Portraits in Progress: Burgett Angus Farm: Breeding to be the best

(ed. note: The following feature was included in the 2001 Farm and Dairy Progress Edition)

CARROLLTON, Ohio – Burgett Angus Farm has made quite a name for itself as a superior breeder. People come from Ohio and neighboring states to buy breeding stock from the Carrollton farm.

Keith Burgett and sons Phillip and Bryan have built sort of an Angus dynasty since they bought their first cattle in 1984. They now raise about 350 head, consisting mostly of purebred Angus and some crosses. They are now known as one of Ohio’s premier Angus breeders.

The Burgetts own about 280 acres and lease more than 1,000 acres throughout Carroll County. They also raise sheep and mules.

The Burgetts’ goal is to improve the genetics and quality of their animals. Phillip and Bryan, both of whom came back to the farm after graduating from The Ohio State University’s College of Agriculture, say every generation is better than the last. Almost all of the animals are bred through artificial insemination and they breed for temperament and production.

Cutting edge.

“Keith is cutting edge when it comes to the beef industry and especially genetics. He is recognized statewide – and out of state – as a premier Angus breeder,” said Mike Hogan, Carroll County Extension agent.

Burgett Angus Farm has had the top-selling bull at the Ohio Performance Tested Bull Sale three out of the last 10 years. This year, Burgett’s Summitcrest Hi Flyer 3B18 sold for $4,000 to Shriver Farms of Pleasant City, Ohio.

“We have always done well at the West Virginia and Ohio Performance Tested Bull Sales,” said Keith. “We have had many top bulls and most of our other bulls go very high as well.”

The three other bulls consigned by Burgett Angus Farm at this year’s Ohio sale sold for $1,200, $1,475 and $1,650.

“Our animals are known for their fast growth and high carcass marbling,” said Bryan.

Repeat buyers.

Burgett bulls are, for the most part, sold within a 100-mile radius to repeat buyers.

“We see many of the same people time after time, said Phillip. “We have a good relationship with our regular customers. We never get any complaints. We don’t sell any animal that we wouldn’t keep ourselves.”

Burgett Angus Farm holds an open house every spring and invites customers and neighbors to visit the farm and get a first-hand look at the herd. The family credits customer satisfaction for their success.

“We don’t do a lot of advertising for our breeding stock. We run ads in the Farm and Dairy and the Ohio Cattlemen, but that’s about it,” said Bryan. “Word of mouth has been very good to us.”

Keith is a practicing veterinarian at the Carrollton Animal Clinic, caring for small animals. He also works as a large animal vet for a few select customers such as Summitcrest Farms.

Disease free.

Burgett uses the combination of his veterinarian knowledge and genetic research to keep his herd Johne’s free. Burgett Angus Farm now has a Level 5 test negative monitored status, which means the herd has tested negative for Johne’s disease for more than six years.

Currently the farm has 140 cow/calf pairs and 40 heifers, but they would like to expand to at least a 250-cow operation.

“It takes a lot of capital to go that large,” said Keith. “We would have to change our operation some and perhaps hire outside help.”

To help keep costs down, the Burgetts pasture the cattle as much as possible and stockpile grass. The sons roll out hay bales every day to the fields. The Burgetts do not keep bales in rings, which Keith says helps prevent scours and pneumonia.

“We have been successful using an extended grazing season,” said Keith. “We are fortunate enough to have quality pastures.”

The Burgetts try to keep their farm as environmentally friendly as possible. They did a cost-share program with the Carroll Soil and Water Conservation District for a waterway for the manure run-off from the bull feedlot.

Several of the pasture paddocks are situated on reclaimed mine land. They have also allowed selective timbering in the farm’s cherry groves.

Calving at home.

Calving season can be pretty intense at Burgett Angus Farm. The heifers are all inseminated within a three-week period, and there are times when they will have more than 10 calves born within a 12- to 24-hour period.

“We bring all cows back home to calve to keep a closer eye on them. We check them often and sort them to get them to the right mother,” said Keith. “We don’t baby them too much either. If it’s warmer than 20 degrees, they calve outside. We have a hardy herd.”

The Burgetts say they cull rigorously to rid the farm of any deficient traits.

“If the animal is hard to handle, no one is going to want that animal. If the animal doesn’t produce, it is a waste of time and money,” said Keith. “And we don’t want those animals continuing those traits in our herd.”

Gelbvieh crosses.

The Burgetts have also been working with a special crossbreed. They bought a Gelbvieh bull and have bred him to Angus heifers. The offspring will then be bred back to an Angus and that generation will be registered as balancers.

“We have found a good mix with these three-quarter Angus crosses. They have better longevity, better fertility and are a little more efficient overall than the purebreds,” said Keith. “These animals grade well and grow rapidly.”

However, the success the family has had with the crossbreeds can’t overshadow their love for the purebred black cattle.

Phillip and Bryan have never shown cattle, but may show at the 2002 Ohio Beef Expo to give their animals added publicity. They say reputation of the breed alone is worth working hard for. They have no plans for experimenting with other crossbreeds.

“This is what we are. We’re an Angus farm and so far, we’ve had a pretty good run at it,” said Keith.

(Reporter Annie Santoro can be reached at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or asantoro@farmanddairy.com.)

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