Making a bull purchase is a herd management decision that should not be taken too lightly as selecting the wrong bull for your operation could result in missed opportunities for increased calf revenue for several years.
When discussing bull selection it is important to set some goals for your cow herd in terms of performance, efficiency, and marketing. Often calving ease and performance are the first two criteria that come to mind, because ultimately nobody wants to pull calves, (less of a concern if only breeding mature cows) and here in Ohio most calves are sold at or post weaning across the scales. If you don’t know what selection criteria are important to your operation, it’s quite possible you may never find the right herd sire. Consider the following when gearing up to purchase your next bull.
Understand and Utilize Genetic Information: EPD’s are a great tool in estimating the performance of progeny (calves) of a given sire. When buying young, unproven sires, look at the accuracy of the EPD’s. EPD accuracies improve is a bull has been genomically tested, using a DNA analysis test. Accuracy values represent the relationship between the “estimated” EPD and the “true” EPD of the animal. Values will range numerically from zero to one. An EPD with an accuracy value approaching 1.0, is more likely to represent the true genetic potential of the bull in question.
Evaluate the Bulls: I like my bulls to look like bulls. Genetic information can be an extremely useful tool when used in conjunction with visual appraisal. If the bull doesn’t have the conformation, growth, performance, toolbox, and skeletal structure to match what the sale catalog says, or visa versa, there is a risk for losing adaptability and value within a production system.
Good EPDs + good visual appraisal = a potential purchase.
Feet, Legs, and Docility Matter: I’ve been around the stockyards long enough that young bulls get culled for two main reasons; either they have poor foot/leg conformation and have become lame, or they are a too crazy to manage. Some breeds have added EPD’s in these regarding these traits. Keep in mind that undesirable traits are also passed down to the next generation just as easily as desirable ones.
Semen Testing: Not many producers can afford to purchase a bull who has not been semen tested, unless they have a surplus of bull power for every group of cows. Open cows are a profit drain for every cow-calf operation. Even if buying a bull from a neighbor or friend, make sure he has passed its semen test with flying colors before turning him out into the herd. Once acquired, continue to semen test your bull battery each year.
A good bull is an investment, one in which value is often underestimated, especially if replacement females are being retained in the herd. Data from CattleFax’s annual cow-calf survey show that producers expect on average to have 7-8 calves from a female. Procuring a quality herd sire will have lasting effects on herd performance for up to decade.
Lastly, when considering the price of cull bulls over the past several years, the overall financial investment of a young bull has been fairly reasonable for commercial cattlemen. When you factor in selling a 1,800-2,000 pound bull for anywhere from $0.75/lb, to at times $1.00/lb, plus, it makes the cost of a new bull easier to budget. Happy Bull Buying and don’t get caught with open cows in 2021!
Source: Ohio State University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.