Selecting Beef Bulls

Buying a new herd bull is a decision that will have long term effects on the profitability of your cow herd. Nearly 90 per cent of the genetic make-up of your herd is comprised of genes from the sires used in the last three generations.

Choosing the right breed is the first step in bull selection. Cattlemen have a habit of making a breed decision based on current trends, what the bull looks like on the other side of the fence or worse what appears to be a great bargain at the local sale barn. Cattlemen should consider breed complementarity, heterosis (hybrid vigour) and future markets when choosing a breed.

Complementarity involves matching strengths of one breed with weaknesses of another and vice versa. Heterosis or hybrid vigour is simply the extra performance resulting from the mixing of different genes from different breeds. Economically important traits that have low heritability, like fertility and longevity, benefit the most from heterosis. Therefore breeds should be chosen so that the resulting replacement females possess a high degree of heterosis.

When choosing a supplier (i.e., seedstock producer), take the time to ensure that what the producer is selecting for closely matches your selection emphasis. You also need to consider the tools they use in selection and the service you can expect. Will they stand behind their product?

Choosing the right sire is the final step. Genetic evaluations of beef cattle provide Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) which are a measure of the expected performance of an animal's progeny and are available for a variety of traits including both growth and carcass traits. Genetic evaluations balanced with common sense and an assessment of the bulls conformation can make selection much easier with significantly less risk.

For information on young bulls completing evaluation at bull test centers across Ontario, contact Beef Improvement Ontario, (519) 767-2665.

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For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Joanne Handley - Beef Cattle Geneticist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 26 May 1997
Last Reviewed: 21 January 2010