Three top tips for selecting the right bulls for your herd

Three top tips for selecting the right bulls for your herd

*Featured image: We aim to identify Rockley’s future sires at a young age

At this time of the year, bull buyers face a certain pressure to ‘get it right’ because your selections will have long-lasting effects on your overall herd performance and profitability. There are lots of bulls for sale too, which makes your task all the more demanding.

Bull selection is not easy. To make the most of it, you need to consider all the factors at play: budget, polled or horned, pedigrees, scanning information, structural soundness, available fertility data, temperament, bull breeding soundness evaluation (BBSE) results, EBV’s… and the list goes on.

Your approach to selecting bulls should help you make sound decisions based on a clear idea of what you are looking for in an animal, and why.

Tip #1 – Find breeders who share your breeding objectives
Whenever possible, we buy bulls from breeders with breeding objectives that match our own. We have identified 7 elite breeding attributes and are always interested in meeting breeders with a similar focus. We find the best way to do this is to make the time to visit particular studs, talk to the breeders about their priorities and inspect their breeder herd to seek out animals we may be interested in.

Tip #2 – Select bulls with a balance of desirable traits
The success of our breeding platform at Rockley comes from our commitment to finding & continually fine-tuning balance among genetic traits we want to see in our cattle. It’s well known that selecting for a single trait can be problematic. For example, chasing growth can be associated with detrimental effects on other traits such as calving ease or do-abilty.

Tip #3 – There’s more to a bull than meets the eye
When you buy a new vehicle, you don’t make a decision on looks alone, you always look under the bonnet too. Your approach to buying a bull should be the same. Visual appeal is an extremely important part of your assessment, and will always be a priority for me, but this ‘raw data’ (what you can see) is not always enough.

When selecting animals for our Rockley herds, we also use BREEDPLAN where possible to measure the genetic characteristics of an animal that we can’t physically see. BREEDPLAN is a genetic evaluation system that calculates Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for key production traits. These calculations consider the performance of an animal and its relatives, the heritability of individual traits and the relationship among different traits. We have found that EBVs, combined with our visual assessment, helps us select animals with superior breeding

For further helpful information on buying bulls, I recommend Steven Farmer’s short video on BREEDPLAN, EBVs and more.

If you’d like to talk about bull selection, please give me a call on 0408 780 810. Feel free to share this article on social media.

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