County Extension Agent Provides Bull Buying Basics
It’s bull season! That means pouring over catalogues and deciding what the next generation of genetics will be in your cow herd. Traveling around to livestock judging contests, listening to reasons, and reading scenarios has led me to emphasize that you need to decipher what is your goals for your ranching operation.
Everyone has different goals, it might be calving ease, higher weaning weights, carcass traits, or even maternal traits. Identify your traits of importance through EPD’s or expected progeny differences, maybe focusing on a few traits. It’s also important to be able to visually appraise the bulls, look over recent breeding soundness exams, check the herd health history, understand recent carcass data and read actual performance data. Each breed association has their own set of data on bull genetics that are compiled over years that can ensure accuracy of the numbers that are given. Each association also has different traits that they evaluate, and they aren’t compared across breeds such as comparing Herefords to Angus.
There are across-breed adjustment factor tables created from the U.S. Meat and Animal Research Center. These tables allow for some comparison but are less accurate than within-breed EPD’s. They are referred to as ABEPD’s or across breed EPD’s.
CattleFax produces an annual cow-calf survey that shows a rancher can expect on average to have 7-8 calves from a female. By reviewing all the criteria that can impact your herd, and purchasing a quality herd sire, the impacts will be significant and have lasting effects on herd performance. MSU extension has a Montguide available about bull selection using EPD’s for review at https://apps.msuextension. org/montguide/guide.html?sku=MT202001AG.