2017-11-09 / Editorial Page

Bull Buying Time

By Brian Tankersley Lincoln County Extension Service

If you drive around the county and look out in the pastures this time of year you will see baby calves that have been born in re­cent days or weeks. This is always an enjoyable site to see. As the new calves hit the ground running and growing, this marks the cal­endar that breeding season is fast approaching. Many producers are replacing bulls or purchasing new bulls in preparation for the upcom­ing breeding season. During this bull buying time producers real­ize that selecting and purchasing a bull for their beef herd could be considered one of the most impor­tant decisions they make in their operation. Purchasing a superior performing herd bull is the quick­est way to make genetic improve­ment in your herd. The selection process must include looking for those traits that are economically important and highly heritable.

Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s) are very important perfor­mance standard statistics to use in estimating the genetic worth of a bull. These EPD’s are calculated using the individual performance of the bull and the relatives of the bull. There are many traits that are evaluated by the use of EPD’s in­cluding birthweight and calving ease, weaning weight, yearling weight, and milk. This informa­tion is very valuable in the bull selection process. Each producer must evaluate his own herd and see where he or she may need to make improvements.

Since most producers in this area are cow–calf producers, the need to have calves with excellent wean­ing weights is the goal. This goal can become very hard to achieve without the help of a superior bull. Fortunately, weight at various ages is heritable. Birth weight and weaning weight are estimated to be about 30 percent heritable, while yearling weight is about 45 percent heritable. This means that a cer­tain degree of birth weight, wean­ing weight and yearling weight is inherited from the parents and that progress can be made by selecting for these traits.

Other selection criteria in the bull buying process includes: con­formation, soundness and disposi­tion. Bulls should generally have a muscling score of one and be me­dium plus to large minus framed, according to the USDA feeder calf standards. The bull you buy should be functionally sound -- a good breeder with a long life ahead -- and he should be structurally cor­rect, with sound feet and legs and strong pasterns. The bull should not have swollen joints and should be able to move freely and easily. The bull should not be extremely nervous. A bull with a mean dispo­sition is difficult to handle and he may pass on his nervousness to his offspring.

One final decision is “where to go to buy that bull that will have a positive impact on my herd?” You need to know that records of birth dates, rate of gain, weaning weights and health conditions of a bull are just as the seller says. You need to know that the breeder will live up to his responsibilities. It has been said that records and pedigrees are as good or as poor as the integrity of the breeder. It is always recommended to buy from a breeder whose integrity is above reproach. Also buy from someone who has complete performance re­cords. It is also helpful to know the type of management under which the bulls were produced. Central test station bull sales, performance oriented producer sales, and breed association sponsored sales are also possible locations to purchase that future herd bull. For other helpful information on purchasing your next bull contact the Lincoln County Extension Office.

Question of the week: When is the best time to put out lime in the home garden? Answer: Since the purpose of applying lime is to adjust the soil pH, spreading lime 3-4 months prior to spring garden planting season would be the rec­ommended application timing.

Return to top