Beef Sire Selection

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

The ultimate goal of a beef cattle producer is to increase net income by balancing expenses with the income generated. Producers can accomplish this by increasing income while keeping additional costs to a minimum, or by reducing costs and maintaining current income levels.

An easy way to do this is to improve your herd genetics by selecting proper bulls.You should consider four main characteristics when buying a bull. These are reproductive soundness, structural soundness, visual evaluation and performance characteristics.

By having a breeding soundness exam done, you can assess a bull’s reproductive soundness. While a bull that passes this exam should have the physical ability to breed and settle cows, it does not measure desire. Always watch bulls for their interest in females in heat.

Indicators of structural soundness are: the bull moves without pain or discomfort and has appropriate angles at weight-bearing joints. Observation is crucial to evaluate important traits. By visually observing bulls, producers can spot problems with disposition, color variations, muscling tendencies, horned/polled, body depth and capacity, structure, durability, and testicular development.

What a producer would expect from a bull’s offspring is a primary reason to buy a bull. If keeping replacement females, first you should decide on the breed’s productivity level. When the breed is determined, selection among individual bull performance should be based on the expected progeny difference (EPD’s) when possible. There is no such thing as the “perfect bull,” as selection should be based on what you need the bull to do.

Remember that in selecting to improve one trait you often lose ground in another trait. For example, selecting for higher growth usually results in increasing the cows’ mature size and brings higher maintenance requirements when retaining replacements. Balancing cows’ productivity levels and energy requirements is an arduous task and if done improperly often results in decreased reproduction. Before buying a bull, think about what you want to produce and the resources (primarily nutrition) available.

Bull selection greatly influences the long-term economic impact on your herd. Selecting the right bull for your operation should involve setting production goals, analyzing your resources and management and choosing the bull that best fits your situation. While this process takes time and effort, it can ultimately generate significant financial returns when done correctly.

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

Damon Pollard
Extension Agent