Evaluate the cows, then pick the bulls!

US - With the annual run of bull sales right around the corner, it's time for a quick reminder of a few issues concerning the bulls you are about to purchase.
calendar icon 5 February 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

For starters, keep in mind that the investment you make tomorrow will have repercussions well into the future. Starting just weeks or months after the sale, concerns about the bulls' libido and attitude will be present. Nine months after turnout you will either be praising or cursing the bull for his calving ease and calf vigor traits.

Several months later you can evaluate growth traits of calves and be either content to dehorn calves from a bull or glad you purchased a homozygous polled herd sire.

In the simplest scenario, those people who plan to sell weaned calves will have to wait around 15 months from the time a bull is turned out with the cows before the resulting calves will be sold.

People who plan to retain ownership through the feedlot phase will have to wait 2 years before they can see a carcass from a calf the bull sired, and almost 3 years will go by before any replacement heifers from the bull will have their first claves, let alone before they start paying for themselves and making you money. Thus, purchasing decisions made on the day of a bull sale can translate into joy or frustration for years to come.

While there is a lot a stake with these decisions, before pouring through the catalogs and picking which bulls you want to buy, remember to do one thing: conduct a critical analysis of your cow herd. For some people this goes without saying, but others may need to be reminded on occasion.

Get a very good handle on what the strengths of the cow herd are, what you appreciated about the previous calf crops, and be frank about the weaknesses as well. You are most likely not going to go out tomorrow and replace your entire cow herd, so take the time to realize just what the makeup of that herd is.

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