sorted them and, like Greg Judy’s, talked about different times and I was shocked by how well that worked. And then I’ve used it to load them. I can pull out in a trailer and load cows right now. That just surprises me that it works so well.

Now I will admit I have a little anxiety about doing one of my herds right now. I purchased two new cows For the other herd I call it my red herd. So I’ve got their their cross, a few crosses, few South Poles. I purchased a couple of South Poles in May Now they were probably purchased in April, ready to kev in May, and one of them is three quarters South Pole and a quarter red Angus and she is nervous, oh man. So she does worry me about putting my poly wire around and getting it. So I haven’t figured her out. If it wasn’t for her, I could do whatever I wanted with poly wire over there, but she has thrown a little fly in the ointment and I’ll have to figure out something a little bit better for her.

0:39:20 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, I haven’t been able to get mine to do that with poly wire, so I tried weaning them with like two or three strands of poly wire and a barbed wire fence between the two herds and they went straight through the barbed wire fence and the poly wire that was between it to go back to their moms.

0:39:35 – Cal Hardage
Do you know how hot your poly wire is running?

0:39:38 – Mason Lantz
Usually like, between like, like 9,000.

0:39:41 – Cal Hardage
Oh yeah, that’s about what I’m running and being pretty dry man made a difference on that. I know mine. I was shocked by how well it worked. You had these calves, then you had to get a bull because those cows needed bread back.

0:39:54 – Mason Lantz
The person who sold me the cows originally. They flippantly like we’re like, oh, if you’re looking for a bull, I’ll leash you the bull that bred these next year. And so I took them up on it. I messaged him. I was like hey, you mentioned this when you dropped them off. Do you still want to do that? And he’s like I didn’t think about it, but let me get back to you. And so he went and talked to his dad, their partners in the business, and he was like we’ll do what was it like $5 a day for all of them, so it was pretty cheap. It was like the only thing is it didn’t end out working too well. So he was there on the cows for about a month and then all of a sudden he’s like limping terribly. And when they dropped him off, I remember him saying, well, he is very old. And so he ended up being on the cows for about a month. Then he started limping really bad and then there was just a terrible popping coming from his hip, and so they came out and checked on him and they determined that yeah, there was something very wrong with his hip. They were like it’s probably just his age. He probably like just throw it out trying to mount cows or just running around out here trying to chase him around, because he was about 11 or 12 or something like that. He’d been breeding for a long time, so that ended up.

I got maybe a month on my cows from him, so he may have bred my original six. But during that time my neighbor messaged me and she was like hey, did you have enough grass for your cows? Last year? I was like no, because my property is pretty much just all large weeds and forbs Like they were like six, seven foot tall. So once I grazed them it was basically bare dirt, no grass, and so I was like I had to feed some hay during winter, but the ryegrass annual ryegrass came in strong and it was good in the late winter, early spring.

She’s like oh well, I just wanted to let you know that you can graze my place all you want. I’m not gonna do any leases and if I ask you to leave, take them off, take them off. Other than that, I have no use for the land and you can use it, feel free. And just she said meet me when you get here next and we can walk around and I’ll tell you what to look out for or what I don’t want you to touch or whatever. But she said it’s pretty much fair game. You can cut the fence between our properties, put in a gate, whatever you need. So I had that. We walked around her property and she talked about it and she was like and you can get more cows if you need. Whatever you do is what you do. I’m not picky. I just don’t want to do leases because I’m a widow.

People try to take advantage of me because I’m an older woman and they don’t listen to me. They don’t take their stuff off when I tell them that it’s time to leave that kind of stuff. And she’s like you’ve checked on me when we’ve had storms. You came over here and helped me with stuff, like I know that you’re not gonna do that. And so I was like okay, now I’m gonna look for more Korean days because it worked well last time. So I ended up my neighbor wanted more cows too, because he sold out the year before because of the drought, and so I ended up buying him five and me 10 of bread.

Korean days. They were a little bit mixed on, like when they were calving, so that was a little annoying but the price delivered was really good. Well, on top of that I bought a half South Pole, half Red Angus. That was out of a Greg Judy bowl and then it was bred to a full blood Judy bowl and it was like eight months bred. So I bought that, brought it to the property and those 15, so I got put five on my neighbor’s place and 10 on mine to run on the new acreage. It’s probably about 30, grazeable it’s more than that, but some of us are front yard, some of it’s the woods. It’s about 30. That’s grazeable with like pasture and fences.

