BeefTalk: Buying Bulls by
the Numbers Can Provide
Data and Increase Profit
By Kris Ringwall, Extension Beef Specialist,
NDSU Extension Service
Seasons sure fly by. The calves arenít on the ground yet, but the livestock
rings are gearing up for the bull sale season. In Dickinson, we have what we
call "Bull Days" during which we invite local and regional bull
producers in to preview this years offering of yearling or two-year-old bulls.
More than 500 producers spent all or part of the day discussing the beef
business and shopping for bulls.
The Bull Day Showcase really gave producers an opportunity to see the quality
of bulls available for sale. My hat is off to the artificial insemination
industry for aggressively developing and promoting the technology of providing
affordable genetics to the beef industry, which helps artificial insemination
companies realize a profit and gives producers the opportunity to do the same.
In an earlier column, I shared information about the spread in the value of
calves produced at the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research
Extension Center. For the past four years, we have collected data on retained
ownership. Let me repeat those numbers. Bull number 1400 returned a net profit
of $146.41 more than our poorest Angus bull. Is a spread in net profit of
$146.41 significant? You bet. And it certainly gives us incentive to know what
we are buying when we look for a bull.
Producers should not simply buy any bull. When the research extension center
purchases bulls, the data is reviewed on all bulls available, and only those
bulls that have documented genetics are considered. Today, thatís most of the
bulls offered. Breeders very willingly provide Estimate Progeny Differences (EPDs),
the product of breed association sire evaluations, to guide prospective clients
in getting the bulls they need.
At the Bull Day Showcase, there was no shortage of well developed bulls with
good production numbers. Despite the availability of data on bulls, many
producers simply donít know how to make the numbers work for them. Perhaps the
process is so simple that some donít want to believe in them.
Buying a bull involves an appraisal. The bull needs to be sound, well
developed and fertile, with an appropriate attitude. You may buy a bull based on
his looks, but you sell calves based on his genetics. At the center, the
commercial cows are randomly mated to high accuracy, proven AI bulls with
selected EPD values. Minimum thresholds are selected for all traits
(particularly milk) with emphasis placed on birth weight, weaning weight,
carcass weight and marbling.
The emphasis has varied as new data is collected each year, but the
commercial herd is still randomly mated to bulls that keep the herd balanced in
all traits but reflective of productive cows that put dollars on the rail. EPDs,
although not perfect, provide producers with an insight into the production
potential. Birth weight and weaning weight are two good examples of how EPDs can
At the center, we have four bulls that have each produced more than 20 steer
calves. These birth weight numbers tell the center two things: first, those
bulls with the lower EPD numbers produced lighter calves and second, for our
herd, we now have a feel for what a particular EPD means in the centerís herd
when using high accuracy bulls.
For weaning weight, we were able to see trends develop.
The use of EPDs allows us to set the centerís benchmarks for birth weight
and weaning weight and go about selecting bulls to make the changes needed. Use
those EPDs. They will be productive for you and for the beef industry.
May you find all your ear tags.
Your comments are always welcome at www.BeefTalk.com
For more information, contact the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association, 1133 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601 or go to
www.CHAPS2000.COM on the Internet. In correspondence about this column, refer to BT0017.
Source: Kris Ringwall, (701) 483-2045, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Tom Jirik, (701) 231-9629, email@example.com
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