Today, a growing number of seedstock producers supply a variety of hybrids – giving commercial cattlemen many options in breed choices.

“When selecting any bull, producers need to concentrate on things that have always been important – soundness, disposition, as much performance information as possible, and use of multi-breed EPD computations. The knowledge of a bull’s genetic potential is more easily obtained today,” Spangler says. Some of the same tools are available today in composite bull selection as in purebred selection, including EPDs, accuracies and index values, he adds.

“Buyers need to realize that just because bulls are hybrids doesn’t necessarily make them superstars. All the things that go into bull selection still need to be strongly considered. This includes reputation of the breeder, performance of the individual and any records the bull might have,” Whittier says.

“People need to also realize that composite bulls aren’t immune to the genetic defects that have plagued purebred cattle recently,” Spangler adds. It all depends on the genetics of the cattle used in creating the composite.

Seedstock producers must be careful in their selections of parent stock. “They know the pedigrees, which animals are at risk, and hopefully DNA-test the appropriate ones, to avoid passing on any undesirable defects. This is something bull buyers need to be aware of,” Spangler stresses. Remember, the composite isn’t a new breed; it’s a mix of the old ones.

“Today, there’s renewed interest in hybrid vigor and crossbreeding,” Greiner says. “The last several years have also seen an evolution in the tools and science to do accurate genetic selection with hybrid bulls. We’ve put purebreds and hybrids on the same playing field.”

This has generated more interest in hybrid bulls. They’re now considered seedstock, a term that no longer refers only to purebreds. “Many breeders have two breeds in their operation and are mating some to produce hybrids. Breeders see this as a way to provide a full-service opportunity for customers, giving them more options,” Whittier says.

“The quality and genetic merit of the average hybrid bull today is a lot better than it was a few years ago,” Greiner says. Early on, a crossbred bull was not necessarily from a planned mating. In some programs, it might have been the late-calving cows or those that didn’t produce the best calves that were mated to another breed. 

“But this isn’t true anymore. Breeders today are flushing their best cows to make hybrids, and bull buyers have faith in the quality of the bulls. The use of hybrids has grown astronomically,” Greiner says. Commercial cattlemen are looking at what hybrids can offer their breeding programs – with various percentages of continental and British breeding.

“When academics first started talking about composite bulls, it was nice in theory, but there were not very many places you could get a hybrid bull,” Spangler says. “This has changed. Now many seedstock producers offer F1 bulls and a growing number produce any desired mix – such as 3/8 Continental breeding and 5/8 British, or the reverse. Availability is not an issue anymore.”