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Avoid the biggest mistake made when buying a bull

The biggest mistake purebred and commercial producers make when buying bulls is not having the bull registrations transferred to their name.

When you buy a bull, you are not only buying the animal, but you are also buying the data that represents the bull. You purchased the right to produce calves of a desired genotype. The calves will be reflective of the genes that the bull has. His DNA spins the threads of life that ultimately will make up his offspring.

The bull’s genes were measured and presented as data at the time of sale. By utilizing that data, bulls may be sorted and selected with considerable accuracy. However, the data does not stop with the purchase of the bull. Breed associations constantly are updating their databases and fine-tuning the expected progeny differences (EPDs) for all bulls.

As your bull ages, his database is growing at breed headquarters. In time, a producer can print the revised EPDs to better evaluate selection objectives and progress by reviewing past and new bull purchases.

Recently, a student in an animal breeding class was challenged to more thoroughly evaluate bull purchases. Unfortunately, previous bull numbers had not been maintained, so the student did not feel it was possible to go back in time. Fortunately, the family had transferred the ownership of several previously purchased bulls.

The student was encouraged to contact the breed association to help find the EPD values on older bulls. Because the bulls had been transferred to a new owner, the association was able to supply information on current and past bulls. Some of the information went back three decades.

It’s exciting to shop for new bulls, but before you sell the old bulls, make sure you get the registration number transferred and tucked away for later data evaluations.

Ringwall is a livestock specialist at the North Dakota State University Research and Extension Center, Dickinson, N.D. Contact him at 701-483-2348, ext. 10, or

When is it time to cull that bull?

Having a bull for three years or more is not out of line, says Kris Ringwall, livestock specialist at the North Dakota State University Research and Extension Center, Dickinson, N.D. However, some bulls shouldn’t be kept. Bulls may need to be culled for several reasons, including structural difficulties and their attitude.

“They may start viewing their owners as herd mates and can become dangerous,” Ringwall says.

When deciding which bulls to keep or cull, he recommends thoroughly evaluating structure and body condition and conducting an early breeding soundness exam on all mature bulls.

Take note of minor problems because they will become major problems once the bulls are exposed to cycling cows, he says.

Feed bulls you are going to keep extra hay that will put 150 to 300 pounds (one-half to 1 pound of gain daily) on the them through the nonbreeding season. This will allow the bulls to meet their normal growth curve.

“This sometimes does create a challenge because the bulls slowly become too heavy to be effective breeding bulls,” he says. “However, healthy active bulls are the desired bulls, not the thin underfed bulls waiting in line for survival rations.”

It’s expensive to keep bulls, Ringwall concludes, “so why not make sure you are putting the costs into good bulls and not marginal bulls?”


DATA, TOO: You are not just buying the animal when you buy a bull. You’re buying the data that represents the bull, too. Make sure you transfer the bull registration.

This article published in the February, 2013 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2013.