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Purchasing Considerations as Fall Breeding Season Approaches

October 1, 2014

By Bryan R. Kutz, Instructor/Youth Specialist, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Breeding season for fall calving cows is fast approaching, and it is never too late to organize your breeding plan or make your next herd bull purchase.  Underestimating the power of your bull can be a huge production error.  Choosing your mating scheme and purchasing your next herd sire could be considered the most important decisions you make in your operation. Keep in mind that your bull will account for approximately 90% of the gene pool, contributing more to the genetic makeup of a herd in one breeding season than a cow contributes in her lifetime.

This investment should add efficiency and profitability to your herd for years to come.  The cost of purchasing a bull may seem high at a glance; however, that expense becomes relatively small when it is spread over 3 to 5 years of calf crops.  Remember that the expense of the new bull can be calculated as the difference between the purchase price of the new bull and the salvage value of the old bull.  And, if you add pounds to your future calf crops through your new purchase, then you will have profitable returns on your investment.

Evaluate your current cow base and calf crop and make a decision based on your results.  Your bull should complement your cows in hopes of increasing hybrid vigor and improving traits that will maximize your production goals, match target markets and improve bottom line profitability.  Ask questions that pertain to your particular production situation and utilize breed associations NCE programs.  Breeders should have performance EPD’s available for you. Birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight and milk values are commonly available; however, most breed association now have a plethora of EPD’s that include carcass traits as well.  Advances in National Cattle Evaluation have made estimating a bull’s genetic worth more accurate than ever before.  EPD’s allow valid comparisons of all bulls of the same breed and now have made available across-breed charts so comparisons can be made between two different breeds

The bull you purchase should be functionally sound resulting in herd sire longevity and ability to fulfill his breeding requirements.  At most sales a Breeding Soundness Exam has been performed, but if you are buying from an individual, always request a BSE.  Remember that a bull is only as good as his semen.  A cow is responsible for half the genetic material in only one calf each year, while the bull is responsible for half the genetic material in 20-50 calves.  The bull’s ability to locate cows in estrus and breed them is clearly vital to a successful breeding program.  Other factors to consider are disposition, libido, body shape, frame size, condition and muscling.

Age, condition and length of breeding season are factors that may affect the number of cows one bull can cover.  You cannot expect excessively fat or thin bulls to perform up to standard.  Poor nutrition can influence semen quality and fat bulls may lack staying power or stamina.  Nonetheless, a yearling bull in good breeding condition should be expected to breed 20 to 25 cows, while a mature bull could potentially breed up to 40 or more cows.

While one approach may be to apply more pressure on one or two traits, it is always best to strike a balance among various traits and avoid extremes.  Purchase a bull based on the purpose of your breeding plan.  This process must include those traits that are economically important and highly heritable.  Your records are necessary if you are to choose a bull that will improve your cow base.  Keep in mind that not every bull will fit your production scenario, but the decision you make with you purchase will influence your beef production for the next several years.

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