There are many criteria that can be used to select a bull: breed, color, performance, disposition, body capacity, muscling, frame, grand champion of a show and of course purchase price. Some of these are very good reasons and certainly should be considered in the selection process, but always weigh the economic impact that your choice will make on your herd. When you make this assessment, performance will almost always rise to the top. Therefore, making good selection decisions based on performance will very likely benefit your economic returns. The best possible means of evaluating performance in cattle is by using Expected Progeny Differences (EPD's). EPD's give you the opportunity to purchase bulls with confidence, that can reduce calving difficulty, increase pounds of calf to sell, give moderate mature size in replacements, that adjust milking ability in replacements and/or improve carcass traits. It is easy to see that each of these traits will have an impact on your economics. For most cow-calf producers, the main EPD numbers for you to really concentrate on are weaning and yearling weight as that increase in weight will be the extra pounds you sell. You should also be some concerned about calving ease but no obsessed with that number. A moderate calving ease bull will work for 90 percent of our cow calf producers, too many folks are buying heifer bulls for mature cows, which is reducing the calf size at birth, but it also reduces weaning weight significantly which reduces your income. Producers having bulls to sale should be able to give you the EPD's for their bulls. If they don't have EPD's on their bulls, then you need to go somewhere else to buy a bull. Why guess about a bull when there are plenty of folks with bulls for sale that have the EPD information available so you know how that bull will benefit your herd.
There is no magical price that should be paid for a bull. Actually, a bull that is a good buy for $2,000 to one farmer may be worth much less to another because the bull does not serve that producers goals. Evaluate your herds needs and determine what breed and specific animal within that breed will be best suited for your operation. Use EPD's and visual appraisal to locate the bull or bulls that will fulfill your herds needs, then negotiate the best deal you can. If your needs are the same as everyone else and that type of bull is hard to come by, then he will probably not be cheap. If the price is too high, then very carefully consider what you are willing to sacrifice to purchase a less expensive bull and make for certain that it is an economically sound decision.
A final point that I want to make concerns breed selection. We have too many different breeds to choose from. Some folks have tried to use too many breeds. Some folks have played follow the leader and bought a certain color of bull because their neighbors had those kind or somebody at the loafing spot told them what was the best type bull to buy. You should give more attention to selecting a bull breed based on the demand for cattle breeds and cattle types at the market. Know which calves bring a premium at the market and then select bulls that will get you those kind of calves. There is plenty of evidence at the market place that shows what breeds and breed crosses are the best for our farms. I will be glad to show you statistics that show what type of cattle bring the best price. We don't want to give up the extra pounds that crossbreeding brings, so don't just use one breed. For our market area, we need to consider these crossbreeding programs for most herds-Angus/Hereford, Angus/Charolais, Angus/Simmental, Angus/Mixed Cows, Charolais/ Mixed Cows. There are some herds that can do well with Chiangus bulls and Black Gelveih bulls to get some extra pounds at weaning especially for producers with smaller body cows.
If you need help with choosing a bull type and locating bulls, please give me a call.
For more information on this topic or any other agricultural topic, contact Dan Grigson, U.K. Extension Agent for Agriculture at the Lincoln County Extension Office, 365-2447.