By Patti Wilson Contributing Editor

Front, Greyson (6), back, Wyatt (2), Zac and Ann Deeds
in their shop.

The Deeds’ garage was, well, it didn’t look like a garage. Family vehicles were parked outside under available trees. In the garage, I found an array of the most high-tech equipment I had ever seen and dozens of enormous boxes of unmarked ear tags.

A scant half-mile east lays the tiny village of Hazard, Neb. Seventy souls reside there in tidy homes surrounding a fertilizer plant and three churches. This is my own hometown, as well, and these are my neighbors. It seems strange that one can live so close to folks and not know what they are doing. I found out what Zac and Ann Deeds are up to, however; they are making ear tags.

Who Are These People?

The Deeds are a young couple, literate in what a lot of us find frustrating – computer technology. They met at work, an information technology (IT) management company by the name of Intellicom, located in Kearney. It’s a place of employment they still embrace; however, they are also self-employed at home with a start-up business, Muddy Creek Tags. The Mud Creek runs through their property, as it does our own. Locals are fond of the down-to-earth where we live, and our little body of water is considered picturesque.

Zac’s specialty entails IT and cybersecurity. As a mom to two young sons, Ann has stepped back to a part-time position at Intellicom. She has a degree in multimedia, a mix of web design, graphic design and journalism.

Starting life out together, the pair was adamant that their impending children would be raised in a strictly rural setting and attend a small school system. When the farm near Hazard came up for sale, the Deeds snapped it up. It turned out to be a good situation for the couple as well as the neighborhood.

Several years later, two rambunctious sons have arrived – Greyson, 6, and Wyatt, 2. There’s also room for cattle and an energetic dog. The daily commute to Kearney is still acceptable.


COVID changed life for all of us, and the Deeds were no exception. Zac began making observations regarding family members in the cattle business. It seems no one could find ear tags during the pandemic. Zac is not one to let a sleeping dog lie. He says one day he started drawing on a napkin and two months later began developing a prototype for a “better ear tag.”

Did I mention that in the far corner of Deeds’ garage is a pile of tags, every brand under the sun? They were studied for “positives and negatives.” Zac’s plan is to retain all the positive attributes of these tags and get rid of all the negatives. Careful attention was paid to the development of Muddy Creek tags.

Rule No. 1: They had to be manufactured in Nebraska and avoid foreign countries at all costs. After securing standardized product materials and specific requirements for their tags, a Lincoln company was selected to manufacture the basic ear tag. They are made specifically with increased rigidity to prevent curling and super resistance to fading. Deeds says that Mother Nature is the biggest challenge the company faces. They want these tags to be readable for the life of the cattle. They also provide an adequate space between the button and tag, enabling the ear to heal after it has been pierced. In addition, the tags hang straight down at all times.

What About These Tags?

Muddy Creek Tags customizes every order request.

Orders are customized in their entirety, with no minimum required. One tag to a thousand can be produced according to client specifications. Turnaround time is generally only five to 10 days. Both Zac and Ann will spend six hours each evening “after work,” finishing tags and filling orders. A majority of their product sells to cow-calf producers and registered cattle breeders. Deeds believes that uniformity in tagging speaks well of careful cattle management and helps producers sell their stock.

As for the tags themselves, Ann is the creative party behind the limitless designs available to clients. The information on each unit can be both lasered on and imprinted with ink to ensure the numbers won’t wear off. Tags may be marked on one or both sides.

They currently only offer visual ID tags. The entrepreneurs are well aware of the practical use of EIDs but have not yet taken steps to include that technology in their product. Top priority for the new company is the small producer.

The short turnaround time is a big draw and complete customization of orders has helped spread their popularity by word of mouth. They have sent their tags as far away as Hawaii.

Along with cow- and calf-sized tags, the Deeds are looking into manufacturing sheep and goat IDs. They stress that their enterprise is expanding at a pace they can handle financially, and growth happens as risk decreases. Prices run from $.89 to $1.20 for calf tags and $.99 to $1.65 for cow tags, depending on your needs and customization.

Expanded Ideas

According to Zac, “people don’t like change, although generational change is good.” New ideas often come from clients’ young family members and are keenly observed by Muddy Creek Tags. Many folks want their cell phone number or brand included on their tags. If their cattle are out, the sheriff can find an easy ID to locate the owners.

They’ve observed that the show cattle business want a whole different look to their tags than the rest of the industry. See accompanying photo as evidence. Some people order tags as party favors, keepsakes and mementos. One livestock show ordered specifically made tags to hand out in lieu of ribbons. I even saw tags bearing photos of various family members, company logos and an unlimited number of backgrounds. The look and use rests with each individual client.


The goal for the Deeds family is to manufacture and ship ear tags fulltime. Someday, they would love to hire employees who live locally, giving the Hazard community work to enjoy and take pride in.

Perhaps some day, there will be a tidy building in the backyard where the family vehicles have their own resting spot, and the Deeds’ garage will officially be dubbed an ear tag order-processing center. I predict it will happen.