Bull selection is a key decision for cow-calf producers that will have implications for both short- and long-term profitability. A bull represents half of your herd’s genetics and will sire calves to be marketed or represent the future of your breeding herd.
With bull prices trending higher year after year, producers want to ensure that their investment is adding value to their operation in the right places while still working within a budget. Many bull traits have different impacts on your bottom line.
Before buying a bull, it’s important for producers to identify their breeding management goals so they can select a bull that will help accomplish them. It is important to evaluate how much a bull is worth to your farm or ranch, and identify a price to pay in which you will ideally break even during the lifetime of that sire.
If it hasn’t happened already, soon your mailboxes and inboxes will be filling up with catalogues for this year’s bull sales. How can you identify which bull is going to work best for your operation? Purchasing the best bull for your operation’s needs starts with good record keeping to identify your operation’s strengths and weaknesses. From there you can work to narrow down your search based on your breeding system, genetic goals and budget. The following tips can help guide you in the process of purchasing your next herd sire.
It’s not one size fits all when it comes to bull buying.
Breeding programs will be determined by operational goals and the management practices that fit those goals. A farm that auctions their calves at weaning may choose a crossbreeding program with high performance, while a farm that direct markets their beef may prefer the uniformity of a single breed.
There are many different types of bulls available, and effective sire selection requires an understanding of the available genetics as well as your own operation. Aiming for complementarity of the bull’s genetics to your current cow herd and fit with your operational goals will contribute to increased revenue and reduced costs. Continue reading →
This past year we published 78 blog posts that offered production tips and decision tools, provided a science-based perspective on issues in the media, highlighted new beef, cattle and forage research projects and results, and announced other exciting initiatives. Of those, these were the top 10 most popular:
10) Three Producers Share Ideas That Improve Efficiency
Beef producers across the country are always looking to improve management and production practices that not only benefit cattle, but also reduce their workload, and help to save time and money. This article highlights 3 producers and a recent change they have made to improve efficiency on their operations those changes include improved calf identification measures, installing remote cameras to monitor watering systems, and adopting quiet livestock handling practices in a flexible year-round grazing system.
Editor’s note: The following is part four of a four-part series that helps you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth. (Seepart one, part twoandpart three).
Different traits of bulls can contribute to different impacts on the bottom line of the operation. For example, a bull with a higher calving ease EPD may contribute to more live calves. Not surprisingly, bulls with higher calving ease (or lower birth weights) sell for a higher price (Simms et al., 1997). With the large variation in bulls available, bull prices extend over a wide range from $3,000 to over $20,000 per head.
Identifying a fair price during sire selection contributes to higher efficiency in operation economics. To estimate breakeven bull price, a bull valuation calculator has been developed. The purpose is to provide a general idea of how much a bull is worth based on key farm parameters.
Bull Values – two Scenarios
The value a bull provides depends on his individual performance, the environment (ex: pasture productivity), management (cow:bull ratio) and markets (calf price). For example, large framed bulls require more feed, leading to a higher maintenance cost, but that may be offset by heavier calves at sale time.
Two scenarios were studied – a low maintenance farm versus a high maintenance farm. Table 1 shows the parameters entered for each farm. The default values in the calculator are the averages of the two scenarios. Continue reading →
Editor’s note: The following is part three of a four-part series that will help you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth. (See part one and part two).
Sire selection often encompass a variety of factors such as how well a bull fits into the breeding objectives of your operation, breed, conformation, pedigree, birthweight, and price. Recent surveys from western Canada in 2014 and 2017, Ontario in 2015/16, northern Ontario and Quebec in 2015/16, and Atlantic Canada in 2016/17 production years asked respondents to rank their top bull selection criteria. There wasn’t a lot of variation between regions with breed, conformation, pedigree, birth weight, individual performance, expected progeny differences (EPDs), and temperamentall being highly ranked by survey participants.
Some of the criteria, like breed, may influence sire selection due to the desire to capture heterosis or breed complementarity effects. Conformation is important for longevity and ensuring the bull gets the job done during the breeding season. Having a bull with a desirable temperament makes everyone’s lives easier, especially if there are children or older individuals involved in the operation. Individual performance and birth weight may give some indication of how the bull’s progeny may perform, but a better indicator in this area is actually the bull’s EPDs. Response to selection using EPDs is 7-9 times more effective than selecting based on individual animal performance7.
The question is, how well do these various selection criteria translate into profit? Continue reading →
Editor’s note: The following is part two of a four-part series that will help you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth. (Seepart one).
Bull selection is one of the most important decisions for cow-calf producers, with implications for short- and long-term profitability of the operation. The choice of bull can be immediately seen in the subsequent calf crop.
If the operation retains heifers and/or bulls, the genetics in the selected bull will be passed down to subsequent generations. Introducing new genetics is a permanent change to the herd, compared to the temporary nature of supplements or management practices. As such, bull selection can be seen as a long-term investment into the operation.
Research in the area of beef cattle genetics has been growing significantly. There are opportunities to improve profitability through sire selection. However, with a multitude of traits, breed differences, operational goals, and management practices, bull selection is a complex decision. Continue reading →
Editor’s note: The following is part one of a four-part series that will help you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth.
There are a range of different beef operations in Canada, and there is no one breeding program that is optimal for all operations. Breeding programs will be determined by operational goals and the management practices that fit those goals.
Here are some examples.
A producer that sells weaned calves at auction may choose a crossbreed program with high calving ease and a focus on performance gained from hybrid vigour; or they may prefer the uniformity of a purebred program with reputation premiums.
A producer that retains heifers and is looking for maternal replacements may be focused on maximizing the performance through inbreeding and outcrossing within a single breed; or they may develop FI crosses with higher reproductive performance and longevity.
These choices may be limited by the number of breeding fields available or the number a producer is willing to manage. There are a variety of breeding programs available, and effective sire selection requires an understanding of the characteristics of the available genetics as well as your own operation. Continue reading →