It's not your grandfather's world when it comes to raising animals these days. Brad Shelton, superintendent of the Feldun-Purdue farm near Bedford, Ind., which hosts the Indiana Bull Evaluation Program, recently demonstrated how technology helps them collect data on bulls that go through the test quickly and easily.
Shelton sets up a command center at a table near the scales. He pulls out a computer program that Richard Huntrods, former Feldun-Purdue superintendent, helped devise. It has records on each bull. A similar program has records on each cow in the commercial cow herd at the farm. The official software is called Cow Sense, but it's adapted for the bull test station.
Dave Redman, County Extension ag educator who usually helps when bulls are entered onto test or taken off test, says collecting data is a matter of waving a wand over the bull's neck.
The wand picks up a microchip signal embedded in the animal that identifies it on the computer. All of the previous information is then at Shelton's fingertips. The weight is automatically recorded, and hip height is also measured automatically with a simple device.
Hip Height is measured because it is an indication of size of the animal when mature. In the old days someone had to use a T-shaped measuring stick and physically set it down over the bull, adjust it, and call out the measurement. That's no longer an issue since it can be done with a device that records it and sends the information to the computer.
With the advanced technology, some 230 bulls that arrive in October for the winter bull test can be weighed and measured quickly. Ultrasound devices can also be used to get an indication of muscle size inside the animal.
Main things recorded for the bull test are average daily gain, hip height and related traits that a bull could pass along to offspring.