Commercial farmers looking for replacement bulls to put over their run cows should also be asking the question: does the breeder/seller’s programme match my own? For instance, are they calving heifers as two-year-olds or three-year-olds, do they apply the same pressures to fertility (eg, culling of dry cows), and is the environment similar? It’s also important to fully appreciate what your market is – that is, what type of cattle you want to breed for what end result?
Once these issues are established, and the sale decided on, it’s a matter of prioritising requirements around traits. Look for a balance of traits that don’t neglect the two main ones – fertility, and growth to carcase. Fertility and growth are the key drivers to overall beef profitability.
Just as you’d consult a map when trying to get from Point A to Point B, you need to establish what direction you need your cattle progeny to be heading in. To do this, you first need to know where your own herd is in terms of performance, fertility etc.
The stud owner’s job is to present the bulls looking as good as possible so people will buy them, so the EBVs will tell you the genetic make-up within each of these animals to take the progeny to a new level of profitability and efficiency. Often you cannot see these production traits – such as eye muscle, fat cover, calving ease – by simply looking at the bull.
Buyers should consider breed average indexes first and foremost to see how each bull’s performance compares with the rest of the breed. These usually can be found at the front of the catalogue under the Percentile Bands table.
It is important to look for a balance of traits.