0:43:28 – Cal Hardage
Very nice. That’s exciting to follow your path and where you’re going, but it’s time we need to transition to the overgrazing. We could continue talking for quite a while, but let’s go ahead and move to the overgrazing section, where we take a deeper dive into something about your farm. And one thing we were going to take a little bit deeper dive is in the low cost entry and, to be honest, it’s not totally low cost because you end up buying the land but then you got your neighbors to use and you got that at a really reasonable price.

0:44:04 – Mason Lantz
And so I’m thinking of the context of no experience too. So I don’t know too many others other than maybe your family or something is letting you put them on their property, or maybe you find someone. But a thing I wanted to focus on was the bread corrientes. Just because, when it comes to the benefits, the barriers way lower, because I’m ending up bringing corrientes on the property, delivered for probably anywhere between 500 and 700, depending on how bread they are delivered to the property and opposed to even like a cheap cow. It’s just crazy cheap, and people are breeding them to beef bowls. So you’re getting a pretty decent calf that you can market and make some money on. They’re going to be discounted, obviously, and you’ll have some that have horns and some that are just painted beyond belief.

In general, you get a live calf that you get to sell. The mom just doesn’t cost anything, and then on top of that they are very hearty. So I was worried. I’m like what if I buy these really nice purebred cows or these really nice commercial South Poles or something and I’m just so new that I end up killing them and like their ghost? Thousands of dollars just down the drain? And so another benefit of these being cheaper is that they’re really hearty, like they will survive on some very intense weed pressure not great forage and they look like it’s great forage, like they’re Romans full. They’re not getting skinny but you can tell that they’re doing well. They’re Romans, always full. They’re looking pretty healthy. So that was a positive for me. And then I’m not a doctor but I feel like the various forages they’re getting way better, way more like nutrients that they would get than most animals, just because they’re eating all kinds of different plants that most wouldn’t eat. So it seems like if they’re eating a crazy diverse diet, then that’s got to be good for the beef.

0:46:07 – Cal Hardage
I think those, those Coriante in fact I was talking to my dad the other day about it because I purchased a few more. It’s just the cost, it’s just hard to beat them. I can buy three or four Coriantes for what I’ve purchased one of my red cows for. It’s just crazy the price difference. And granted you you brought this up you know, depending upon your cell cells, the avenue if you’re going through a commercial cell barn you’re going to get knocked based upon color and stuff. But part of that you can control to a certain extent with what bulls you’re breeding them to.

Obviously, a homozygous black bull will help you get black calves. Of course, if they have a deluder gene in there you’re going to get, you know, a lighter black or maybe even a smoke color, depending on what deluder it is. But you’re still getting closer to that. The white spotting is a little bit tougher but, like for my Coriante, most of them have white on them, most of them line back or color side and they have that white. But that gene is dominant and expresses itself. So they’re not likely. And I say they’re not likely In my case I have not had. I’ve had more solid calves out of them than I anticipated, because I’m breeding them to a solid color bull and so they’re passing one gene and if they’re heterozygous for that color, that white spotting, you got a chance of a solid calf. And if you get a solid calf, that really improves your profit return from them.

0:47:53 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, if they’re all looking very uniform, similar color, then you’re going to do way better as a group at the sale barn and a lot of the people are doing charlés, which even do really well with that, also because that white is kind of eliminated because they’re already going to be a smoky color, and so that’s a lot of those. That second group of Coriantes I bought were bred to charlés and all have been smoke colored except for one.

0:48:16 – Cal Hardage
And I’ve heard that in fact, where I purchased my original ones, they were running with a, or he typically used a charlés bull with them. Now I used a Coriante bull on Heifers so I’d purchased some Heifers that should have been bred, so they were just running with a black Coriante. But I see a lot of people doing that charlés cross on them to get that smoke colored calf or a white calf out of them, which seems to sell better too.

0:48:46 – Mason Lantz
And the guy I bought them from. He did that and then on his Heifers he did an Angus. So I have one little Angus, black calf, and then cross, angus, cross, and then the rest are charlés, and they’re all smoky, except for one, and one is that? So when I got up received those. They had never been on a hot wire and I made a bunch of rookie mistakes, like having the herd in eyesight, and they were only stopped by a two strand polywire and a spring gate. So they basically went through everything and destroyed all of my fences and so I finally get them all back in to the area all together, because I was going to separate them for a while. Well, that didn’t work out, so I got them all together and then there was this one mom and turns out she was one of the eight month bred ones.

