by Dan Reider
Rickey Burch of Hempstead, Texas, about 40 miles west of Houston, grew up around the famed F1 Tiger-Stripe cattle that were so popular in the Gulf States for decades. The Tiger-Stripe, highly coveted as a resourceful, adaptable, heat-tolerant, insect-resistant beef cow, resulted from crossing Hereford and Brahman.
“For years, she was the one everyone wanted-a good cow with strong maternal instincts,” says Burch. “But to my way of thinking, she was a little bit too high strung. Then, I discovered that I could get a Simbrah female with the same characteristics as the Tiger-Stripe, but a whole lot easier to handle. Also, those Simbrah calves looked a little better than what I was used to. “
Burch established his original commercial herd in the early 1980’s, based on those familiar Tiger-Stripes that his father had maintained. By the later stages of that decade, he had made a decision to introduce some Simmental genetics into his cattle.
“I went to one of Tom Risinger’s sales over at Crockett, and purchased two purebred Simmental bulls, one for me and one for my dad, “ Burch recalls. “About the same time, my son, John Davis, was getting to the age where he wanted to get involved in showing cattle. Risinger had some top-notch Simbrah show heifers for sale, so I bought one of those for John David. That was our first exposure to Simbrah.”
Burch used his newly acquired Simmental bulls on his F1 cows and some Santa Gertrudis females he had purchased and was very pleased with the results. “Those calves weren’t exactly Simbrah, but they did have genetics from the Simmental and Brahman breeds in them, “he says. “We got noticeably heavier calves compared to what we were getting out of our Hereford bulls.”
As John David’s show ring interest increased, so did the size of his Simbrah show string, heifers that Rickey purchased for his son. That was also about the time that John David came under the wing of established Simbrah breeder Tim Smith, of Giddings.
“Tim gave John David some very helpful advice and introduced him to the American Junior Simmental Association program, “Burch said. “My son was very shy at that time and Tim just insisted that he enter the public speaking and the Texas Junior Simmental Futurity. Well, that was the start of helping to bring him out of his shell. He also made many great friends, including Carlitos and Victor Guerra who were out there showing Simbrah about the same time.”
After his son’s showing days were over, Burch bred John David’s Simbrah heifers to Simmental bulls. “I treated them like commercial cattle, never even thinking about registering them. Then I realized that I was wasting my investment because I had assembled some pretty good genetics over a period of years. I decided that I should start me a little herd of registered Simbrah to go along with my commercial cattle,” he reported.
“I didn’t want just Simbrah cattle, I wanted good Simbrah cattle,” he said. “I relied heavily on Carlos Guerra and Tim Smith for their advice and for their genetics. I have partnered on cattle with them and I hold both of them in the highest regard. They’re good cattlemen and good friends.”
Today, Burch had built his herd of up to 35 registered Simbrah females and 130 commercial cows many of them Simbrah-influenced. “Over the next few years, I plan to convert everything over to the registered Simbrah side. It is slow going, because it is a big investment, but eventually, I want to be 100% registered, “ he stated.
He continues to retain a few Tiger-Stripes, mostly for sentimental reasons. “I have six head down by a creek and they keep jumping the fence. I put them back in and they jump out again. Most of them are just too hard to handle. I may keep one and take the rest to the sale barn, “he laughed.
Burch continually emphasizes disposition as a major component of his selection criteria. “If cattle have a good disposition, I can take a bag of cubes and them just about anywhere. I don’t have to chase them and I don’t have to worry about them chasing me. I also look closely at the animal’s conformation. I want good udders, and I want to know that pedigree, “he continued. “The Simbrah is packed with muscle, another trait I want in my cattle. If they don’t measure up as a top-of-line animal, then I’m going to ship them.”
He relies on and trusts EPDs. “They are extremely helpful and I use them extensively for calving ease, birth weights and weaning weights.”
Burch, 56, has spent more than 30 years in the oil field business, working for several manufacturing companies in Houston. His cattle must often fend for themselves since he hired very little outside help. “My son helps when he can, but he’s been going to college in San Antonio, so it’s been mostly me. I really emphasize calving ease because we’re not always able to be there when the calf is being born.”
So far, Burch has not emphasized marketing his registered Simbrah. “I have sold a few bulls and there is a definite market out there for Simbrah show heifers and older females, “he said. “However, we’re still in a herd-building phase, and I’m not looking to sell a lot of seed stock. I put my good animals back in the registered herd and consign the ones that don’t quite measure up over the commercial cattle.”
He’s contemplating moving into the area of SimAngus genetics. “That’s pretty popular right now and I’m looking at trying some SimAngus bulls. A little extra heterosis never hurts, “he said.
With an eye on potential markets in Latin America, however, he doesn’t want too much black hair on his cattle. “I want to be in a position where I can sell genetics into Latin America when that market finally reopens, ranchers down there don’t want black cattle because of the heat they absorb in their climate.”
Farming at Burch’s farm is limited to hay production. He puts up 300 to 350 big round bales of grass hay annually, enough to get his cattle through the winter months and extended periods of drought.
A Texan Through and Through
Burch has lived his entire life in the greater Houston area, and the family farm is part of his current operation. “Growing up we raised peanuts, water melons, corn and those Tiger-Stripes, “he said. He’s purchased additional land and also leases a couple of parcels.
After earning a business degree from Sam Houston State in Huntsville, he returned to the Houston area in 1974 and has never left. Burch and his wife, Martha, a kindergarten teacher, have two grown children. Their oldest, Laurie, is a nurse who works in a Dallas hospital and will be married later this year to James Barta. John David is married to Liz and after graduation from college, is planning to join the Air Force Pilot Flight Training program.
Burch has recently retired from a long career in the oilfield
and has opened a real estate business in the Hempstead area. This
will allow him more time with his cattle.
RICKEY BURCH FAMILY
...courtesy of American Simbrah
Copyright © 2007