Bull Buying Tips

– Dr. Darrh Bullock, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

We are rapidly approaching bull buying season in Kentucky so there are few basics I would like to share. The genetics in the bull you are buying now will have a huge impact on your herd immediately and could linger for years to come if you keep replacements from him. For this reason it is important to get this decision right.

For commercial cattlemen, the first suggestion is to evaluate your crossbreeding program and make sure you are taking full advantage of heterosis (hybrid vigor). If your cow herd is made up of predominantly one breed then you might consider introducing a second breed and start a rotation system with those breeds. This can improve the productivity of your herd by greater than 10% with no additional costs. I am not an economist, but I think I am safe to say that should pay for itself! For more information on crossbreeding please see fact sheet:
ASC-168 Crossbreeding for the Commercial Beef Producer (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/asc/asc168/asc168.pdf)

Once you have decided on a breed the next decision is determining which bull within that breed is best for you. This should be guided by how you plan to market his calves, whether or not you will be keeping replacements, whether or not you will be breeding him to first-calf heifers and what level of management you have on your farm. If keeping replacements then you have to focus on both production traits to fit your market and maternal traits the bull will pass on to his daughters. The best tool for making decisions about production traits is Expected Progeny Differences (EPD). Focus on the traits that can put money in your pocket (weaning weight) or potentially take money out of your pocket (calving ease). The level of emphasis to put on each trait depends on your management and market, but in most cases extremes should be avoided. For more information on EPDs and how to use them in selection please see fact sheets:

ASC-141: Using Expected Progeny Differences (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/asc/asc141/asc141.pdf)

ASC-165: Beef Sire Selection Recommendations (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/asc/asc165/asc165.pdf)

ASC-211: Expected Progeny Differences, Trait Definitions and Utilizing Percentile Tables (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/asc/asc211/asc211.pdf)

Selecting a bull can be time consuming and represent a significant cost, so take your time, do your homework and buy the bull that is right for your farm and your management. For more information on buying bulls contact Darrh Bullock – dbullock@uky.edu – (859) 257-7514

For Your Information! The CAIP Genetic Improvement Program’s EPD Guidelines has gone through significant changes this year. Please check the updated values before purchasing your bull to be certain he qualifies.