With the prices for calves reaching record levels and the potential for good calf prices for the next few years, I thought this would be a good topic to discuss again. You may be looking for bulls to replace old, injured, or poor performing bulls you already have. Possibly, you are looking for an addition to your bull battery due to expansion. Maybe you are looking for a bull to breed heifers. Whatever your reason, if you are in the market for a bull this year, let me encourage you to buy all the bull you can now.
What I mean by this is think about spending a little more than you normally would on your bull to get one that has increased performance. Now, while calf prices are high, is the time to consider this. Not only will it pay off with next years calf crop but perhaps more so when prices go back down. And we all know that even though projections are for calf prices to stay steady for several years, the normal cattle cycle will return and prices will go back down. Also, when prices are low, it is even harder to make yourself spend the money for a bull. I’m often asked what a bull is worth. While there are many variables that determine the value of an animal, the general rule is that a bull is worth 27 times the current selling price of six weight steers. If those steers are averaging $120 per hundred pounds, bulls should be worth about $3200. Again, this is just a guide not a set rule.
Now lets do a little comparing of two bulls. Bull A has a weaning weight EPD of +30 and Bull B has an EPD of +50. Theoretically, the calves from Bull B will weigh twenty pounds more at weaning than those of Bull A. We’ll say these are two year old bulls that will be used on thirty cows. If you have a ninety percent calf crop, you will have an additional 540 pounds of calf to sell. Five weight calves at Powell’s in Smithfield sold for an average of $130 per hundred last week. This equates to an additional $702 by using Bull B.
Keep in mind you should make these calculations to compare prices for bulls you are interested in purchasing. In this example you could pay $500 dollars more for Bull B than you would for Bull A and still cover the additional cost of the bull with the first calf crop. If you pay more than an extra $500, you will go into other calf crops. It is important to figure these comparisons so you don’t get into a situation where you pay more for the bull than you could ever recover. Also remember that spread between the EPD’s will make a difference too. In the above example, Bull C with a +40 EPD probably won’t make enough difference to justify more money. On the other hand, Bull D with a +70 EPD would be worth even more.
Additionally, if you are making comparisons between two bulls of different breeds, you need to add or subtract the appropriate adjustment factor from the across breed EPD chart produced by USDA Meat Animal Research Center. Most breed associations have copies of this or you can obtain one from the extension office. And finally, choose a bull that meets your requirements. If you are breeding heifers, choose a low birth weight bull. If you are breeding only mature cows, you can be a little less concerned with birth weight EPD’s and concentrate on bulls with more growth. If you never keep or sell replacement heifers, the milk EPD is of little or no concern to you. Don’t try to find a bull that is perfect in all aspects. Find one that will optimize your operation.
Source: Paul Gonzalez