When making 2017 sire purchasing decisions, it is important to keep the cattle operation's goals in mind and do your homework, said Taylor Grussing, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

"Bull buying is not a one-size-fits-all decision. There are many options to choose from including breed, age and genetics," Grussing said. "Sire selection plays a large role in the profitability of the cow/calf operation. Take the time to make strategic breeding decisions that will benefit the cowherd and set yourself up for success this year."

Below, Grussing outlines some points to consider before investing in herd sires.

Breed: For purebred operations, the decision is rather simple. However, for commercial crossbreeding systems, it is important to begin by narrowing down which two to three breeds will work best in the operation's rotational breeding system.

"Once a breed or breeds are chosen, a cattle producer can narrow their focus - and begin to toss out breed catalogs that don't meet this first criteria," Grussing said.

Offspring: What is the end-goal?If calves are to be sold into a feedlot, the type of bull is different than if the goal is to raise females for the replacement pen.

For the feedlot, terminal sires should be sought out. Focus on growth and carcass performance traits. "When purchasing a terminal sire, it is also important to remember replacement females may need to be purchased," Grussing said. "Terminal heifers might not match the mold of the mature cowherd. On the other hand, sires selected for the goal of raising replacement females should possess maternal traits complementing the mature cowherd," she said.

For replacement heifers, more focus should be placed on calving ease, milk and maintenance cost indexes which will be passed down to offspring to be retained.

EPD's: Utilizing EPD's and indexes, sort bulls into groups that meet all of your criteria.

"It helps to set minimum and maximum targets for specific traits or indexes," Grussing said. "This helps to ensure the bull actually fits in your system and doesn't exceed your expectations in one area, while falling short in the next. For example, if you select for growth year after year, will cow size increase and thus feed intake?"

Take a look: Phenotype and structural integrity are important to observe in order to make sure the bull(s) will be able to service cows and pass on longevity to the herd.  

Viewing bulls prior to sale day also gives cattle producers the additional benefit of visiting with the sire's owner.

"Share the goals of your operation and what you're looking for in a herd sire. They can give you more information than what is in the catalog, such as dam productivity, udder conformation, herd health, etcetera," Grussing said.

Bottom line: In today's market, it is important to consider expenses and try to minimize losses. "Don't cut costs on the bull battery, instead evaluate how the sire will influence the whole economics of the operation," Grussing said.