Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bull Sale

Bull Sale

There is a bull sale today that I would really like to have attended, but we are in the height of calving and have more work to be done that can be accomplished in a day.  So I sit in the house in front of the computer participating by means of the internet.

This sale is in what I consider to be my neighborhood – only 80 miles away – and I know personally all the folks involved - including the auctioneer, and the Cattlewomen who provided pies for the on-site lunch.  I have a shirttail relation who lives near the seller, and he looked the bulls over and gave me his evaluation.

The auction is “cried” in-person on the grounds by an iconic fast-talking auctioneer to a crowd in the stands, although with frequent interruptions to take bids by phone.  Internet bids are apparently visible immediately to the auctioneer, who often shouts “internet in”. 

My computer shows the bull walking around in a pen, visible alternately from every each different angle, as well as a screen showing his pedigree and his “EPDs”.  There is a red button for me to click that enters my bid real time, as well as a chat screen.

I have already studied the sale catalogue, selecting the bulls that meet my genetic goals based on their Estimated Progeny Difference data.  These EPDs are statistical projections based on the actual performance of each individual bull, together with that of all of his ancestors and siblings.  Some ranchers are looking for a bull that will throw the biggest calves.  I, however, am looking for genetics to make better cows.

There were 120 bulls in this sale, and I had picked out a dozen that I would bid on – the first one of my pick brought $17,000, and the second one – the one I would like most to have purchased – brought $6000.  He went back to a bull breeder, and I don’t think I could have outbid him even if I thought the bull was worth it to my program.  So I’ve been writing on this blog as the auction progresses in the background, between the bulls in which I am interested.

And now I’ve bought one!  The EPDs on Lot #28 show the genetics for the maternal characteristics that I am after.  Here is the commentary from the catalogue on this bull:

His dam is a powerful Barney daughter that always raises a good one.  The ‘Impressive’ (paternal line) calves show calving ease, moderate frame and good performance.  His EPDs show this as well, along with very good scan data. (Data includes ultra-sound scans for rib-eye area, intra-muscular fat, and back-fat.)  He is smaller framed with loads of depth, meat and muscle.

My winning bid on this bull was $3250.  Calculating the value of these bulls is hard.  If each of his calves was worth $50 more than a cheaper bull, that would be 20 calves per year for four years – which would be a $4000 payback.  But how can you measure the increased value of each of the calves?  The higher-priced bulls are going to purebred outfits who will sell their calves as higher-priced breeding stock, rather than the meat animals that we are raising.

And so my bull is bought and I must now get back to my cows that are throwing calves fast and furious.


  1. Didn't you just buy a bull last year? lol.

  2. Bulls must be continuously replaced. The average service life of a bull is around three years, while the average service life for a cow is probably 6 years. Bulls who have not gone lame or gotten injured before the age of five years will likely just lose interest in the cows and choose to lay in the shade rather than breed.

    So a rancher must repace both cows and bulls at a rate of at least 20% per year