With the onset of bull buying season, having a systematic approach to finding and identifying the "right" bull is imperative. Bull selection is the most critical factor for genetic improvement in cow-calf herds, as the influence of the bull impacts both the immediate calf crop as well as future calf crops through the performance (and costs) of his daughters. Consequently, bull selection warrants careful planning and preparation, well in advance of any sale or visit from an AI representative. Consider the following steps to assist in the bull-buying process:
1. Identify Herd Goals- Herd goals serve as the foundation for sire selection and provide guidance as to traits with the most relevance. Defining the production and marketing system, along with management strategies and environment are key factors that warrant consideration:
* Will the bull be used on heifers, mature cows, or both?
* Will replacement females be retained in the herd?
* How will the calf crop be marketed? (at weaning?, backgrounded?, retained ownership? sell females?)
* What are the labor and management resources available?
* What are the feed resources and environmental conditions of the operation?
2. Assess Herd Strengths and Weaknesses- Fundamental records are necessary to identify herd strengths and weaknesses. Basic performance parameters such as calving percentage, weaning percentage, weaning weights, sale weights, carcass merit, feed usage, etc. are necessary to serve as the basis for assessing areas of strength and those needing attention.
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