By Lilly Platts
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series highlighting significant women in the Simmental industry.
A pioneer for the Simbrah breed and a fervent believer in science, the late Sally Buxkemper made a lasting impact on the Simmental breed and beef industry.
Sally Buxkemper had the right prescription in mind when she started crossing Simmental cattle with Brahman at RX Simbrah. The ranch brand was registered by Buxkemper’s grandmother, Lucy Kuhn, who went to medical school and ran a drug store. Sally chose to focus on these principles of improvement, experimentation, and advancement symbolized by her grandmother’s RX brand throughout her impactful career in the cattle business. Women have always been a present force on many successful ranches, however, Buxkemper took this involvement a step further by pursuing higher education, moving into leadership positions rarely held by a woman, running her own operation, and reaching industry milestones not often sought by women of her time. Buxkemper was born in West Virginia and moved with her family to Michigan where she was raised. During this time, Buxkemper gained a love and appreciation for livestock, spending summers with her grandmother, Lucy, and her great uncle, Stanley Kubel, on ranches in Texas. She attended Michigan State University (MSU), where she was the only woman on the livestock judging team. Transferring from MSU to Oklahoma A&M University, she became the first woman to graduate with a degree in Animal Husbandry in 1954. In her studies, she also became the first woman to be certified in Artificial Insemination by the American Breeders Service. Buxkemper went on to earn a Master’s of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of North Texas, studying the bovine genome. A commitment to science remained a major focus for her, acting as an early champion of crossbreeding and one of the first to fully explore its principles in her own herd. This commitment led to her being honored by the Beef Improvement Federation Pioneer Award in 2012. Buxkemper took over the family’s ranch in the 1960s, which became RX Simbrah. At the time, Hereford cattle were prominent and she saw a major issue in the pink eye typically going through the herd. She crossed the Hereford cows with a Brahman bull to manage this issue, which became evidence for her belief in crossbreeding to eliminate negative traits in breeds. With the principles of heterosis she had been studying in mind, she soon started crossing Brahman cattle with Simmental, being one of the first to develop Simbrah cattle. In her role as a seedstock producer, Buxkemper utilized science to its fullest potential. Early on, she saw the benefit of DNA testing and was an early proponent of removing genetic defect risk in herds through testing. Buxkemper served several terms on the ASA Board of Trustees and frequently contributed writing for ASA about science and beef cattle. She was honored with numerous awards and distinguishments, but even upon reaching these milestones she continued to focus on raising cattle. Buxkemper passed in 2017, and her commitment to improving the Simmental breed continues to inspire and contribute to the efforts of those in the Simmental industry.