McKenzies’ goal: Raise top-quality Angus cattle

AFP Correspondent

RURAL RETREAT, Va. (April 5, 2016) — A Wythe County couple here on their Black Creek Farm have a simple yet ambitious goal.
They aim at producing registered Angus cattle in the top five percent of the breed nationally.
Jim and Kim McKenzie run a herd of 40 registered Angus cows on the farm that reaches an elevation of 2,600 feet.
All are bred AI for their first two cycles and then turned in with a herd bull that is in the first one percent of the breed.
They pay close attention to the Expected Progeny Development of the cattle in their breeding program in moving toward their goal.
This attention to AI breeding and bull genetics is not surprising given Jim’s off-farm job is working for Select Sires, a cattle genetics company.
He started working in Lynchburg before being transferred deeper into Southwest Virginia.
Jim and Kim have been farming Black Creek Farm since 1987 and building their genetics.
They try to calve in a 45-day period in the spring and try to keep two or three bulls with their herd while selling both registered bulls and heifers in sales and through private treaty.
They also keep around 10 to 14 replacement heifers each year.
It still amuses the couple they have decided to run beef cattle in view of their college majors.
Both hold degrees in dairy science from Ohio State.
Jim said that Kim is the actual “cow person” as well as being a horse person.
She said he is an avid dog person.
They own several beautiful black and tan hounds that they use for hunting raccoons. Jim also shows them “on the bench.”
The McKenzies have developed an environmentally friendly watering system that uses resources on the farm that is efficient and economically viable.
They have fenced the cattle out of the stream that runs along the bottom of their hilly farm.
They take water from the stream with an intake pipe.
It carries the water to a hand dug well nearby and sump pumped to another hand dug well. These wells serve as reservoirs.
The water is then pumped underground to a reservoir at the highest point on the farm, 2,600 feet.
It then flows by gravity to watering devices of various kinds in the farm’s paddocks.
The waterers are attached to quick couplers on the buried water lines that carry water by gravity to where it is needed.
Waterers vary across the farm, ranging from a big construction machine tires to a metal trough.
The cattle are rotationally grazed in a series of pastures. The couple uses metal posts driven in the ground to string the electric fencing that creates the paddocks.
Pastures on the farm consist mostly of orchard grass, clover and blue grass. Jim said they have very little fescue, if any.
They purchase all the hay that the cattle eat and said they prefer to buy second cutting hay.
They said they like to buy a year ahead but have had to use some of the hay intended for next year this year.
They are able to keep the hay in barns, in addition, they develop their heifers and young cows by feeding them a 15 percent ration, the house mix at the nearby Rural Retreat Mills.
One other natural resource on the property serves well in calving season. Kim pointed to sink holes where momma cows tend to go for giving birth.
This gets them out of the wind, which was fierce at the top of the farm on a mid-March afternoon as the couple walked the farm.