When deciding on a new bull for your cattle operation, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Buying a bull that fits your needs and operation is very important and decisions will be different for every farm.
Looking at all the traits for each bull you are considering and determining which one best fits your needs is the right approach. Using tools such as Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) will help in the decision-making process. Two traits often mentioned by Kentucky producers among the most important are calving ease and temperament.
Although both of these traits are associated with added convenience, they also have a great impact on production. Anyone that has ever assisted in the delivery of a calf that is too large for the pelvic cavity of a heifer would like to avoid that in the future if possible. Not only is it an unpleasant experience, it can result in the death of the calf and or heifer. When the heifer survives, it results in delayed rebreeding or she does not rebreed at all. The best way to avoid this problem is to select bulls that have higher values for calving ease EPDs while maintaining adequate performance in other traits.
The other trait of special interest to many Kentucky producers is temperament or docility; how gentle is the bull or his offspring? This in an important trait for farm safety, but it also has an impact on production.
Research has shown that cattle with a poor disposition do not gain as well and have reduced carcass performance. Some breeds have EPDs for this trait but most do not. This is often a trait that must be determined by interacting with the bull prior to buying it. Many breeds are becoming more interested in developing docility EPDs, and in the future this trait will likely be more easily selected for using EPDs.
Whether your selection is based on added convenience, added production or both, selecting for calving ease and disposition in beef cattle can have positive effects.
To find out more about the selecting bulls using EPDs and other cattle production information, contact the Logan County Cooperative Extension Service.
Sources: Darrh Bullock, Roy Burris – UK Beef Specialists