AUBURN, Ala. – Selecting the right bull is one of the most important management decisions a producer can make.
Importance of Selection
“Bull selection is a very important building block of the genetics in your beef cattle operation,” said Michelle Elmore, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Animal Science and Forages Extension Specialist. “Making informed, sound herd bull selections makes a significant impact of the potential genetic and production level of your herd.”
When replacement heifers are retained in a herd, within 10 years approximately 88 percent of the genetic makeup of a herd will come from the herd bulls, making proper bull selection crucial.
Expected Progeny Differences
Expected Progeny Differences, EPDs, are genetic selection tools used to guide producers to select herd bulls.
EPDs are used to compare a bull’s genetic strengths and weaknesses on a variety of genetic traits.
“Comparing a bull’s EPD values to the current breed average EPD values, which are published for each breed, guides beef producers in selecting the best bull for their herd production goals,” said Elmore.
Additional key production traits to evaluate are birth and weaning weights and ratios, scrotal circumference and frame score.
Selecting Bulls for First Calf Heifers and Mature Cows
When selecting bulls for first calf heifers, producers should focus on calving ease EPDs to increase the percentage of unassisted calving.
However, in selecting herd bulls for both first calf heifers and mature cows it is important to consider weaning and yearling weight EPDs to evaluate the genetic potential of the bull.
“Feeder calves are marketed by live weight, and growth strengths in a herd bull will increase the probability of producing a calf crop with a heavier market weight,” said Elmore.
Common Mistakes in Bull Selections
It is important to give careful consideration to overall soundness and hoof and leg structure of potential bulls before purchasing them.
“Poor structure in hooves and legs will result in limiting a bull’s longevity in your herd,” said Elmore. “If replacement heifers are retained from bulls with poor hoof and leg structure, the problem will grow.”
For more information on proper hoof and leg structure refer to the Foot Score Poster from the American Angus Association.
Because herd bulls can contribute up to 88 percent of a herd’s genetic makeup it is important to ensure the proper bull is selected to meet the genetic and production levels of your herd.
For more information on bull selection and bull sales contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension Animal Science and Forages Regional Extension Agent or the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association.