Taken from Beef by the Bay, June 1998
From 1938 to 1979, Wye Plantation was owned by the late Mr. Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Houghton and Mr. James B. (Jim) Lingle, Farm Manager, founded the herd with 18 registered yearling heifers and one bull. Ten of those heifers were half-sisters, sharing the same sire. No other females were ever introduced into the herd. Between 1942 and 1958, Wye Plantation imported 19 bulls from the British Isles. Those bulls are responsible for about 75 percent of the germ plasm now in the herd. The Wye Angus herd was closed to the introduction of additional germ plasm in 1958. It was reopened for a brief period to half of the herd in order to complete a research project. It has remained closed ever since.
The availability of this closed breeding population provides unique advantages in terms of conducting basic and applied beef cattle research. Individual animal variation, due to genetics, is significantly reduced which improves the interpretation of research results. In addition, the use of a limited number of bulls across a fairly homogeneous population of females results in larger numbers of individual sire groups of calves for study. Whenever individual variation can be reduced, the significance of scientific findings is improved.
The University of Maryland established its first official presence at Wye Plantation in 1954. In the fall of that year, Dr. Willard Green agreed to supervise the first post-weaning gain test of bulls on the farm, and bulls have been similarly tested ever since. This work by Dr. Green founded one of the most comprehensive beef cattle performance evaluation programs in the United States. These efforts led to a vastly improved selection of superior sires from which Wye Angus established a lasting impact on the genetic make up of the national Angus herd. Through Dr. Green, the University of Maryland was involved in various research projects at Wye Plantation until his retirement in 1977.
In 1979, Mr. Houghton gifted the University of Maryland with the Wye Angus herd. The private, nonprofit University of Maryland Foundation was created to accept and hold the gift for use by the University, and remains the legal owner of the herd today.
Within the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station was charged with managing the herd on a daily basis and it continues to do so today. With acceptance of the herd gift, the University agreed to make any animals deemed excess to research needs available for the general public in some equitable fashion. The agreement to the annual public auction of Wye Angus cattle held each April since 1978.