September 16, 2014

Is it Time to Trade in the Old Bull?

Being a small cattle operation has some advantages – and some disadvantages. I get to know my cows, calves and my one bull on a “personal” basis. They each have their own personalities, just like us humans. For instance, cow number 811, a younger cow bred and raised on this farm, is gentle as she can be and is always looking for cubes in my hand. On the other hand, cow number 859, another young one raised on this farm, is a little more flighty and wary of my getting very close to her.

And, Bully Boy, as I call him, purchased as a nearing 2-year-old in December, 2008, is a gentle soul, likes to have his head scratched. But, he’s so big I have to be wary of him when feeding from a bag or he might unknowingly hurt me when he gets impatient for the cubes to come out of the bag. And, he’s the main subject of this writing.

My registered Brangus bull is now 5 years old and I’ve been thinking lately about having to replace him in the next year or so. When is a bull too old, or what goes into the process of deciding to “cull” a bull?

Computers and the Internet are wonderful things for finding information on any subject! Doing some research, I found a number of articles on factors to be used in culling a bull and the selection factors which might be used in selecting, raising or purchasing a new bull. Two of the best, I think, are Bull Management for Cow/Calf Producers (PDF) by L. R. Sprott, B. B. Carpenter and T.A. Thrift, published by AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M System, and Bull Purchasing and Management by Dr. Jane A Parish, Mississippi State University.

Basically, bulls are culled most often for “old age.” What is “old age” for a bull? Well, the experts say semen quality declines after age 6 and also mature bulls about that age begin to lose their social dominance to younger, more aggressive bulls in multi-bull herds around that age.

Other factors for which a bull should be culled – poor vision, (I really didn’t think about that one being a factor), lack of desirable conformation, low quality semen (even if they’re younger) and inadequate serving capacity. Another important factor is “poor disposition.” That’s important because of the safety factor for humans, and, even other animals in the herd. And, of course, if the bull is producing poor performing offspring would be another major factor in culling.

So, it’s time for a new bull – what goes into deciding which bull to purchase? The first thing we’re told by the experts is, “plan ahead.” New bulls should be purchased 45 to 60 days before the breeding season. Why? To give the new bull(s) to adjust to their new surroundings and recover from any stress they may have been under during travel and sale.

Of course, a major factor, at least in my considerations for purchasing a new bull, is a visual appraisal of his conformation and soundness, as well has the temperament. Then, a look at his performance information like birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, average daily gain, frame size and scrotal circumference and EPDs will give additional information to consider.

Dr. Parish’s article even gives information on figuring how much a bull is worth, i.e., if you can get one bull for a certain price, say $2,000, and another for $3,000, how do you calculate if Bull B is worth $1,000 more than Bull A?

I plan to use all the information I can gather to help me decide, first, if it’s time for “Bully Boy” to be culled and then to purchase a new bull. The way I figure it, I have about a year to evaluate whether it’s time to “Trade in the Old Bull.”

Comments from other readers...

  1. Gabolekwe Lesole Tlogelang says:

    Its good to bring in new bulls after the period of satisfactory service by the old bull, may keep it with new heifers and observe performance for a short time, may two years!

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