So, you’re wanting to choose the perfect bull for your replacement heifers.
Choose wisely, friend.
A great herd bull not only represents half the quality of your herd. He also represents half the problems you will face during calving season. Especially with heifers.
As a review, a heifer is a female cow that has not yet had a calf. Depending on breed and size, normal heifers are ready to breed when they are 15-20 months of age. Plus, heifers have not been proven yet because they have not calved.
So, you can now see why it’s so important to choose just the right bull for your heifers. You’re wondering now how to make that choice. Here are three things to keep in mind when making the decision.
First, Look at the Bull’s Statistics
Luckily, the beef industry has developed EPD’s to help make these decisions a little easier.
EPD’s stand for “Expected Progeny Difference” which represent an estimate of the bull’s genetic value as a parent and within the breed. I emphasize “estimate”.
Reading EPD’s are a learned skill. The numbers and percentages can look like a foreign language at first. American Angus Association has a great page HERE that gives definitions and instruction on reading EPD’s for Angus cattle.
Standards of birth weight, calving ease, milk, maternal, and carcass grade are only a few EPD’s generated across the board. From there, the EPD’s vary from breed to breed.
So, Hereford EPD’s can’t really be used to evaluate or compare to a Red Angus bull. The Red Angus breed has it’s own EPD’s special to the breed.
Reading EPD numbers varies by breed standards. But, when choosing the right bull for heifers, the Birth Weight EPD needs to be low and the Calving Ease EPD needs to be high. This is because heifers need to be able to give birth to small calves more easily.
Looking at these two EPD numbers are an ideal place to start narrowing bull choices down.
Again, EPD numbers are only estimates. Therefore, decisions should not be made solely on EPD’s. There are other factors that should play into choosing the perfect bull for heifers.
Secondly, the Bull’s Family History Matters
The producer of the bull should know this information and be able to tell you the bull’s family history.
It’s important to know the history of calving ease, low or high birth weights and the size of the animals in the bull’s family.
This seems like a very minor detail, but it is huge. Because as you have learned, EPD’s should not be the only factor in the decision making process.
Producers are more than happy to share accurate information about the bulls they are selling, including their history. Plus, producers who keep accurate records of their herds have the information available to share.
Know the bull’s actually family history can uncover one year of bigger calves or one year of other problems you could face if you purchase him to breed to your heifers.
Third, Know the Size of your Heifers
You should know how big your heifers are. Depending on the breed of the heifers, an ideal size to breed them is at least 800 pounds. So you would definitely not want to purchase a bull that was way too big for your heifers.
Even if you don’t have a livestock scale, you can weigh your heifers. You can load them up and take them to a veterinarian or a sale barn that has a scale. Or, a neighboring producer might have a scale you could use to weigh your heifers.
It seems like a lot of work, but you definitely need to know the size and weight of your heifers.
Pay Close Attention to your Budget
Your budget matters in this decision of choosing the perfect bull. It can make or break the sustainability of your cattle operation if you pay too much.
Understand the market and watch other sales to learn about how much to expect to budget for a good quality bull.
It’s really a mindset of wants versus needs. You need this bull to breed to your heifers, but you may want an amazing bull that is way out of your price range.
The truth is, there are many bulls out there in all price ranges. You will be able to choose a good heifer bull in your price range.
Bull Shopping is Fun
Choosing the perfect bull to breed to your heifers is a stressful task, but it is definitely fun to learn and see bulls in the cattle industry.
The networking and relationships you make with breeders are priceless, no matter what your budget may be. Use the relationship you make with your bull producer to dig deep into the bull’s family tree, while using EPD’s to short through the list.
You’ll be finding that perfect bull in no time and looking forward to a successful calving season.
~ Much Love ~