Some expert help to select next herd bull

The bull you’re about to buy is half of the genetic makeup of your calf crop. But, do you know what you really want and need in a herd sire?

University of Missouri beef cattle geneticist Bob Weaber led the discussion on herd bull selection during the Commercial Cattlemen’s Seminar at the Red Angus Association of American National Convention, held Sept. 15 in Springfield.

“Build a relationship with your seedstock supplier,” Weaber said. Through that relationship, the commercial cow-calf producer can express his or her needs and desires in a herd sire and can also establish a direct link to fix any potential problems that might arise after purchase.

Key Points

• Red Angus convention features a herd bull-selection discussion.

• Build the buyer-seller relationship to prevent potential problems.

• Use the best genetics; keep crossbreeding systems simple.


When searching for a herd bull supplier, Weaber noted the importance of considering whether the breeder is local or distant, and whether or not the supplier is customer-focused.

“Does he build bulls he likes or bulls you need?” Weaber questioned.

Other considerations in finding a herd bull supplier include:

• guaranteed breeding performance

• pampered, vs. managed like a commercial bull

• bull trader vs. full-service genetic provider

• sight-unseen, private treaty or auction purchase

“There’s a big difference in services offered among seedstock producers,” Weaber pointed out. “It depends on the customer -- which is the best philosophy.”

In an interactive survey of producers at the RAAA convention, Weaber found that commercial bull buyers want the genetic merit of the offering, and they value the trust and integrity of the seedstock supplier.

“Service before and after the sale is becoming more and more important, too,” Weaber noted.

He pointed out three questions your seedstock supplier should ask:

1) What’s the breed composition of your current cow herd?

2) Do you raise your own replacement females?

3) How do you market your calves — at weaning, backgrounded or on the rail?

Know your needs

So what does it take to be a successful bull buyer? Weaber said first and foremost, you should do your homework before the sale. Building and maintaining a relationship with the seedstock supplier is also key, as well as openly communicating any challenges or needs you have. The successful commercial bull buyer will have reasonable expectations of the supplier and have a defined breeding objective.

“The seedstock supplier probably has good advice to offer,” Weaber said. “If not, they can help you find someone to help you.” He went on to caution producers not to create a crossbreeding program on the day of the sale.

“Be a continual learner,” Weaber urged. Buying the right bull certainly isn’t an overnight process. You should always make certain the bull fits your breeding program. It’s important to understand what we need to buy, and what we are going to buy.”

The only way to improve some traits within your offspring is through heterosis or crossbreeding. Weaber noted that crossbreeding is really improved revenue. In addition, when you institute crossbreeding you will need fewer replacements, because your cows will last longer.

“Replacement heifer development is a major expense to producers,” Weaber said. In a nutshell, heterosis is worth $100 per cow per year.

Know your end product

Information on the rail is the only way you really know where genetic improvements need to be made, explained Polk County cattleman Monty Wheeler, during the seminar’s herd bull selection panel discussion.

Through use of better beef genetics, producers in southwest Missouri have made drastic improvements in their cow herds over the years, noted panelist Jackie Moore. The Joplin Regional Stockyards co-owner added, “You need to find your niche within the industry.”

While some beef producers are concerned they’ll give up good-looking cattle with crossbreeding, Lynn Pelton, a Burdette, Kan., cattleman, said, “It is possible to develop a crossbreeding system and maintain phenotype.”

Kirby Lane of Neo-Sho Red Angus, Neosho, said he’s a firm believer in keeping breeding systems simple. “Select to maximize good traits and minimize bad traits,” he explained.

Lane also noted that his experience has proven crossbred cows to be more trouble-free with less eye, foot and leg trouble. The Newton County cattleman practices using Red Angus sires in different heterosis systems so he can provide better information for his customers on successful crossbreeding.

The bottom line on herd bull selection, according to Weaber, is to establish a breeding program and stick to it.

Pipkin writes from Republic.

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EXPERT PANEL: Polk County cattleman Monty Wheeler (center) told producers recently at the Red Angus Association of America Convention in Springfield that carcass data collection is vital to making genetic improvements. Other panelists included Jim McCann (left) of Miller, and Jackie Moore (right), co-owner, Joplin Regional Stockyards.

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TOP TIPS: Do your homework before buying a bull, and demand customer service before and after the sale, advises Bob Weaber, MU beef geneticist.

This article published in the November, 2010 edition of MISSOURI RURALIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.