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West: Nutrition: How much can I actually spend on a bull?

Matthew Garcia for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 March 2019

Once again it is that time of year when our email inboxes and our mailboxes are full of bull sale catalogs. It is an exciting time of year as we are getting ready for or already calving, and we are starting to evaluate the genetics we are going to incorporate into our herds this coming year.

However, two questions I get pretty regularly this time of year are, “How much can I spend on a bull?” and “Can I afford to spend an extra 1,000 dollars or so on a bull?” One thing that needs addressed before we answer these questions is the actual value of the bull. There are multiple factors that drive perceived value of bulls and I will try and address these issues by answering two main questions:

1. How much potential does that particular bull have to change your herd for the better? This goes back to my column in January where implementing multiple trait selection will give you an idea of how this bull may improve your herd as a whole. A simple example would be to compare weaning weights of a higher-priced bull and a bull more in your price range.

If bull number one has a weaning weight EPD of 57 and bull number two has a weaning weight EPD of 48, we can estimate that bull number one has the potential to put an additional 9 pounds on each calf at weaning. Using a nice round number of $2 per pound for weaned calves, that would come out to an additional $18 per calf. If the bull sires 30 calves, that is an increase of $540, and if he sires 30 calves a year over a period of three years, that is an additional $1,620 over the lower-priced bull.

2. How will incorporating this bull influence your herd beyond the marketable calf crop he produces? For example, if you are keeping replacements, he will have an effect on how soon they reach puberty, their mature size and how much milk they produce. These are all things directly correlated to longevity in a beef herd. In essence, his genetics are now in your herd, and his influence and value will be realized for many years down the road.

To summarize, bull value is driven by a number of factors, including breeder reputation, market availability, physical appearance and genetic potential. However, no matter what your purchase price is, you must be able to recoup that up-front investment with increased performance, efficiency and quality of your herd.  end mark

Matthew Garcia
  • Matthew Garcia

  • Beef Cattle Specialist
  • Utah State University
  • Email Matthew Garcia

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