AgWatch


Bull Sale Time

ELDON COLE

MT. VERNON, MO.
   The Southwest Missouri Beef Cattle Improvement Association will hold their bull sale on March 26, 7 pm at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center at exit 70 off I-44. I’ve mentioned over the years, the tools to use as you shop for bulls wherever it is. Those items do change so here’s a few current tips.
   • Use EPD’s (expected progeny difference). They are much more reliable predictors of an animal’s genetic merit than actual or adjusted weights.
   • Calving ease direct (CED) is the best predictor of a bull’s expected calving ease.
   • Ignore a bull’s adjusted birth weight. Birth weight EPD is the major factor in CED so if your association provides a CED value for bulls, use it instead of the birth weight EPD.
   • Indexes should be used rather than trying to look at a specific EPD. For example Angus combine birth weight, weaning weight, maternal milk and mature cow size into a $Wean or ($W) value that is more predictive if you’re a feeder calf producer and you save replacement heifers. You may have used the $Beef ($B) in the past and that’s fine if you retain ownership all the way to the packer. $B does not reflect maternal merit if you save replacements.
   • Know the genetic makeup of your cow herd and your plan for the future. Is there a younger generation coming on?
   • Most of you may not know the genetic makeup of your cows unless you’ve entered steers in our Missouri Steer Feedout consistently or fed your own cattle out and received carcass data. The next best thing to do is research your last several bulls’ EPD Percentile Ranking. Of course, you may choose to genomic test your replacement heifers and use that to position your herd in the future.
   • Don’t overuse Calving Ease Direct (CED). You can have calves that are too small at birth.
   • You may have already selected for more milk in your cows than your forage allows them to produce.
   •  Docility is an EPD in several breeds you can use to move an excitable herd to one that’s easier to handle. On docility, EPDs that are larger are the calmer ones.
   • After doing your bull selection, look critically at your selections from the ground up. That means are their hooves sound for your pastures? Do they have long, curved toes? Do they appear to have had their toes trimmed? Are there corns between their toes? Do they walk with a nice long stride? When a front hoof is picked up does the rear one on that side strike where the front hoof was? Do you notice puffy hocks? Do you feel you could stand to look at the bulls you like everyday for the length of their life in your herd?
   • Be sure the bull has passed a breeding soundness exam before bidding on him.  ∆
   ELDON COLE: Extension Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri
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