The coffee chat is filled with many opinions about how to buy bulls. The art of buying a bull requires an open mind, homework and a vision for the future of a producer’s cowherd.

For example, we turn to the nutritionists if we want to get a better understanding on how cattle can utilize peas in rations. Ironically, peas influenced cattle decades before producers started to feed peas by way of Mendel, an Austrian monk.

He discovered the tip of the iceberg and used peas to teach us how genetics work. We actually can select for and change not only peas, but cattle as well.

When buying bulls, we are really buying packets of DNA, the genetic material that is contained in the germ cells of reproducing organisms. Since Mendel taught us the process, we have added to the core of genetic knowledge every year.

While Mendel was reviewing the difference between wrinkled and smooth peas, he also was carefully selecting the parents for the next generation. So who are the parents of the next generation of cattle?

The review begins with an inventory of the bull pen. While we have many breeds at the Dickinson Research Extension Center, this discussion will focus on Red Angus bulls.

Red Angus bulls P329, S13, S48, S49, S59, S6032, S6042, S6054, S6153 and S6158 are in the pen. All are registered with the American Red Angus Association.

It is important to maintain the registration even if the bulls will not be used in commercial production. Buyers should have papers transferred and obtain a membership in the appropriate breed association because the registration number is the tie to the data available on the purchased bulls.

Let me use bull S48 as an example. On the Red Angus Web site, we can type in his registration number (1114780) and the bull’s current expected progeny difference (EPD) values can be retrieved.

While the accuracy may not be high for bulls that are not utilized throughout the industry, the predicted EPD values are the best estimate of performance available. His calving ease direct EPD value is minus 2 and his birth weight EPD is 3.

Link to the full article, Who is the Bull Pen, to view charts and read the rest of the feature.