Beef Cattle Bull Selection and Management

  Keep the Herd and the Ranch in Mind
If a bull truly is half the herd, as the old saying goes, then selecting a bull is a decision that should not be taken lightly and requires a significant amount of research and effort on your part.

     By and large, bull selection is done to improve the overall herd’s genetics, slowly increasing the quality of the herd until all have the superior bull genes.

     But the overriding decision guiding bull selection should be the cows to be bred and the ultimate end goals for the rancher. By keeping your business outcomes in mind, you can select a bull to help you bring your herd to your desired production targets and genetic makeup.

General Tips
You need to secure bulls long before the breeding season is underway, allowing them to get used to and comfortable in their surroundings and allowing the herd to do the same with their newfound friend.

Here are some other selected tips on bull selection:
* A two-year-old bull should weigh at least 1300 pounds.
     * While bulls can breed early, they should not be used extensively in a pasture breeding program until at least two years old.
     * Have your bull checked by a veterinarian for communicable diseases such as Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, and Vibriosis.
     * Have both a breeding soundness evaluation and general physical soundness evaluation conducted by a veterinarian prior to the season.
     * The standard ratio is one bull for 40 to 50 cows; however, this number may vary.
     * Watch your bull’s condition and feed supplemental feed if necessary to prevent thinning.
     * Avoid putting young bulls with old, mature bulls or establish a rotation system where bulls are used two to three weeks and then rested.
     * Check cows during breeding season to see if they are "settling" and make note as they breed.
     * Select bulls with moderate birth weights. Bulls with a birth weight of more than 90 pounds often produce calving problems.

Know their Past
Selecting a bull in today’s market has become increasingly more of an exact science, with management and tracking programs in place to trace the bull’s genetic makeup, lineage, and history. For the rancher, this provides a wealth of information to allow them to select the right bull for their herd and business goals.

     Of course, not all bulls are the best available, but given today’s tracking systems, your selection should be made from a known breeder who follows some sort of performance and testing plan, with records on past and expected performance.

     The bottom line on bulls is that he must be a bovine Don Juan; a highly effective and fast worker, who is equally adept at "settling" cows as he is at breeding. If the selection is conducted properly and a bull is well taken care of, he will not only help you strengthen the herd, but will be around to continue to improve it for a useful life five to six years, if not more. Proper bull selection can yield tremendous rewards because, in the end, the keys to the quality of your product and the success of your business could be in his genes.

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