Recommendations on beef sire selection

T.J. Adkins

The overall goal of a beef cattle operation is to increase net income by balancing what is spent on the operation with how much income it generates. A beef producer can accomplish this goal by increasing income while minimizing additional costs, or reducing costs while trying to maintain income.

One way to do this is to improve herd genetics through individual bull selection.

You should assess four primary characteristics when considering a purchase. These are: reproductive soundness, structural soundness, visual evaluation and performance characteristics.

Having a breeding soundness exam done is the best way to determine a bull's reproductive soundness. While passing this exam means he should have the physical soundness to breed and settle cows, it does not measure desire. Observe bulls for their interest in females in heat.

Indications of structural soundness are the bull moves without pain or discomfort and has appropriate angles at weight-bearing joints.

Visual observation is one way to evaluate important traits. These can include disposition, color, muscling, horned/polled, body capacity, structure, sheath and testicular development.

Expected calf performance is a primary reason to buy a bull. If replacement females will be retained, the first decision will be the breed's productivity level. When the breed is determined, selection among bull performance should be based on the expected progeny difference whenever possible.

There is no such animal as the "best bull," because selection should be based on what you need to get from the bull. Remember that as you select to improve one trait you often lose ground in another trait. For example, selecting for increased growth usually inadvertently increases cows' mature size and maintenance when retaining replacements.

Balancing cows' productivity levels and energy requirements is extremely difficult and if done improperly likely will result in decreased reproduction. Before you buy a bull, consider what you want to produce and what resources (primarily nutrition) you have available.

Bull selection has an important long-term economic impact on your herd. Selecting the right bull for your operation involves setting production goals, analyzing your resources and management and locating the bull that best fits your situation. While this process will take time and effort, it can generate significant financial rewards when properly done.

When selecting a bull consider this: You buy a bull in 2021. His first calves will be born in 2022. His daughter's will calve in 2023. His last calves will be born in 2027 (if he last like bulls should). So, in 2037, 10 year old females and older could still be out of this year's purchases and the majority of you mid-aged cows are granddaughter's. There are no short term decisions in the cattle business. The moral of this is try to find the best bulls you can afford from a quality source, because it can be a decision that will affect your operation for many years.

When buying bulls for the CAIP program remember that those animals have to meet certain requirements to qualify for cost share. Contact the Pulaski County extension office or the NRCS to get a list of those requirements.

For more information on selecting a beef sire and other management decisions for your beef cattle operation, contact the Pulaski County Cooperative Extension Service. Source Darrh Bullock

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