MAX MEADOWS, Va. — Doug and Sue Hughes, owners and operators of Little Windy Hill Farms, are still getting used to the idea that their efforts as seedstock producers have brought them recognition from separate groups in the past few months.
The couple was presented the 2013 Seedstock Producer of the Year Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association Award during the annual cattlemen’s convention in February.
They also received the Virginia 2013 BCIA Premier Breeder Award, a statewide award.
Doug also received the 2012 Bartenslager Award from the Virginia Angus Association.
Doug said the best thing about the honors is knowing that someone recognizes the hard work he and Sue have put into Little Windy Hill Farms and the seedstock of three breeds they produce on the Wythe County farm.
Sitting in their modern farm home, watching what they hoped was the last winter storm form, the Hughes talked about their farm and how they have come to the place they hold in the industry.
Doug was raised on polled Hereford cattle on a Wythe County farm. In the early 1980s, the couple began raising Charolais, breeding to black bulls to produce smoky calves. They dispersed them in 1993 and went to registered Gelbviehs shortly thereafter.
The couple added registered Angus in 2001. They had found that black calves brought more money than the smokies that were produced by crossing the white cows with black bulls.
Buyers of Virginia feeder cattle have shown a preference for black cattle for a number of years, Doug said, so they aimed for cattle to produce these black calves. He said he doesn’t see what the color of the hide has to do with meat.
“It’s what is under the hide,” he said. “It all tastes the same.”
Having both registered breeds led them to add a new breed, Balancer, to their production lines. This new breed, now recognized as a registered breed, is a cross between Angus and Gelbvieh.
This is the 30th year that Little Windy Hill has had bulls on test at the two BCIA test stations, one that holds sales in Wytheville and the other in Culpeper, Doug said. The bulls sold at the Southwest Virginia BCIA Bull Sale in Wytheville are tested at Hillwinds Farm, operated by Tim and Cathy Sutphin in Pulaski County.
All the cows at Little Windy Hill Farms are bred to AI sires, some artificially and some naturally. Most cows are bred AI but clean up is done with the AI sires. They are now using an ABS Angus, Setz Easy Street, for this task.
Doug said he is proud of their Gelbvieh bull, Post Rock Granite 200 P 2, the No. 1 bull in the breed for semen sales. He and Sue also own the No. 5 semen-selling bull in the breed, Impact.
The couple farms about 600 acres of owned and leased rolling to hilly land where they raise corn, alfalfa hay and pasture of orchardgrass and clover. Doug said most of their hay is put up wet in plastic.
Sue is as much a part of the operation as he is, Doug said.
“She is my right arm,” he said. “She has her tractor and I have mine.”
He credited his wife, who seemed content to let him do the talking, with mowing and raking hay, helping deliver calves and doing whatever else needs to be done.
The family holds its own sale, the “You-Pick-Em Bull Sale,” on the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year. This year it falls on Nov. 16. This year’s sale, their seventh, will be a production sale with about 30 bulls on the auction block. They will also be selling 60 cow-calf pairs and open heifers. They have hired a sales manager to conduct the event.
The couple said their two daughters and their families help with the farm when they can and are always a part of putting on the annual sale.
“It would be impossible to put on the bull sale without them,” Doug said.
He said they are trying to cut back some, aiming for 115 to 125 cows. They always keep between 20 and 30 bred heifers, as well. Doug said he and his cousin used to run about 250 commercial cattle.