Vet’s Voice: Select the best bull for your herd | TSLN.com

Vet’s Voice: Select the best bull for your herd

Dave Barz, DVM

Winter has definitely hit our area of South Dakota. We have plenty of snow and wind, with bone-chilling temperatures. It seems strange to think about bull batteries now, but soon sales will be in high-gear and it’s imperative to be prepared.

It is important to keep good records of calving and breeding histories. There are bulls in the market place for everyone’s needs, but producers must select a bull which fits best into their operation.

Several important questions must be answered to select the best bulls for your herd.

• Define the goals and objectives you would like to achieve with your herd. When you write down your goals, you will also determine the strengths and weaknesses of the cows in the herd. Basic records such as calving percentage, weaning percentage, weaning weights, sale weights and feed usage highlight the past values of the herd.

Some important strategies of production and marketing need to be assessed. Do you save your own replacements, or do you purchase them? Are your calves sold at weaning, backgrounded, or fed to slaughter? Is your herd made up of running-age animals, or merely mature cows? What are your resources for labor and management? What are the feed resources available and the environmental extremes to which your herd is exposed?

• Identify opportunities for improvement in your herd. These should be organized in the order of which has the largest impact on profitability. Income is derived from performance (pounds of meat or quality bonuses). Performance is a function of both genetics and management or environment. Bulls which work well for one herd or ranch may not be optimum choices for herds with different levels of nutrition. If calves are sold at weaning, it may not be as important to select for carcass traits. Genetic improvement in commercial herds is largely accomplished through sire selection, while purebred herds rely more heavily on artificial insemination (AI).

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• Utilize selection tools to effectively move to your goals. Crossbreeding greatly improves reproduction efficiency as well as cow longevity. If crossbreeding, expected progeny differences (EPDs) may not be of great importance in your selection. Most breeds have extensive EPD information available for many traits. Select the traits of most importance to you and establish benchmarks. Use these benchmarks to select suitable bulls and bull families to increase or moderate traits if interest.

• Monitor progress. The beef industry is very dynamic and changes occur rapidly. You must understand how the calves you produce fit into market place standards. Then you must know how well you have achieved both your long- and short-term goals.

The right bull for your ranch may not be the most popular, or at the top of the sale order. Visit with your nutritionist, extension specialist, veterinarian and seedstock producers to determine the bulls that best fit your goals. Remember that the primary goal of your herd needs to be profitability. As you improve the quality and profitability of your calves, you generate animals you can be proud of while generating additional dollars for your operations.

Winter has definitely hit our area of South Dakota. We have plenty of snow and wind, with bone-chilling temperatures. It seems strange to think about bull batteries now, but soon sales will be in high-gear and it’s imperative to be prepared.

It is important to keep good records of calving and breeding histories. There are bulls in the market place for everyone’s needs, but producers must select a bull which fits best into their operation.

Several important questions must be answered to select the best bulls for your herd.

• Define the goals and objectives you would like to achieve with your herd. When you write down your goals, you will also determine the strengths and weaknesses of the cows in the herd. Basic records such as calving percentage, weaning percentage, weaning weights, sale weights and feed usage highlight the past values of the herd.

Some important strategies of production and marketing need to be assessed. Do you save your own replacements, or do you purchase them? Are your calves sold at weaning, backgrounded, or fed to slaughter? Is your herd made up of running-age animals, or merely mature cows? What are your resources for labor and management? What are the feed resources available and the environmental extremes to which your herd is exposed?

• Identify opportunities for improvement in your herd. These should be organized in the order of which has the largest impact on profitability. Income is derived from performance (pounds of meat or quality bonuses). Performance is a function of both genetics and management or environment. Bulls which work well for one herd or ranch may not be optimum choices for herds with different levels of nutrition. If calves are sold at weaning, it may not be as important to select for carcass traits. Genetic improvement in commercial herds is largely accomplished through sire selection, while purebred herds rely more heavily on artificial insemination (AI).

• Utilize selection tools to effectively move to your goals. Crossbreeding greatly improves reproduction efficiency as well as cow longevity. If crossbreeding, expected progeny differences (EPDs) may not be of great importance in your selection. Most breeds have extensive EPD information available for many traits. Select the traits of most importance to you and establish benchmarks. Use these benchmarks to select suitable bulls and bull families to increase or moderate traits if interest.

• Monitor progress. The beef industry is very dynamic and changes occur rapidly. You must understand how the calves you produce fit into market place standards. Then you must know how well you have achieved both your long- and short-term goals.

The right bull for your ranch may not be the most popular, or at the top of the sale order. Visit with your nutritionist, extension specialist, veterinarian and seedstock producers to determine the bulls that best fit your goals. Remember that the primary goal of your herd needs to be profitability. As you improve the quality and profitability of your calves, you generate animals you can be proud of while generating additional dollars for your operations.

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