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Choosing herd bulls comes down to goals

Choosing herd bulls comes down to goals

High Point Genetics bull photo

Before selecting a herd sire it is important to establish production goals.

OSCEOLA, Iowa — Before selecting a herd sire, Brian Oswald says it is important to establish production goals.

“We always appreciate the opportunity to visit with new potential customers and learn about their operation,” he says. “We feel it is very important as their seedstock supplier to know the goals for their cow herd so that we can recommend the best bulls to fit their needs.”

Oswald and his wife Mindy operate High Point Genetics. The cow herd consists of 300 registered cows, with about 75% of those Angus and the other 25% SimAngus.

Brian Oswald and his wife Mindy operate High Point Genetics.

Brian Oswald and his wife Mindy operate High Point Genetics.

Oswald has also worked full time for Farm Credit Services of America for the last 30 years.

The south central Iowa producer says each customer has different goals, but some traits are always in demand.

“The majority of our customers look for bulls that are moderate to easy calving with extra gain-ability and performance, and quiet dispositions,” he says. “Our customers value data, and EPDs are important to them.

“As we search for AI and natural service sires, we strive to select balanced trait bulls that ‘push the envelope’ in terms of performance. Genomics play a role in every mating and have been important to our operation.”

But Oswald stresses the need for a well-balanced bull that not only has desirable EPDs, but progeny that can handle life in the pasture.

“Structural soundness and fleshing ability are non-negotiable no matter how outstanding their EPDs or genomic data,” he says. “Many of our customers also retain their heifers as replacements. Having many cows in their teens, we value longevity and know that for a cow to live a long, productive life, she must have a solid foundation, a nice tight udder, and be able to do everything right.”

Goals will obviously vary depending on the customers, says Matt Spangler, Extension beef specialist with the University of Nebraska.

“Are they retaining females? When do they market calves? What is labor availability? These are some questions that should be asked,” he says. “Put pen to paper, write them down and stick to that list.”

Spangler says breed associations all offer large amounts of data to aid in the selection process. He says customer goals can help determine breed selection, and in addition to EPDs, producers could use an economic selection index to make their choice.

“How is that bull going to fit into a crossbreeding program?” Spangler says. “You need to use genetic selection tools and the economic selection index to make that decision.”

He cautions producers against over-emphasizing a particular trait at the expense of balance.

“If you are looking for heifer bulls, calving ease is going to be important,” Spangler says. “But you don’t want to go too far with one trait and sacrifice others.”

For example, he says if a producer is risk-averse and perhaps works full-time and is unable to be around at calving, the bull with strong calving traits might be a good choice for that operation.

“Everyone is different when it comes to willingness to take on risk,” Spangler says.

He says EPDs are as reliable as they have ever been, providing producers with the data necessary to help choose a herd sire who is going to get them to their objectives.

Spangler says bulls must also be able to pass a breeding soundness exam. He says a good temperament is also preferable.

Finding a seedstock producer who stands behind the quality of that sire is also crucial.

“For the most part, there is always some sort of guarantee on that bull,” Spangler says.

Oswald says balance is really the key to a good sire.

“You want the genetic data, but you also want that structural soundness,” he says. “We really emphasize balance with our program. You don’t want to go to extremes in any category.”

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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