With record highs in the cattle market, genetic decisions have never been more important, says South Dakota State University Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist Warren Rusche, and most beef can probably agree with that. But because of the "good time" cattle markets, the amount of capital at risk and the dollars at stake with every decision have never been higher.
So how does that change the bull buying decisions of producers? Although the basics haven't changed, Rusche offers four bull-buying factors that are worth some additional consideration.
1. Longevity. One way to reduce the cost per calf of higher-valued bulls is to increase their productive life, Rusche notes. He advises producers to buy bulls that have been developed to last, and take care of them with an attitude of longevity.
2. Genetic merit. Looking at the chart below, a producer would be easily tempted to lower their standards, Rusche notes. "Buying the wrong bull for an operation just because he is cheaper will be more costly than spending 'too much,'" he writes.
3. Accuracy of selection. As the cost of breeding assets increase, the costs of making mistakes go up as well. Any tool that helps producers more accurately identify the bulls that meet their goals will reduce that risk. Rusche recommends using genomic-enhanced EPDs, which combine the power of DNA testing tools like the 50K test with traditional performance testing, to improve genetic selection and increase the accuracy of EPDs.
South Dakota State University Graphic - Warren Rusche
4. Reproduction. In today's market, it's nearly impossible for a cow to lose money, provided that she's pregnant and weans a calf, Rusche says. He suggests a few musts for keeping a bull in top reproductive shape: breeding soundness exams, managing bull condition, and reducing environmental stress. "Having extra bull power as an insurance against injury may be worth considering as well," he notes.
For more bull buying and cow/calf production tips, visit the SDSU iGrow blog.