Planned crossbreeding systems are the most economical way to produce beef cattle regardless of what age you sell your calves.

We can select breeds that complement one another and utilize heterosis to improve growth, calf vigor, disease resistance and survivability in the calves. Even more importantly, we benefit from the hybrid cows being more fertile, reproductively efficient and having more longevity. Hybrid bulls also benefit from heterosis with improved fertility, longevity and stronger sex drive.

When selecting a bull, we must evaluate what breed type or breed combination of bull would best complement the cows we have. So let's evaluate the different types of cattle.

Like putting the right pieces of a puzzle together, select bulls that will complement your cows to produce calves that best fit your market and the beef industry's targets.

The beef industry's target for the end product is: 70% Choice, 70% Yield Grade 1s and 2s, and 600- to 800-lb. carcasses at less than 18 months of age that are very tender and have 0% outliers to these specs. Although we should all be producing to hit this target, many producers do not know how well their cattle perform after they leave the ranch or what kind of carcasses they produce. So what is the best way to produce calves that hit the target and get paid to do it?

Cull Cows Or Buy Better Bulls? Some people encourage going to great efforts to identify every cow, then measure and evaluate each cow's performance as well as her calves' performance, then cull cows accordingly. This can help slightly, but it requires a lot of work, time and money for only a slight improvement.

The easiest and fastest way to make the most progress is by using better bulls. Because of the number of calves they produce each year, a bull has at least 25-30 times more influence on your calf crop than does any one cow.

Plus, bulls come already measured with genetic predictors called expected progeny differences (EPDs) that are the most accurate tools available to us today. Even many hybrid bulls have EPDs today.

Just by using bulls with superior EPDs for growth and carcass traits, your calves will greatly improve in weight, quality and value from the weaned calf market to the rail.

The industry will continue to pay more for cattle that are known to perform well and consistently hit the target. Feeding them yourself is the best way to get paid for cattle that work. Or, join an alliance that pays you for quality without requiring you to retain ownership.

More and more buyers in the market are paying excellent premiums for calves sired by superior bulls - so let them know what kind of bulls you are using.

What Is Your Market? Do you buy replacement heifers/cows or do you raise them? When, where and how do you market calves? These questions need to be answered before selecting which bull to use.

Although there are many ways to market our calves, we should all focus on producing quality beef to better please our consumers. At the same time, we still sell them by the pound, so performance remains very important.

As cattle producers, it's very important that we fully understand the economic impact bulls have in the beef business.

Consider the following scenario: Say you use a bull that produces an extra 10 lbs. of calf at weaning time when you sell your calves. If he produces 25 calves each year and you keep him for five years, how many more dollars is he producing for you if calf prices are $0.80?

Under this scenario, every 10 lbs. of additional weaning weight a bull adds to his offspring returns you about $1,000. On the other hand, using a lower quality bull that produces 10 lbs. less weaning weight/calf would cost you an additional $1,000.

Buying a mediocre bull is an expensive mistake. High calf prices magnify that mistake even more. So, remember that a bull is an investment not a cost. Invest in bulls with known superior genetics as determined by their EPDs. And select bulls that best complement your cows to produce calves that best fit your market.