Don’t Be Fooled By A Pretty Bull Picture

It’s bull sale season, and that means seedstock producers are looking for help from graphic designers, advertisers, marketers and photographers. These professionals offer a keen eye and a creative outlook to make a set of bulls stand out in the crowd. This time of year, my mailbox is crammed full of bull sale catalogs, fliers and pamphlets -- all glossy and smooth, with the promise that each bull photographed is better than the next.

And, while a pretty picture can certainly help a seedstock producer sell his cattle, a buyer would be wise to look deeper into his next purchase. As a purebred breeder myself, I know that a good picture is a useful tool for our customers to view, especially if they are purchasing a bull sight unseen. However, other tools such as EPDs, carcass data and DNA information should also be evaluated by a commercial cattleman looking for his next herd sire. I certainly encourage our customers to read the data that goes along with each bull.

Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist, offers a great reminder for folks attending cattle auctions this time of year to do your homework before raising your hand to bid on a bull.

“We enjoy pictures, but we also should enjoy data. Bulls may be very similar in phenotype, in other words the picture, but their genotype may have no similarity at all.

“The point is that true bull selection rests with understanding the data. The action of buying bulls should be a process of sorting through the data first and then looking at the bull.

“The process of buying bulls actually is, or at least should be, fairly methodical. Although data terms may baffle a bull buyer, always check out what the trait abbreviations and the many expected progeny differences (EPDs) values mean. The breed association websites have good glossaries or just ask other breeders.

“Keep in mind that no picture is going to relay the information that is needed. Only breed association EPD data will, which is critical in making long-lasting bull decisions. Great bulls have great numbers. Learn to read them and just don't bid on poor bulls.”

Seedstock producers need to be transparent and not hide behind pretty photoshopped images of their bulls. Backed by solid numbers, the good bulls will still find their way to the top. As a buyer, the hope is always that you can afford what your homework has revealed as your top pick.

In fact, BEEF readers reported in a recent survey published in BEEF’s February issue that they expect the strong market for bulls seen in the last year or two to continue into 2013.

Of those who bought bulls in 2012, 22.1% paid $2,000 to $2,999; 15.4% paid $3,000 to $3,499; and 10.1% paid from $3,500 to $3,999. A few (8.1%) went bargain shopping, paying from $1,000 to $1,999, but just as many (8.5%) paid from $4,000 to $4,499, while 3.6% paid from $4,500 to $4,999, and 7.5% paid more than $5,000.

And those planning to buy bulls in 2013, don’t expect prices to back up any. Most (51.3%) think prices will resemble those of 2012, while 25.9% expect higher prices. Only 2.4% expect prices to be less than 2012, while 20.4% don’t plan to buy bulls in 2013.

The majority of those who anticipate higher bull prices in 2013, at 57.7%, think prices will jump 10-15%, while 30.3% expect an increase of 10% or less. Only 9.1% expect prices to increase 16-20% and 2.9% expect prices to increase by more than 20%.

Are you in the market to buy a bull or several bulls this year? If so, which breed do you prefer? How have sales been averaging in your neck of the woods?

TAGS: Seedstock
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