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Remember these tips before bidding on that bull

Photo courtesy of K-State Research and Extension Bulls in field
BULL SALES: Before you bid on your next bull, it pays to do your homework. K-State specialists suggest determining your operation’s goals and objectives. Look for bulls that offer traits that enhance your operation.
K-State offers advice for cattle producers before they hit spring bull sales.

During the late winter and early spring, rural mailboxes seem to be full of bull sale catalogs.

In a recent Cattle Chat podcast, experts at Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute said it can be hard to know how to prioritize traits when making bull selections.

“The most important thing to do is find out what your objectives and goals are for your operation,” said Shane Werk, manager of K-State’s Purebred Beef Unit.

When viewing catalogs, Werk suggested prospective buyers look for bulls that offer traits that enhance the operation. He said commercial producers need to know the genetic and marketing goals of the operation to determine the best breed fit. EPDs, or expected progeny differences, can provide those insights on what bulls to add to the ranch.

Beef cattle nutritionist Phillip Lancaster said producers should determine the traits they really need for improvement.

“Then look for bulls that have EPDs above the average EPD for those traits, but also make bulls have average EPDs for other traits so that they don’t lose ground in some traits,” he said. “The marketing plan dictates a lot about what traits you need to pay attention to when you’re looking at those bulls.”

There will be selection differences depending on if the acquired bull will be breeding heifers or cows. K-State veterinarian Bob Larson pointed out that when breeding heifers, the bull’s calving ease and calving weight EPDs should be prioritized.

But Werk said there can be a trade-off if producers are only using one bull to breed the entire herd.

“If you’re buying heifer bulls for your cows, obviously there’s a potential for less performance and growth in your calves,” Werk said. “Also, the bulls that are best for breeding heifers are typically the highest-priced bulls.”

Bull acclimation

K-State veterinarian Brian Lubbers said there are health considerations for bulls once producers bring them home.

“When bringing a new animal into the herd, producers need to make sure that they are not bringing diseases along with that animal,” Lubbers said.

When separating a bull for biosecurity reasons, it is also a good time to let the bull acclimate to new feed and water, he said.

Separating the new bull from the others can be beneficial not only from a health standpoint but also from a social standpoint, agreed the experts.

When the new bull is introduced, it is a smoother transition to add him to the pen at feeding time, Werk said. “If it’s a young bull in with a handful of older bulls, the fight for dominance is going to end quickly,” he added.

To hear the full discussion, listen to the Cattle Chat podcast online

Source: Kansas State Research and Extension 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.
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