It's a Start!
We'll just jump right in and let you know what is going on at the ranch. We recently went to a bull sale in Harrison, MT. Every year we have to buy bulls to replace the ones that got too old, died, injured, or fell out of the herd for another reason. This is an expensive and time consuming process. I hope this post gives you a glimpse inside bull buying and what it means to manage genetics in a cow herd.
Everybody has a different selection process for picking their bulls. Some use EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences), some use phenotype (appearance), and some use both. We try to look at both. SITZ Angus sends a catalog out ahead of their bull sale that includes many of the bulls' EPDs. We look at these numbers to try to determine which ones will make calves that grow how we want, cows that will produce not too much or too little milk, and steers that will have good carcass traits.
We also sort out any bulls with a high PAP (Pulmonary Arterial Pressure) score. A PAP score indicates if an animal will be more susceptible to Brisket Disease. Brisket disease is a condition in which the heart becomes overworked due to the low oxygen that comes with running cattle at high elevation. Low PAP scores indicate bulls and, hopefully, therefore calves that will do well at elevation.
The day before the sale, we look at the phenotype of the bulls. We try to find straight, well-built bulls that have "eye appeal." We have a certain look that we want to see in our bulls. Generally, we want bulls that look like they can walk in the open country so they can breed as many cows as possible. We want straight bulls with a good back and good legs that won't hurt himself trying to cover country, breed cows, or while he, inevitably, fights with other bulls.
After all of the deliberating and sorting through bulls, it comes down to the bulls that we like, but aren't going to break the budget. SITZ had an offering of 414 bulls this year and they brought an average of $7074.00. That shows you the competitiveness of a popular auction such as this. That's a lot of money for an animal that may just go out to the pasture and hurt himself the first time he gets into a fight. However, when you buy a bull, you are buying the genetic future of your cow herd so you don't want to cheap out!
I hope this gives you an idea of one facet of operating a beef herd and little peek into ranch life for the first post in the BTB Blog.