Bull Selection

by Andrew Cribb (Cribby)

Cribby is the Director/Veterinarian at East Coast Farm Vets

May 2022

Every year the rural district comes to life in May and June as hundreds of bulls exchange hands.

Beef cattle production has always been the poor cousin to ewe production in terms of dollars earned on a stock unit basis, but through changing management and breeding practices considerable improvements can be made.

One of the most significant gains in a breeding programme is the purchase of superior genetics.

  • If individual cows and calves are not identified back to each other, the bull contributes about 80% of the measurable genetic gain.

The selection process should begin with the establishment of breeding objectives that have high economic value relative to your farm. This process is the most important step but is almost always overlooked.

The most critical component in maximising genetic gain is to identify the breeder who most closely meets your breeding objectives. The amount of genetic progress you make in your herd is largely dependent on the genetic progress being made by the breeder who you buy your bulls from.

Once you have selected your breeder and been presented with a group of bulls, either on farm or at the sales ring, a thorough physical inspection should be made with special emphasis placed on physical and reproductive soundness.

Areas to look at include the head, jaw, eyes, neck, shoulders, front leg and feet structure, pastern angle of front and hind legs, sheath and hind leg and structure.

It doesn’t matter how impressive a bull’s performance figures are, if he is not sound he will significantly depress profitability through poor in-calf rates.

It is now where Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) should be considered, with the key emphasis placed on traits that align with your breeding objectives. Bull breeders spend considerable time gathering information for the validity of these EBVs in order for purchasers to make informed and objective decisions.

Another point worth noting is sire stock needs to be fed well, year round, in order to perform to the best of their ability. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars are spent on individual bulls, it makes no sense to neglect them until a week before mating and then wonder why pregnancy testing was not what you thought it would be.

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