I’m like great, and so I’m about to get them all in. She’s going towards and she looks at me, raises her head and runs to the back of the property and I didn’t see her again. She hopped the fences and then somehow hopped like a seven strand fence and got on with my neighbor’s steers. He has like 2000 acres he runs steers on, and so I know all my neighbors, thankfully of all the properties that touch, and so I messaged them all and he was like my hand thinks he saw the cow with the steers so thankfully I got with him and we got her loaded up on the trailer and brought her back over. She is the one that had the painted calf. Out of all the Charley bred ones. I’m like you were annoying and got away and you gave me a colored calf.

0:50:13 – Cal Hardage
I have to say I enjoy the color patterns on my calves and luckily this year with my core intakes. If I could make this happen every year I’d be on cloud nine. Every bull calf I got was solid and my heifers all have some white spotting on them, which is great. I love the coloration and I’m going to bring them back to a red bull, so half their calves will be solid. But I couldn’t have. I’m still in shock that all my bull calves came out solid while all the heifers or most of the heifers came out with white spotting, which I just. I love the color genetics behind it. I love just looking at them. I enjoy that.

0:50:55 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, I wish it was more like that, but it’s because of the way the sale barn system is working.

They’re buying something they don’t know the history of, so you have to use those different keys to know what is behind it. Or you’re just going to be buying some scraggly stuff that you don’t want in the sale barn or something that’s not going to fit your operation or whatever, and so the way that that buying is going is not in the way of core intakes and longhorns for sure. So I guess the downsides to those are like we talked about the calves and it’s less desirable in the sale barn. But if you I mean a lot of people in this market or in this like area of, like sustainable, regenerative, whatever tagline you want to put on grazing they are going to, they want to sell to the customer anyway. So that would matter a lot less to them, and especially people like me that don’t know anything, they’re most likely going to want to try to do the sale to customer thing just because they don’t know better, and it’s what they could think is possible.

0:51:53 – Cal Hardage
Excited to see how these calves I’ve got on the ground are half-quaranty, half-south pole and I’m excited to see how they grow out. That’s the first of that cross I’ve had of the half-south pole, half-quaranty, so I’m excited they look really good. They’re small right now. They were may calves and they’re looking really good thus far, so I’m excited to see how that goes.

0:52:15 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, I’ll be in that boat next year. So just two weeks ago no, probably almost a month ago at this point I was I found two Meshona cross bulls. I wanted one bull but he was selling five bulls and I almost bought five bulls even though I can’t handle five bulls because the price was just insane. The price he quoted me was I could have dropped them off at the sale barn and made a ton of money. But I didn’t want to do that. I definitely don’t want to take genetics like that and drop them out at the sale barn. So I ended up buying two, even though I didn’t need two, but just because it would have been almost the same price, taking one with me because he’s trying to get rid of them. So I bought two Meshona crosses, one’s Meshona Red Angus, one is Meshona Beefmaster.

I’m really impressed with them and I’m really interested to see the calves out of them next year. So I have them with my cows now because of the instant, with the bull with the hip. And then I’ve had six more calves since then. So I have 12 cows that six might be bred, six aren’t bred. So I wanted to get them and I’m probably going to take them off this next month, just because I don’t want to get too late into calving, where it’s going to mess it up. So I’ll probably just pull them off and then the rest are just going to have to convert to spring calving and then I’ll put the bulls back in in June, july probably. So that’ll be something figuring out what to do with bulls. No clue what to do with them when they’re not on the cows.

0:53:35 – Cal Hardage
Yeah, that’s true. That’s another aspect of having a small farm and dealing with a bull. You know that lease option worked really well to the. It didn’t work out so good but that’s a great option for small farms as well. For your Michona bulls, that’s really interesting. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any Michona in person. I’ve read about them. I’ve seen some photos. I’d love to at some point go see some. I may be a little more north than typical to see typically see them, but surely someone around me close has some.

0:54:16 – Mason Lantz
Yeah, I got lucky. So through the person that introduced me to Jim Alizando and had me help on his property, he added me to a group and then there’s a guy in that group was like my neighbor has some, and so I ended up going and finding it and that guy had been a researcher in a college or something and so he had one of the original embryos transplants that came over to the US and that was the sire of them and I got to go. He took me out there and I saw him. So I saw a full-blooded first generation F1 USA Michona. So that was interesting.

0:54:54 – Cal Hardage
And I think Jim talks about his Michona bull. Jim Bob, I think that’s the name of the one he really likes, mason. It is time for our famous four questions, same four questions we ask of all of our guests. And our first question what is your favorite grazing grass related book or resource?

