Umbergers finish inaugural year running Va. BCIA bull test station

AFP Correspondent

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (March 21, 2017) — A young Wythe County, Va. couple has added a new component to their beef cattle operation during the past year taking on the work of the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association testing beginning in October 2016.
Last week, Brian and Kayla Umberger were preparing for the annual open house held every year before the sale of bulls in the test when they were interviewed.
The sale is set for March 25 at the Old Umberger Sale Barn just outside of Wytheville at Exit 77 off of Interstate 81.
“The Virginia BCIA Southwest Bull Test program is celebrating its 38th year of serving the beef industry in Virginia,” Scott P. Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef at Virginia Tech, wrote in a news release about the station’s new location and upcoming events. “Virginia BCIA is excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Umbergers to carry on the great tradition and history the Southwest program has established over the years.”
At their farm, the Umbergers talked about the stocker business they have on their farm one Brian has on another farm with a friend.
The couple runs about 400 stockers annually on the 420-acre farm. Brian and a friend run another 150 stockers on 500 rented acres.
Kayla also has her own business; Kayla Marie Photography.
“It’s my niche,” she said smiling.
Before the Umbergers took it over, Tim and Cathy Sutphin ran the test at their Hillwinds Farm in Pulaski County for several years. They have moved on to expand their own herds. Glenmary Farm in Rapidan, Va., owned by Tom and Kim Nixon, host the Culpeper bull test station.
“Virginia BCIA would like to extend a special thanks to the Tim Sutphin family and the crew at Hillwinds Farm for their dedication and service over the past several years to the bull evaluation program,” Greiner said.
While the test uses Southwest Virginia in its name, it draws bulls from across Virginia and Tennessee, Brian said. Last October, 227 bulls arrived at the Umberger’s Mountain Spring Farm to begin the testing process designed by Virginia Tech, which cooperates with BCIA in the project. Of these, about 150 will be in the sale.
Brian said several breeds are represented, including Angus, Herford, Gelbeivh, Balancers, Simmental and Sim-Angus. He said the senior bulls, about 18 months old, average 1,390 pounds going into the sale. The juniors or yearlings average 1,090 pounds.
Brian noted that the sale catalog is online if those looking for herd bulls need their information. This and other details and progress reports can be found on the Virginia BCIA website at
The Umbergers farming efforts include growing 150 acres of corn for both grain and silage. They use no-till rye or barley as a cover crop and also grazes them for pasture.
The Umberger’s farm has seen several significant changes over the years, Brian said. The farm has twice been a dairy operation during its long history. Brian also grew pumpkins and sweet corn for the wholesale market for a time.
The farm has won awards for its work in improving the water quality and has recently planted trees in a riparian area where the cattle have been fenced out of the creek.
Brian, a fourth generation farmer, had a quick answer for why he decided to take on the BCIA test station.
“It was steady income compared to stocker cattle the last couple years,” he said.
Kayla said she was initially anxious about the bulls being aggressive, a natural reaction from the mother of two little girls on a farm. But, while walking beside a string of quiet and relaxed bulls eating silage, she said they have not had any problems.
Their daughters are Addison, 8, and Averie, nearly 3.
Kayla said she expects Averie to miss the bulls when they leave the farm as going along for feeding time has been part of her day.