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Is a Bull Buying Error Different From a Bull Buying Mistake?

Is a Bull Buying Error Different From a Bull Buying Mistake?

By Dan Buskirk

Orlando Battista, a prolific Canadian scientist once said, “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” When breeding cattle, even our small errors can last for years. Assume a sire is used for four years and his daughters (and granddaughters) are retained for replacements, his genetics will easily continue into the next decade, and will likely remain in the calf crop for more than 25 years.

Why then do so many people approach bull buying, year after year, with the frugality of Ebenezer Scrooge? I regularly see social media ads of those trying to sell bulls that do not look to have what it takes to be a steer, let alone a herd sire. Then, I see scroll to see the comments, “Where are you located?”; “How much?” Every single time it makes me cringe, because I know that someone is about to make a 25 year mistake.

I understand that buying a bull can be a significant cash outlay. But think about how important that decision is in the overall profitability (or lack thereof) of a herd or even a herd with just a few cows. Bull evaluation programs, such as the MCA/MSU Bull Evalution Program, create value by doing much more than testing which bulls grow fast (Table 1).

Table 1. Practices and information provided by the MCA/MSU Bull Evaluation Program compared to other options


Bull Evaluation Program

Reputable
Breeder

Friend of a friend that
 is selling a bull

GENETICS

 

 

 

Breed association registration

Yes

Yes

“Out of registered stock”

Breeding values (EPDs), backed by generations of performance-based cattle

Yes

Yes

“Good look’n one we saved back”

DNA analyzed to produce genomically enhanced EPDs with increased accuracy

Yes

Varies

“Genoma what”?

Non-carriers of lethal genetic defects

Yes

Yes

“Looks fine, don’t he”?

Fat thickness, ribeye area and marbling measured

Yes

Varies

“My wife had an ultrasound once”

HEALTH

 

 

 

Negative for Bovine Viral Diarrhea-Persistently infected

Yes

Varies

“Had all his shots”

Vaccinated/boostered for IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, M. haemolytica, H. somni, Lepto (5-way), Clostridial (7-way)

Yes

Varies

“Had all his shots”

Coccidia/lice control/3rd dose respiratory vaccinations

Yes

Varies

“Had all his shots”

Dewormed with broad spectrum anthelmintic

Yes

Yes

“Had all his shots”

GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT

 

 

 

Developed to reveal growth potential (gain tested)

Yes

Typically, no

“Small for his age…great for heifers”

Evaluated for structure (foot angle and claw set)

Yes

Sometimes

“Claws? He ain’t no crawdad”

Frame score measured

Yes

Typically, no

“Don’t have a chute, or I could”

FERTILITY

 

 

 

Passed breeding soundness exam (BSE) including physical, semen motility, and semen morphology

Yes

Varies

“Looks fertile, don’t he”?

Scrotal circumference

Yes

Typically, yes

“Just count to 2”

Pelvic area (daughters calving ease)

Yes

Typically, no

“He ain’t havin’ a calf, for Pete’s sake”

Breeding guarantee

Yes

Typically, yes

“Strictly, as-is”

DISPOSITION

 

 

 

Culled for disposition

Yes

Typically, yes

“I’d keep one eye on him!”

An evaluated bull will likely cost a bit more than the bull from a friend of a friend. But think about value in this example context. Let’s say, a producer has 25 cows and one bull. On average, four calves are lost before weaning for various reasons, so the producer sells or retains 21 calves each year. The calves weigh 500 pounds on average at weaning and are worth an average of $1.50 per pound. Conservatively, the opportunity cost of replacement heifers is the same $1.50 per pound. The bull is used for four breeding seasons.

In this example, the bull is responsible for 4 years × 21 calves × 500 lb × $1.50 × = $63,000 in direct sales, as well as influencing quality and sale price for years to come. Now, what if the producer bought a bull that was 5%, 10% or 25% better? You can do the easy math. His value would be thousands more. There is almost no such thing as saving money on a bull, which highlights that a poor bull is costing, rather than making, money. Granted there are many reputable breeders that sell a great product. There are also those who cut corners and pass the risk on to the buyer (e.g. provide a breeding guarantee, but do not conduct a BSE; run genomics, but do not ultrasound; develop bulls together, but do not test them for gain). Based on where we are in the current cattle cycle, it would be an excellent year to trade in a breeding mistake bull for one that will capitalize on the next five years of projected higher market prices.

evaluate foot angle and claw set

Kevin Gould, MSU Extension Educator, and Taylor Langford, Academic Specialist, evaluate foot angle and claw set of tested bulls.

The MCA/MSU Bull Evaluation Program is the region's premier central bull appraisal program and is a cooperative effort of the Michigan Cattlemen's Association, Michigan State University Extension, and Plank Farm. For the past 33 years, the program has provided a common environment for evaluating bulls for growth, breeding and structural soundness, and body composition. Currently, 100 Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Charolais, Simmental, and SimAngus bulls are being assessed for numerous traits at the station in Crystal, MI. Bulls that meet the program’s high standards will be offered for live and online sale on March 20, 2021. All sale bulls will have complete data and videos posted in early March. There will also be an open house on March 6, 2021, with consignors present and ample opportunities for in-person viewing prior to the sale. Sign up at mibulls.com/reports to follow progress and receive important sale updates and catalog.

A quality bull can make a big difference in your herd and in the check you receive at sale time. This year, do not make another error, or worse yet, compound it into a 25-year breeding mistake. Before the breeding season, review your cow herd, develop goals for improvement, and then select a bull(s) that will propel your herd forward toward those goals!

Source : msu.edu

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