Bulls only serve two purposes in a cow herd - get cows pregnant and make genetic changes that enhance herd profitability, says Burke Teichert.
It's important then, that a bull have the ability and development to breed a high number of cows as a yearling, recover well after the breeding season and last a long time. He should also have EPDs for economically important traits.
Teichert is general manager of Rex Ranch in Nebraska and the Deseret Ranches and Sheridan Ranches in Wyoming. He says a full service genetic provider:
* Understands the industry, its needs and its direction; and knows his customers and the customer's method of operation and objectives.
* Understands genetics - selection, selection differential, heritability, generation interval, crossbreeding, heterosis, EPDs, accuracy, etc.; and knows everything there is to know about each of his cows and herd sires individually.
* Makes matings to fit the needs of his customer and the industry; and monitors the customers' results.
At his ranches Teichert wants genetics to effect four areas.
1. "We want the cow to fit the environment rather than having to modify the environment to fit the cow," he says.
That means a low input cow that survives, breeds back and weans a healthy, good-sized calf. The ideal is a 1,000- to 1,200-lb. cow with a frame size below 6. She will never have to be handled by man apart from the whole herd - not for first calving, doctoring, etc. She will have a good disposition.
"In buying bulls we want to know about the mother of that bull and other closely related females. Do they require calving assistance - ever, even first calf? Do they nurse and take care of their calves? Have they ever been doctored? Have they calved every year starting at age two?" he asks.
Except for records, Teichert believes seedstock cows should be run just like commercials - maybe tougher. "The commercial producer wants to know that heifers born in his herd and kept as replacements will require no pampering and very little fed feed," he says.
He adds that several traits are involved in selection for this kind of cow: maintenance efficiency, calving ease, health, fertility and disposition.
2. Teichert wants good yearling growth rates on grass. Most producers have good EPDs for growth, he says, but he wonders if EPDs for yearling grass gain and/or feedlot gain aren't needed.
3. He expects excellent feed conversion in the feedlot. It's more important than average daily gain. He also wishes there were a method to measure feed efficiency accurately for use in EPDs.
4. Teichert believes value-based marketing will come. He shoots to produce a high proportion of yield grade 1 and 2, Choice and Prime carcasses with no Select 3s or "out" carcasses. It's a plan that would benefit the overall industry, he says, but it will take persistence on the part of seedstock producers and more bulls with carcass EPDs.
In addition, he has these concerns:
* Maternal ability is more than just milk. It includes conception, unassisted live birth, encouraging the calf to nurse, good bonding and adequate milk. Teichert feels the industry as a whole is selecting for too much milk, which in turn can have a negative effect on rebreeding rate and stocking rate.
* There's too much embryo transfer work. How do you really know the cow is good enough, especially in traits with no EPDs? He also worries about excessive narrowing of the genetic base. What if the climate slowly changes or the market changes? Will we still have the genetics to fit the circumstances?
* As the industry continues to select for high growth, limits on birth weight and mature size are needed, especially in maternal lines. For most commercial situations the upper end of frame 5 is big enough, he says.