Will Cutting Corners on Your Bulls Devalue Your Herd?

We’ve all been there. Looking for quick and easy ways to reduce our operation costs can lead to some rash and poorly justified decisions. Unfortunately, many of these early cuts happen within the bull battery.

“I can’t stress enough the value in optimizing your marketing goals through improved male genetics, regardless of cost,” says Patrick Gunn, a cow-calf specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “With bulls representing 50 percent of the genetics of the program, you cannot afford to give up genetic progress in your herd at the expense of ‘cheap’ bulls that don’t match or advance your production goals.

“Regardless of money spent on a service sire, the bull battery typically represents less than 10 percent of annual cow costs for the herd. But the difference in returns between good and below average sires for traits of interest could be 15 percent or more. This reemphasizes the value in ‘paying up’ for a bull that truly meets a producer’s marketing goals.

“Don’t forget the two primary factors that determine profit in the cow-calf sector are feed cost and pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed,” Gunn says. “That’s why there is no substitute for stepping up to the table to invest a few extra dollars in high-quality, registered bulls with proven pedigrees as well as performance and genetic testing.”

“In today’s marketplace, enhancing your factory with a bull that excels in economically relevant traits such as calving ease, maternal calving ease, stayability, growth and/or carcass traits will definitely maximize profitability in a volatile market,” he said. As such it can be one of the best returns on investment for any enterprise.”

What Gunn says makes perfect sense. With a bull(s) contributing 50 percent of the genetics of a program this is one of the last places we should look to trim, but as operators making needed budget cuts we can sometimes sacrifice efficiency in the name of expediency. That simple but forward-thing logic can escape us – if we let it!

Thanks to all those in the industry doing the research that helps us make more impactful business decisions on the farm and in the marketplace!


Ellen Sims

HC Sims Farms





March 25, 2016