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Shopping for the Right Bull from the Right Place

Shopping for the Right Bull from the Right Place

It’s the bull marketing season and the time for promotional advertising and articles on selecting bulls, valuing bulls, and using genetic/genomic technologies. Amongst the commotion of the season, here are a few basic thoughts on the subject.

The commercial cattle inventory is sustained by replacing unproductive cows with new females as developed bred heifers. For some bulls, a primary need is for their daughters to be working cows that function well with the resources, management, restraints, and economics of the ranch.

To insure that these daughters are of the genetic lineage having the right characteristics, start by sourcing their sires form breeder herds that run their cows the way cows are run at your place. Do you expect your cows to graze for seven to eight months, winter on hay and mineral for the most part, and in doing so, maintain flesh and health, breed on schedule and produce a sound marketable calf with little intervention? How might daughters of a bull from a highly supplemented, silage fed, barn calved herd with breed leading numbers for growth, milk, and carcass traits, stand up in your program?

By achieving longevity in females, the replacement rate might be minimized to 10 to 12% of the herd annually. Theoretically, then allowing for some calf losses and culling of heifer calves, less than 40% of the herds mating’s need to be to bulls targeted to genetically maternal replacements.

The criteria for bulls siring calves which will all be terminal cattle should focus on their market value as feeder cattle (if that’s what you sell off the ranch). Look to buy bulls from breeders whose cattle have industry reputation and have networks that assist in marketing at leading prices. While maintaining calving ease, these bull’s progeny should be recognized for gain ability and carcass merit. The cattle feeder can pay more for calves that have been managed for high health, gain over 4 pounds a day, convert at 6 or less, finish at 1300-1400 pounds, and hit marbling targets for choice or higher branded beef programs.

The industry at a basic level needs a differing focus in bulls for breeding based on the expectations for their progeny.

For bulls whose daughters will be the replacement for your herd:

  • Source from herds that manage cowherd similarly to you
  • Look for bulls with sound mothers (udder, feet), that have been in herd awhile, maintain body condition, and have been regular producers
  • Bulls should have been born on their own at a moderate size and not have required and extra treatments or help
  • Consider moderate frame bulls that display depth, thickness, and docility.
  • Look for upper ranking calving ease, stay ability, and $wean/maternal index values.

For bulls whose progeny will be sold as feeder cattle and exclusively feedlot finished for beef:

  • Source from breeders and programs that may be recognized for value in their cattle and networked to assist in helping market your calves at prices reflecting superiority.
  • Look for bulls when mated to your cows will produce feeders that gain and convert, finish at heavy market desired weights, and grade a high percentage choice
  • Know your limits for acceptable birth weights and calf size to maintain calving ease
  • Look for bulls with upper rankings for growth traits, carcass marbling, and high $beef/feedlot-carcass indexes.

Additionally, the diverse beef industry includes further niches and specifications, such as sires for first calf heifers, for forage/grass finishing, etc. that might need their own unique selection focus.

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