Tips for bull buying during rebuilding phase

Bull buying tips: maternal traits key to herd rebuild

Beef
As buyers move to online and sight-unseen purchases, producers are encouraged to "collect as much information as possible". Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

As buyers move to online and sight-unseen purchases, producers are encouraged to "collect as much information as possible". Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

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Taking a balanced yet informed approach to bull buying is the advice from beef consultants and officers, as many producers move into the rebuilding phase.

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TAKING a balanced yet informed approach to bull buying is the advice from beef consultants and officers, as many producers move into the rebuilding phase.

It is important to not select for a single trait or characteristic, but rather holistically consider a range of aspects of the animal including; raw data, estimated breeding values (EBVs), structural soundness and bull breeding soundness evaluations, and the overall breeding objectives of the operation.

Northern NSW private beef consultant Bill Hoffman said post drought and with reduced cow numbers, people need to be selective with bull purchases bearing in mind what the focus of their program will be in the next three to five years.

"In the herd rebuild phase people are keeping as many replacement heifers as possible so they need to pay more attention to maternal traits then they have in the past," Mr Hoffman said.

"With a large number of heifers being retained, their future herd is going to be made up of young females and producers need to make sure they are what they want genetically and physically.

"Make sure to use bulls with genetics you want in your future herd."

If people have bought in heifers without knowledge of genetics or their history, they need to be mindful when selecting bulls.

"Use bulls with below average birthweight and gestation length," he said.

"Bull breeding soundness evaluations, structural assessments, EBVs, raw data - there is a lot of imformation and tools but one should not be used alone," Northern Tablelands Local Land Services livestock officer Tahnee Manton said. Photo: Hannah Powe

"Bull breeding soundness evaluations, structural assessments, EBVs, raw data - there is a lot of imformation and tools but one should not be used alone," Northern Tablelands Local Land Services livestock officer Tahnee Manton said. Photo: Hannah Powe

It is a balancing act, be mindful of all traits rather than putting all your focus on single trait selection.

"It is about weighting the traits, for example if looking at maternal traits you would put that slightly higher in your sorting priorities than carcase traits," Mr Hoffman said.

"You can't chase one thing, it is about balance - steers are still sold on weight, but you want their sisters to have desirable maternal traits."

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services livestock officer Tahnee Manton said a number of tools are available.

"Bull breeding soundness evaluations, structural assessments, EBVs, raw data - there is a lot of imformation and tools but one should not be used alone," Ms Manton said.

"Structural soundness is crucial, they need to be correct on their feet and legs - they may have the best genetics in the world, but if they can't get out and do the job they will in turn cost you money."

Reproductive soundness is important including physical examination of testicles, sheath, and sperm morphology and motility.

Moving to online and sight-unseen purchases, producers are encouraged to "collect as much information as possible" and arrange prior inspection or ask an agent or independent assessor where possible.

Ensuring replacements bulls are on hand is important and a commonly an overlooked aspect of bull buying, according to Ms Manton.

"Bull to female joining ratios are important and will help optimise performance during the mating period ... 20 to 25 cows per yearling bull, or up to 40 cows per mature bull, and keep an eye on their condition. Some may go lower than this depending on joining conditions and environment," she said.

"Consider how many bulls you need before buying and also think about having replacements so if something happens, such as injury, you aren't loosing time or missing cows cycles searching for a bull to use."

If you have no replacements, it could put you back in your joining period and may result in the purchase of unsuitable bulls in the scurry to find a solution.

As studs continue to ensure they are ticking as many boxes as possible, they are commonly keeping bulls up to date with their animal health treatments including drenches and vaccinations. Photo: Hannah Powe

As studs continue to ensure they are ticking as many boxes as possible, they are commonly keeping bulls up to date with their animal health treatments including drenches and vaccinations. Photo: Hannah Powe

As studs continue to ensure they are ticking as many boxes as possible, they are commonly keeping bulls up to date with their animal health treatments including drenches and vaccinations.

"It is common practice now," Mr Hoffman said. "But producers need to be mindful of taking bulls from different regions to theirs. This includes ticks or three-day sickness, or weed burdens they may be unfamiliar with."

Ms Manton said it is important to check with the vendors when and what they have been treated with to help with the transitioning onto new property.

Good general livestock practices should be adhered to when settling in bulls, particularly if they are yearling bulls which are becoming more popular to use.

"Give them time before you put them out with cows. Allow them to familiarise themselves with their new environment," Ms Manton said.

"If bringing in a single bull, have something at the yards there for him to settle in with - don't leave them on their own," Mr Hoffman said.

"If putting them into a bull paddock with other bulls be careful of mixing, especially with mature bulls that have been there for a season.

"Yearling bulls need to be treated with a bit more care and attention, not only when first brought home but when with females for the first time."

Keeping an eye on the condition of bulls is important, especially with yearling bulls, as low body condition scores can impair sperm production.

"With yearlings you may use them for two cycles then give them a spell and put them on good quality feed - they still have to grow as they haven't met their full potential," Ms Manton said.

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