Use Data and
Benchmark Values to Buy
Bulls as an Investment
By Kris Ringwall, Extension Beef Specialist,
NDSU Extension Service
Bull buying is a lot like buying stocks. Do investors buy stocks without
looking at earnings and a prospectus and without considering future earning
The future of a producerís herd can hinge on sire selection because bull
buying is an investment in the future. Who would take their life savings and
invest it in a plan that has no history or supporting data? So why donít
producers do the same for bull investments?
Although time consuming, finding the right bull for a cow herd is much like
the stories we tell: our memories are very selective and rearrange thoughts so
that good stories embellish themselves and get better with age. Within a beef
cow herd, bulls tend to become landmarks in much the same way -- actual data may
or may not support the pedestal built for them. Evaluation of the genetic trend
lines within breed associations indicate new bulls just keep getting better.
The process is relatively simple. The key is to learn how to understand and
navigate through the data presented. At the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension
Center, benchmarks within our herd are the foundation on which we base our
evaluations to make industry numbers relevant to our needs. In the case of bull
selection, those industry numbers are Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) values.
We pick selected bulls, use them on 30 to 50 cows and check the data that
comes back. We call these benchmark bulls. Obviously, these are high-accuracy,
well-proven artificial insemination bulls. These bulls are used over several
breeding seasons to more accurately gauge their value, and we hope, let us
better assess seasonal differences that may bias our performance and management
Alternatives are available for producers who do not AI cows to incorporate
one or two benchmark bulls within their herd. Not all cows need to be bred AI,
but a synchronized breeding program with a random set of cows may be a
Within the research extension center herd, we have three Angus benchmark
sires we evaluate for many traits. To illustrate the value of benchmarks, allow
me to focus on birth, weaning, yearling weight and yearling height. They are:
- Landmark Bando 912, born in 1989. He has current Expected Progeny
Difference values of +2.1 for birth weight, +31 for weaning weight, +61 for
yearling weight and +.2 for yearling height.
- Papa 8810 R R Hero 0915, born in 1990. His values are -1.1 for birth
weight, +26 for weaning weight, +41 for yearling weight and -.2 for yearling
- Summitcrest Traveler X044, born in 1988. His values are +.5 for birth
weight, +24 for weaning weight, +53 for yearling weight and +.2 for yearling
None of these bulls were barn burners for growth, but a fundamental point
when selecting benchmark bulls is accuracy and acceptable performance at an
affordable price. Producers do not need trait leader bulls to establish where
they are. In retrospect, the average net return in the feedlot for steer calves
of the three bulls combined was $27.41 for 1997, 1998, and 1999.
These bulls have given us solid multi-year benchmarks to guide the purchase
of new bulls. Bulls with birth weight EPDs of -1.1 to +2.1 produced calves that
averaged 89 pounds at birth. When weaning weight EPDs were +24 to to +31, the
calves had averaged 571 pounds at 205 days of age (weaning). For yearling
weight, EPDs of +41 to +61, produced live weights at harvest of 1151 at 420 days
of age. The last trait was yearling height. The EPDís ranged from -.2 to +.2
and the calves at weaning had an average frame score of 4.96.
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 BT0024.
Source: Kris Ringwall, (701) 483-2045, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Tom Jirik, (701) 231-9629, email@example.com
Click here for a printable PDF version of this graphic.
Click here for a printable EPS version of this graphic.
Click here for a EPS file of the BeefTalk logo suitable for
(100KB b&w logo)