Yesterday the farmer hubs and I attended a bull sale in South-Central Nebraska. The hubs lives for these days. The sale catalogs for ranches start arriving around the first of the year and he’s like a kid digging through the Target toy catalogue before Christmas – making lists, comparing animals and deciding exactly what he wants in his next bull. The farm hubs takes bull buying very seriously. These guys are major investments for our cow herd that will have an impact on our farm for years to come.
Bulls are an important but often overlooked component of a productive cow herd. A bull determines much of a calf’s genetic makeup, birth size and growth potential. And a sick or injured bull means no new baby calves, so keeping the big guys healthy is essential.
Selecting the proper bull for a cow herd takes time and attention to detail. Thanks to technology and modern science we know a whole lot about our bulls and the calves they will produce. Sale catalogs tell potential buyers the genetic lineage of a bull, the predicted average birthweight of the calves he will father, the marbling of a fattened animal, milk production in females and several other genetic traits. Put these all together and you can build a cow herd that has the production and output that creates the animals and end product a farmer wants. And every rancher is going to want a slightly different type of bull – meaning some want bulls that produce larger calves at birth while others want a bull that produces slightly smaller offspring with the potential to gain weight quickly.
Through years of raising cattle, the hubs has found genetic traits that work well for his operation. He likes to see a slightly smaller calf at birth (which makes the calving process easier) that can then gain weight quickly and convert feed to muscle efficiently. Using the sale catalog, the hubs found the bulls that, on paper, fit his criteria. Then prior to the start of the sale he braved the 6 degree temps to walk through the pens and stand face-to-face with the bulls to see which ones looked as good in person.
As ranchers continue to move toward more efficient and economical means of beef production, retaining the ability to breed for specific traits and qualities will remain an important component of the beef industry. We, as cattle owners, benefit from the time, work and attention to detail others in the cattle industry have and continue to put into their animals and we aim to put that same attention to detail into our own herd. It is always our goal to raise the best animals we can and produce the highest quality beef possible.