SELECTING YOUR HERD
THE HERD SIRE By Jaclyn Krymowski for American Cattlemen
he sire is the single most influential individual in the herd. “(What) we think about when we change a cattle herd…we’re very focused on females but we all realize it’s the bulls we buy that make the change,” says Dr. Dan of Angus Genetics Inc. in a seminar titled “Selecting bulls for the beef herd.” Unlike several factors impacting production and management, genetic influence is permanent. This is especially true for operations that retain replacement heifers.
The inputs from a single bull, for better or for worse, will impact many generations down the line. That’s a lot of pressure on a single animal; the selection task can seem daunting. Narrowing in on the right criteria can make the decision easier.
Know your needs
Things such as region or climate, economy, consumer demand and even labor can all have varying weights of importance that may influence genetic criteria. Harsh
climates may demand more traits directed at survivability or maternal capabilities. Operations chasing high premiums may find the need to increase marbling or yield grades. The list of possibilities and scenarios are endless. Whatever the situation may be herd goals should remain consistent, mindful that they are only achievable over a period of time. The last two or three sire generations used is where you’ll be able to see the change, notes Moser.
The payout for bulls makes a big difference on the bottom line. This is where knowing your market and what traits your specific operation needs to profit is so important. Moser used cow-calf producers selling at weaning weight as an example. Say two different bulls sire 20 calves each, with one averaging 570lb calves at weaning and the other only 550lb calves. After only 4 years of selling those calves at a liveweight of $1.80/ lb. will equate to a total of $2880 difference between them.
Know your tools
Hand selecting individual traits to improve a herd would be an impossible task. Breed associations make this feasible in the forms of EPDs, dollar indexes, and most recently genomic data. The traditional EPD pulls data from the pedigree, * Continued on page 16