Bulls have been our focus the last few weeks. We needed to replace the Beefmaster bulls we culled this fall because of their age.

We've since purchased several head of Beefmaster bulls — heavy-muscled, large-framed bulls with the genetics that fit the guidelines of our production goals. They arrived at the ranch in great condition and have maintained well.

Sometimes, new bulls drop off while acclimating to our climate, so we give them an added boost with liquid feed and mineral. These bulls, however, have stayed healthy and should be okay to put out for breeding at the end of the month.

Our cowherd is a Beefmaster base. We use Beefmaster bulls on selected Beefmaster cross cows for our replacement females. It's a breed that's very compatible with our environment. The Brahman influence is a must for cattle in our region and climate.

If we get too much straight English or straight Continental influence in our cattle, we begin to have problems with parasites and heat tolerance. The Beefmaster breed maintains enough Brahman influence that it helps to alleviate these problems.

Red Angus bulls sire the majority of our calves, though. The terminal cross has been a fantastic combination for us. It maintains enough Brahman influence to help with the climatic problems and makes our customers happy. The combination isn't only practical for our region but good business.

This breeding season, we'll also experiment with some Gelbvieh bulls we purchased last spring. These are our first Gelbviehs, and they've adjusted well to our summer heat and humidity — a good sign.

Gelbvieh genetics should be very compatible with our cows, and we hope that will bring added benefits. We'll put them in select herds later this month. I'm anxious to see their 2002 calves.

We distribute our bulls based on age, breed and genetics. Which bulls are put in particular pastures depends on the pasture size and terrain, the age and the genetics of the cows. The general rule of thumb for our region is 25 cows/bull.

The advantages of putting our bulls out this time of year are many. First, our calves arrive during a time that's not too wet or dry. The cows are fat and healthy and have plenty of grass. And, cooler weather puts less stress on the bulls.

During extremely hot times of the year, we must be very careful in handling our bulls. They tend to overheat easily, causing health problems and sometimes death.

I'm confident our bulls are in top condition, though, and should sire strong, healthy calves. We've worked hard getting them conditioned for breeding.

From our ranch to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mary Anne Cruse, brother Wes, their parents and grandparents operate Ru-Mar Inc., a South Florida commercial cow/calf operation. Write her at: mccruse@msn.com.