Beef Sire Selection

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

The primary goal of a beef cattle operation is to increase net income by minimizing costs and maximizing income. Beef producers can accomplish this goal by increasing income while minimizing additional costs, or reducing costs while trying to maintain income.

An easy way to accomplish this is to improve herd genetics through better bull selection.

You should look at four main factors when purchasing a new bull. Reproductive soundness, structural soundness, visual evaluation and performance characteristics are the primary guidelines for bull selection.

By having a breeding soundness exam done, a producer can determine a bull’s reproductive soundness. A bull that passes this exam is physically capable of breeding and settling cows, but that does not mean he will want to, as it does not measure desire. Watch bulls to determine their interest in females in heat.

Structural soundness is indicated when the bull moves without pain or discomfort and has the correct angles at weight-bearing joints and can move about freely while doing what is asked of him.

Visual observation helps producers to evaluate important traits. These traits include disposition, color, muscling, horned/polled, body capacity, structure, sheath and testicular development.

Expected calf performance is a primary reason to buy a bull. EPD’s can be a valuable tool to evaluate future herd sires. If replacement females will be retained the first decision will be the breed’s productivity level, these include maternal traits. When the breed is selected, choose bulls based on the expected progeny difference whenever possible. There is perfect bull, because your choice should be based on what you need to get from the bull.

If you select to improve one trait you will usually give up performance in another trait. For example, selecting for increased growth usually means increasing the offspring’s mature size and maintenance requirements when these heifers are retained as replacements. Balancing your cows’ productivity levels and energy requirements is extremely tricky and if done haphazardly can result in decreased reproductive performance. Before you buy a bull, consider what you want to produce and balance that with the resources (feed) you have available.

Proper bull selection can have an important long-term economic impact on your bottom-line, Use your production goals, analyze your resources and management and then locate the bull that best fits your situation. While this process is time consuming and takes some serious effort, it can result in significant financial rewards when done properly.

For more information on selecting a beef sire and other management decisions for your beef cattle operation, contact the Burke County Cooperative Extension Service at 439-4460.

Damon Pollard
Extension Agent