When asked to rank the information the respondents require when buying a bull, actual birth weight topped the list, with a 72.9% response. It was followed by birth weight EPD at 68.6%; Calving-Ease Direct EPD at 58.5%; actual weaning weight at 55.3%; and weaning weight EPD at 52.9%. Numbers total more than 100% due to multiple answers.

On the other end of the spectrum, performance traits in the feedyard and on the rail ranked lower overall. Carcass EPDs were identified as required information by 33% of readers; feed efficiency EPD by 28.3%; and feedlot performance EPDs by 17.9%. Only 11.5% of readers say they require genomic information (Figure 6).

However, 60% of respondents say they think they have a good understanding of the genomic information offered by seedstock suppliers. That’s up from 46.6% in 2010. Meanwhile, 38.9% of respondents in the latest survey say they use genomic data when making a bull-buying decision, compared to 30.2% in 2010.

Bull buying criteria

When asked what services offered by their seedstock supplier are important, assurances beyond the normal breeding guarantee topped the list, with a 50.5% response. Next, 33.1% of readers say outcross genetics available within a breed or composite are important. In a virtual tie, 24.5% say buying cattle remotely is important, followed by free or subsidized trucking at 24%; 21.8% say a herd visit or consulting is important; and 21.3% say they want more than one breed or composite available. Numbers equal more than 100% because of multiple answers (Figure 7).

Seedstock supplier criteria

In addition, 46.6% of respondents say a test for persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea (BVD-PI) is important, and 40.6% say they want a breeding soundness exam (BSE) on the bulls they buy. However, 28.2% of respondents say “none” when asked which health-related tests are important to them. A Johne’s test was considered important by 26.2% of respondents, while a pulmonary arterial pressures (PAP) test was listed by 12.1%.

Another interesting result was the average expenditure on bulls (Figure 8). As the size of the operation increased (number of head), so did expenditures for bulls. The average price spent for bulls among respondents with fewer than 50 cows was $3,445/bull, while operators of more than 500 head spent an average of $4,130/bull.

Average bull prices

Scott Grau, BEEF research manager, says the research results indicate that cow:bull ratios don’t differ by size of operation. “Thus, more than a factor than economy of scale, I think the higher expenditures on bulls by larger operations is due to a greater reliance than smaller operations on cattle for their livelihood. We see the same dynamic at play regarding participation in value-based marketing,” Grau says.

The bottom line to the overall results could be characterized as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” However, while the BEEF survey indicates that the British breeds are firmly entrenched, there are indications that the makeup of the genetic base of the U.S. cowherd may be in the early stages of a change. Only time will tell. 


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