In the last newsletter, I stated: “the selection and purchase of sires is the most important operational activity we in ranching do.” Based upon years of observational experience and empirical data, I firmly believe this to be true. Although the right bull can make significant improvement in overall performance and uniformity in one calf crop, short-term results such as this are directly dependent upon current herd performance. Candidly, the sire selection “process” is an investment in future genetics and should be deemed as a commitment to continual operational improvement. Unfortunately, many producers struggle with this very important management undertaking for various reasons, the most common being an approach based upon the singular purchase of a bull and not the process which accompanies the selection of the bull. There is a difference.
The sire selection process requires you to do a little homework and planning, going beyond just buying a new bull whenever one becomes injured or dies. The Choctaw Nation Agriculture Department currently owns one-hundred twenty-one bulls (121 hd.), each purchased with this “process” in mind. Understandably, this approach is a bit more time consuming and requires discipline, but the long-term benefits can be rewarding well beyond the effort. Below are a few points to consider to hopefully assist you in your journey.
- Spend some time thinking about what you want out of the purchase. Keep in mind: almost everything we do in ranching involves a biological process, including calf-crop uniformity. Market premiums will be paid for uniform calves (age, color, frame, muscling, management, etc.), especially if offered in larger groups. The sire selection process can assist you in achieving greater uniformity, even if you do not necessarily have uniform females.
- Purchase from a reputable seedstock provider who is willing to assist you with whatever questions you may have during the decision-making process. However, to ensure an information-sharing environment, and out of fairness to them, do so prior to sale day.
- Pick a breed that accompanies your overall goals. As alluded to above, some characteristics (i.e., color, horns) can be selected for – or against – by simply picking the right breed or individuals within a breed (homozygosity). Most other traits can be selected by utilizing individual performance and Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs), prioritized based upon your determined marketing end-point.
- Develop a list of bulls that meet your criteria and establish a reasonable purchase price prior to sale day. You can afford to pay more for an individual you know something about compared to one you know nothing about. The dilemma is establishing a fair and reasonable value. Be disciplined: only purchase off your list of pre-determined, qualified candidates that meet your goals and objectives.
- Sale day should be spent viewing the bulls on your list to ensure you can live with him for hopefully the next 5-7 years. Breeding Soundness Exams (BSE) have become pretty much the norm, but you should still spend some time looking at feet, legs and scrotums as well as disposition; he won’t do you much good if he stays in you neighbor’s pasture all the time.
- Once you get him home, take care of him. Age, condition at sale and turn-out date will be factors to consider as you implement your bull development/maintenance plan.