Cow-calf producers, it is time to start looking at purchasing the next herd sire. Understanding all segments of the beef cattle industry your calves will pass through is important in selecting the next herd sire. In most cow-calf operations the calves are weaned and retained in the operation through back-grounding or sold to a back-grounding operation. Then calves will go to a feed yard to be fed, slaughtered and end up in the grocery store or on your plate for dinner. Also some cow-calf producers retain heifers for the herd’s next generation. Therefore, when looking for that next herd sire, cow-calf producers should not just think of themselves but each segment of the cattle industry that their calf will pass through. By using this thinking process you will buy a herd sire that will produce calves that perform well in the other segments of the beef industry and should receive more incentives at sale.
Visual appraisal is an important step of herd sire selection. Visual appraisal starts with structural soundness. The bull should have a strong level topline and flexibility of structure such that on the move the bull walks with ease. Also, the bull should have average shape and dimension of muscle throughout the body. It should be average frame size, with a deep wide chest floor, bold spring of rib and be in body condition score 6 (bull exhibits a good smooth appearance throughout). Also it is important that the bull passes a breeding soundness exam performed by the veterinarian prior to purchase which identifies the bull’s breeding potential. A bull with these criteria should go out and adequately breed your cows and produce calves that will perform well in the other segments of the beef cattle industry.
Expected progeny difference (EPD) percentile ranks are rankings of the expected performance of a bull’s offspring, in comparison to the other bulls’ offspring in the breed and should be used when selecting the next herd sire. When looking at these ranks understand your goals, and the goals of the other segments of the beef cattle industry. Then select bulls that have above average EPD percentile ranks (EPD percentile rank < 50 percent) for traits associated with the goals. For example one goal of your cow-calf operation may be improving calving ease. Therefore, you would look at bulls that have an above average EPD percentile rank for calving ease associated traits, calving ease direct and birth weight. To better clarify, a bull with an EPD percentile rank for calving ease associated traits of 25 percent will sire calves with more ease than a bull with an EPD percentile rank of 75 percent for those traits.
Remember cow-calf producers, your calves perform in the other segments of the cattle industry, and the other segments pay incentives for calves based on projected performance. Therefore, cow-calf producers that select bulls that produce calves with the expectation of better performance in the other segments of the beef cattle industry, should see incentives on calves at sale. For more information on selection of bulls and understanding EPD percentile ranks contact your local University of Missouri Extension Livestock Specialist.