Bull Selection – Planning for 2015
To some it may seem early to be talking about 2015 already. We have just made it into 2014 and have calving, breeding, haying, harvest weaning, etc. to think about before the calendar rolls over to 2015.
However, it will be 2015 before you see any results from a bull you bring home from the sale this spring; and 2017 before you see if the females off that bull are going to make good replacements.
It is important to know the direction you want your herd to go and have a plan to get it there. Choosing the right bull is the first step.
It may seem obvious but the first step in choosing the bull that will fit into your breeding plan is to choose a breed.
If you have been happy with your breeding program in the past perhaps you want to continue with the breeds that have brought you success.
Maybe there is room to bring extra weaning weight to your calves, or perhaps you need to improve some of the maternal traits in your cowherd.
Sometimes considering a different breed than you have been using can meet your needs.
The next logical step is to decide on the Expected Progeny Difference ( EPD) profile that you need. The internet can be a great resource when looking at EPDs.
Each breed association website will have breed averages for all of the EPDs that they calculate.
Many breeds will have a representative on hand who is happy to answer questions about each EPD if you are unsure what it might mean for your operation.
Local seed stock producers are also a great source of information on EPDs.
Once a breed is decided upon, and you know where your new bull needs to rank in all the relevant EPDs, the next step is to decide where to get him from.
Or another way of looking at it is to choose a breeder. Many seed stock producers produce catalogues to showcase their bull offerings for each year.
Gather all of these together and see which bulls will fit your needs.
Compile a list of four or five bulls from each breeder that would be suitable.
Make arrangements to see the bulls before sale day. Call the breeders and ask if you can come to their operation.
You will be able to see how the bulls are managed up until sale day and see how they look before they run through the ring.
Use this opportunity to see the dams of the bulls that you had picked out.
This is especially important if you are planning on keeping females from their offspring. Ask lots of questions.
My experience is that breeders love to talk about their cow herds.
You will be able to learn about cow families and which ones are long time producers and if there are any idiosyncrasies, like poor docility or short gestation length, to be aware of.
When all this is done, you have likely made a decision. There will be a bull that fits well into your program, will add needed traits to your operation, is appealing to your eye, and comes from a line of cows that you would be happy to raise.
Once you have him purchased it is a good idea to insure that animal.
Many operations have purchased the ideal bull for their operation only to have him go down a week into breeding season.
Some of the larger seed stock operations offer insurance, or it can be purchased from a third party.
There is a lot more to choosing a bull for your operation than going to the closest sale and buying the cheapest bull. There are many factors to consider.
On Feb. 12th at the Johnstone Auction Mart, and Feb. 13th at Saskatoon Livestock Sales, the Ministry of Agriculture will be hosting Bull Selection Workshops.
Topics at these workshops include: Scrotal Circumference and Fertility, Hybrid Bulls, Live Bull Comparison and Situational Bull Selection, Genomically Enhanced EPDs, plus Feed and It’s Effect on Feet.
If you would like more information on sire selection or to register for the upcoming Bull Selection Workshop, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.
Deadline for registration is Feb. 6.