Doug Pierce, division chairman for agriculture with Blinn College in Brenham, discusses bull selection at the South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic recently in Brenham.
Doug Pierce, division chairman for agriculture with Blinn College in Brenham, discusses bull selection at the South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic recently in Brenham.

A herd bull is the foundation of a cattle operation and determines profitability in a cow herd, according to experts at the recent 44th annual South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic in Brenham.

Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, College Station, said “For me, when looking at purchasing bulls, it starts with the data. Good calves bring good money and data on the bulls we are looking to purchase can assist with selecting the right sire for the operation. But you can’t just rely on data. There’s also visual selection.”

Cleere said many producers face the dilemma of how much to spend on a bull.

“I like to view it as ‘how much do I invest in a bull?” Cleere said.

Half of the genetics produced from a calf crop comes from the herd bull. Things to consider when selecting a bull include visual appraisal, individual records, ultrasound data and genetic markers. Expected Progeny Differences, also known as EPDs, are the most effective genetic selection tool and combine performance and genetic marker data, he said.

“Base your bull selection on what your production goals are,” Cleere said. “I like to sort out bulls that fit into my production parameters. Select a group of bulls with the genetic information you want, then select from them the bull with the visual traits that you like.”

Doug Pierce, division chairman for agriculture with Blinn College in Brenham, told said producers want to choose a bull “that acts like a bull and will breed cows.”

“You want a bull that likes cows and wants to be with cows the minute you open the gate,” he said.

Indicators of good fertility include curly hair on the head, he said.

“You want a good, broad masculine look,” he said. “You also want a bull that walks smoothly and has good rib shape.”

Pierce said producers want to choose a bull that does not have a pendulous sheath, which could lead to potential infection and other problems.

“Cattle like to huddle together,” he said. “Think about cows huddled up during the night. One of the cows next to the bull gets thirsty. She gets up, starts walking and can step right on the sheath of that bull.”

Dr. Sonya Swiger, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Stephenville, provided a presentation on livestock internal and external parasite control. Horn flies cost an estimated $1.36 billion in economic losses in U.S. cattle, while stable flies have led to $672 million in losses. Swiger said it is worth the time and money for cattle producers to fend off potential threats to their cattle since arthropods cause stress and weight loss.

Mosquitoes have been a problem in recent months, so she also advised producers to dump standing water in stalls and barns where they might breed.