BROOKINGS, S.D. — Selecting new herd sires is an annual process for beef producers. But before attending any bull sales, taking the time to read through catalogs and identify which selection criteria is of most and least importance for the next herd sire to have possess. The ultimate sire selection goal is to select a sire that will enhance the current cowherd in terms of reproductive success and performance benchmarks. The data included in sale catalogs can help sort through bull consignments; however, the selection process must be unique to each beef producer and their herd goals.
Select herd sires that will bring complementary attributes to the cowherd as he enters the herd battery. Have a game plan in mind, write a job description for the bull and target improvement through multiple traits selection. Extension.org has a beef sire selection decision flow chart that is handy to assist beef producers define breeding objectives when selecting sires. Example questions they note to ask when setting up a breeding objective include: Step 1: Will replacement heifers be kept? What environmental limitations are present? When will calves be marketed? Answering these questions will guide sire selection based on traits that are important to herd management and marketing. Step 2 is to determine the breeding group that the sire will be with: will he be breeding heifers only, cows only or both? By answering this question, the flow chart will show producers which EPD’s and indexes to look at based on their unique answers.
Once all the questions on the flow chart have been answered, we can then sort through sires catalogs and decided which bulls possess traits that are desired/acceptable which will help meet our breeding objective. Often times it is easier to begin with elimination rather than selection. Take a red marking pen and eliminate any bulls that do not meet our criteria, have genetic defects in their pedigree or poor structural integrity that will not be tolerated. If you question some genetically, it’s likely they won’t appease your eye visually when you get to the sale.
Now that we have narrowed down the playing field, reverse the process and begin evaluating those bulls that have acceptable ratings in desired traits. Take a new marker and highlight bulls that have EPD’s and economic indexes that excel them from the rest of the herd. If bulls have videos available, take a look at make sure both the genetic traits and phenotype meet your criteria. Keep in mind that single trait selection is not recommended and maximum is not always best, but instead moderation will yield optimum results. For example, over selecting for WW, milk and gain may increase weaning weights, but also increase feed costs and cow inputs at the same time.
Sale Catalogs will also have additional information such as individual actual birth weight, weaning weights, etc. Be cautions to select sires based on these measurements that are influenced by management practices such as creep feeding, age of dam, and grazing practices. Same goes for pedigree considerations. Use the EPD values which are most accurate depiction of the sire’s genetic potential. New DNA technology has increased the accuracy of EPD’s providing even more insight into sire genetic potential before the he is even turned out with the cowherd.
Now that you’ve eliminated some, and studied the others more deeply, it’s time to rank them in order of purchasing priority. Starting with bulls that best possess the most acceptable EPD’s, indexes and performance traits that you desire. Now sale day is here and you have the catalog with highlights and rankings in one hand and the sale order in the other, review and adjust rankings accordingly to determine potential purchase order. In a perfect world, hopefully some of the numbers will match up and you’ll go home with a new herd sire in the trailer!
Take time to do your homework and select the correct herd sire for your operation that will get you closer to herd goals. If you do, sale day will be more relaxing as you are confident in the decision you are about to make and check you’ll soon write.
— Taylor Grussing, SDSU Extension