A third generation Angus breeder, Sam has carved a niche in the competitive world of beef cattle breeding. After serving in Vietnam, Sam followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather working for Angus breeders in Eastern Pennsylvania before starting his own breeding program in Chester County, Octoraro Angus. He became the first landowner in three generations. In 1990, Sam moved the operation to a rugged, 153-acre farm in Mattie, near Breezewood, PA.
The grassy hillsides are ideal for intensive rotational grazing and the woods provide good cover for winter shelter. Hay is made on neighboring farms to help support the 200 head of Angus through the rough winters. Approximately 65 to 75 calves are produced annually through natural cover and artificial insemination.
After moving to Bedford County, Sam met Sherrill, a local woman with a Guernsey dairy background. They held their first public sale of Octoraro Angus females in 1994: previously the cattle were sold by private treaty. Sam and Sherrill married in 1996 and together they have doubled the size of the herd.
The Wylies breed cattle from a different angle than most breeders today. The Octoraro Angus herd is unique, not just because of the way the cattle live or at times it seems survive on pasture and hay year-round without supplementation from corn, grains, or concentrates, but because their breeding is based on pure foundation bloodlines. They seek traits, such as maternal efficiency and longevity, which they believe has been lost in many modern breeding programs that emphasize meat production at the expense of these characteristics.
At Octoraro Angus, Sam and Sherrill work to get back to basics and raise cattle that thrive on low-input, sustainable grassland farming. Corn is not like grass; it is not environmentally friendly. Every bushel of corn requires more than two gallons of crude oil, while a bovine relies on solar energy to raise its grass.
Minimal fuel and equipment is used only to make hay.
Their breeding practices have found a wide market, with their cattle sought as seedstock by Angus breeders throughout the United States. They are breeding producer-friendly cattle for farmers who want to get back to the pure, breeder-type Angus of long ago. They stay out of the mainstream, which enables them to keep costs low and find a strong market for their time-tested seed stock.
In 2007, Octoraro Angus was added to the Tallgrass Beef Company Preferred Genetics list. This was a special honor and attributed to the Octoraro Angus cattle being bred for maternal efficiency and longevity. Sam and Sherrill would also like to issue a special thank you to both the Pennsylvania Angus Association and the Pennsylvania Cattlemen for naming Octoraro Angus as the Seedstock Breeder of the Year in 2008. This was truly a surprise and an honor.
A few years back, Sam coined the term, Genetic Seed Saver, as the title for their annual sale. The term sums up what Octoraro Angus is all about. They wish to preserve the original, traditional type of Angus cattle and have not perused the modern, high tech, scientific improvement process that so many have engaged in here in the USA. Sam feels that cattle breeding is an art, which should also be used for genetic damage control.
Octoraro Angus refers to their style of breeding as pure-breeder type. They do not expect their cattle to be everything to everybody. They have concentrated on the cow, maternal efficiency and least cost production, rather than the terminal growth and carcass traits that are often antagonistic to what they are trying to accomplish.
The Wylies take their job as seedstock supplier seriously. They do not continuously outcross their gene pool for bigger, better numbers. Rather they stick with the old, true, time-tested method of linebreeding and continually purging the gene pool of any problems that may arise. Through linebreeding and tight breeding, they feel that they can breed more predictability, consistency and prepotency into their female lines. They believe that it is their job to design and create females that will work for the long haul, up to twenty years of age. They believe in these pure, breeder type Angus cattle and Sam has often jokingly said, "There is only one thing we need more of in the Angus cattle and that is more Angus."
Years ago Jim Lingle, while at Wye Plantation, mentored Sam causing him to believe in the goodness of the Wye maternal program yet today. Sam and Sherrill are extremely pleased to have been entrusted with the rare and unique gene pool of the Newport Farm Wye-based cattle, which they purchased in 2005. They do not wish to not make radical changes in these cows, but rather attempt to make them more consistent and predictable by utilizing the semen from the old time-tested Wye bulls.
Sam feels fortunate to have been mentored through the years by some of the best breeders in the nation, who instilled in him his values and goals. His main goal is to preserve the maternal goodness and purity of the Angus breed. Through this type of disciplined breeding program, they will be able to share both the Wye genetics and their own homebred gene pool.