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Tom Troxel, University of Arkansas animal science professor, spoke at the recent OSU Beef Cattle Conference in Dewey, Oklahoma.

There’s not a beef producer in the country who hasn’t hoped on sale day that his calves top the market.

In order to be able to do that it takes a lot of pieces to complete the puzzle. Things like good cows, good management, good grass and a good vaccination and weaning program.

There is one piece of the puzzle, however, that is absolutely essential—using the right bull.

When it comes to bull power, Tom Troxel, University of Arkansas animal science professor, said producers need to look at questions such as what kind, how much and what to expect?

“When it comes to sire selection we all have our own opinions,” he told producers at the recent Oklahoma State University Beef Cattle Conference held in Dewey, Oklahoma.

The thing to remember, according to him, is that a cow impacts half the genetics of one calf per year.

“A bull on the other hand impacts half the genetics of 25 to 30 calves per year,” he explained. “Therefore, bull genetic management is 25 to 30 times more important than cow genetic management.”

So, how should a producer go about selecting the right type of bull?

“You can talk about a number of things when looking at the right breed of bull,” he said. “But, the time has come to look for the right type of bull, not the right breed of bull.”

As producers look at selecting bulls they can look at a number of considerations.

Those considerations may include muscling, frame, milk, calving ease, etc.

“Instead of looking for certain qualities of a bull you need to look for balance,” Troxel explained. “Look at maternal traits plus growth traits. Never select a bull on one trait.”

According to him, for producers, there are a number of things to help them decide what type of bull to use.

“You can listen to your neighbor, look at magazine ads, visit the local sale barn and look at bulls and sire summaries,” he explained.

However, before doing that, Troxel told producers they needed to first look at themselves, their environment and their business.

“You need to know what you want to produce and what you don’t want to produce,” he said. “If you know what is discounted then don’t produce it.”

Setting goals, according to Troxel is a good practice for beef producers.

“Consider likely future trends or things like when a calf will be ready to sale,” he said.

When considering the type of bull to use, current cattle trends are important to be familiar with.

Troxel told producers that the University of Arkansas, like other universities conducted a Livestock Market Barn Survey.

“The survey was done to determine the significant factors affecting feeder cattle prices in Arkansas livestock auctions,” he explained.

The survey was conducted from Jan. 1 to December 31, 2005, with a goal of collecting data on 15 to 20 percent of the calves sold.

“The survey showed us that we want a bull that will produce calves that are polled and uniform, heavy muscled and large and medium framed,” he explained.

When it comes to color, the survey showed yellow-whiteface, yellow, black-white faced and black calves were preferred.

In addition to that information Troxel recommended producers examine such things as:

•EPDs

“EPDs are the best tool we have to measure genetic potential,” Troxel said. “EPDs have converted cattle breeding from an art form to a science.”

•Performance test information

•Pedigree

•Visual appraisal

•Herd health program

•Recent BSE results

After determining what type of bull would work best for the operation it is important to know how many bulls are needed.

According to Troxel, the number of bulls needed depends on things such as length of breeding season, age of the bull, size of the herd, size of the pasture and topography.

“Generally speaking, it takes one mature bull to every 25 to 30 cows,” he explained.

If using a young bull, Troxel told producers to breed him to the same amount of cows as his age is in months.

“If you are using an 18 month old bull put him with 18 cows,” he said.

When purchasing new bulls Troxel offered the following tips:

•Buy from reputable breeders only

•Purchase virgin bulls

•Look at customer service

The last piece of bull selection advice Troxel offered producers was the importance of obtaining a breeding soundness evaluation.

“Twenty percent (1 in 5) of the beef bulls evaluated for breeding soundness in the United States are either questionable or unsatisfactory potential breeders,” he explained.

Breeding soundness exams, according to Troxel, should be done at least 45 to 60 days before breeding season begins.

“This allows time to re-check or replace bulls with suspect scores,” he concluded.

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