0:55:14 – Mason Lantz
I could skew the resource side of that a little bit and just say different, like Instagram, what’s that? Or Telegram, like groups get with people in your area because context is very important. You can be watching something by someone and it’s not going to work in your area because your context doesn’t work for that and you need to do something a little different, tweak something. So it’s great to be in a group of people that are dealing with those problems every day, but other than that, it would definitely be YouTube for me, because that’s how I got into everything. So different channels, like Greg Judy’s channel, alder Spraying Jim Elizondo’s a lot on their fire and salt. He’s in my. He’s in Northeast Texas but he does similar things with me. He has Michona bull on Coriente cows and running tea farms. I like his stuff. So just there’s so much knowledge on YouTube that it’s hard to pass up. I tell everybody I should pay YouTube, but I paid my college for tuition because I learned way more from YouTube.

0:56:10 – Cal Hardage
I have learned tons from YouTube. I also goes down some rabbit holes on YouTube too, so there’s a lot of time I spend there that could be better focused, but I agree YouTube is amazing resource. Our second question what is your favorite tool on the farm?

0:56:27 – Mason Lantz
Well, I would say a four-wheeler, but it broke down and I am living without it, so that is a little rough. I’m walking everywhere. When it was running, I would drive like a rock bar, like a concrete bar, through the center and throw a tow strap around each end and put it on the ball of the four-wheel and roll it to where I needed it to and then just cut the net and unroll it like the like the Gregg Judy style unrolling. Other than that, it’s definitely water lines. Moveable water infrastructure has made everything about grazing possible. Like I notice, when I don’t have it and I’m trying to move like water hoses around, like mice chew into them, I’ll look on the camera and there’s water shooting in the pasture and I have to drive an hour and a half even though it’s nine o’clock in the night and I didn’t even plan on going. Or when water is not set up, either I can’t graze an area efficiently at all or I’m stressed the whole time because something’s going to bust, because it’s a water hose.

0:57:18 – Cal Hardage
Yeah and Mason. Our third question what would you tell someone just getting started?

0:57:24 – Mason Lantz
Well, I think the main thing is observe what’s happening and then think about why you think that’s happening, because you could get caught into just going through the motions and doing what you saw someone do and not know why you’re doing it and then not know what you need to change next time, because grazing is not obvious. We don’t know enough about plant biology or soil biology or anything to just give you a solution. Do this every single time. Give them this amount of ground Every single time. You’ll be fine. You’re going to over graze. You’re going to under graze or not over graze. You’re going to too severely graze. You’re going to leave too much and you’re going to get weeds. You’re going to it’s going to rain and you’re going to pug up an area and next year cockle birds are going to be higher than your head or whatever. You just got to observe and know why something happened.

But other than that, coming from I was in that position like a newbie. Like create guardrails where if something goes wrong, it’s not catastrophic, it’s not in the situation. You’re not losing the farm, you’re not losing the cows, aren’t dying that kind of stuff. As long as you have those guardrails, just go do it. You’re not going to learn by sitting there, analyzing and thinking about it over and over again. Once you’ve got the initial plan and you’ve got guardrails, where it’s not going to be catastrophic, just go do it.

0:58:42 – Cal Hardage
I love that you use that term guardrails. That is a great analogy for doing it and getting it set up in place. You’re not going to be hurting too bad, but guardrails in place. I like that.

0:58:57 – Mason Lantz
It comes from my profession because I’m a product manager. When you go to release a product there’s Minnable Vile product, there’s a ton of different styles but you just need to make sure that you test it, throw some quick things in there stuff that’s not going to be catastrophic but get the product in the market.

0:59:14 – Cal Hardage
Very good, Mason. Where can others find out more about you?

0:59:19 – Mason Lantz
I’m most active on Instagram at Elms of Big Creek Farm. If you message me on there, I definitely will message you back. Community is the main reason I’m doing that. I have been posted on there more than I am right now just because it’s a drought and I started a new job, so I’ve been very busy. When I go there, I move them and I leave, but I will always message you back. If you message me, that’s the best place to get me.

0:59:42 – Cal Hardage
Mason, we appreciate you coming on and joining us today. Really enjoyed the conversation.

0:59:48 – Mason Lantz
Thanks, I did too.

0:59:50 – Cal Hardage
You’re listening to the Grazing Grass podcast, helping grass farmers learn from grass farmers, and every episode features a grass farmer in their operation. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and want to keep the conversation going, visit our community at communitygrazinggrasscom. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe to the Grazing Grass podcast on Facebook, twitter, instagram and YouTube for past and future episodes. We also welcome guests to share about their own grass farming journey. So if you’re interested, felt the form on grazinggrasscom under the be our guest link. Until next time, keep on Grazing Grass.

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