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Adaptable • Sustainable • Profitable
A Publication of the Barzona Breeders Association of America
Selecting Bulls to Match Your Management, Environment and Marketing System By Mark Enns, Ph.D., Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University
O ne of the biggest, ongoing challenges for every cow calf breeder is choosing the right bull. Operations vary in many key characteristics, some of which include lo cation, forage and supplemental feed availability and cost, climate and marketing program. It is difficult to consider all of these simultaneously with the goal of choosing the right bull. There are some simple suggestions that may make this task easier. With the perspective that seedstock producers are fo cused on the needs of their commercial customers – the largest market for seedstock bulls – selection success can be improved for both the commercial and seedstock breeders.
that will make a difference to ranch income. In this context, re taining ownership through the feedlot and on to harvest would shift selection priorities even further to carcass weight, and yield and quality grades. This is the first step – know how off spring will likely be marketed. The next consideration is identifying and accounting for key environmental challenges. Selecting breeding animals that are appropriate for the environment both they and their offspring will be expected to perform in is key. Environmental challeng es might include heat stress, requiring selection appropriate to that challenge. Higher elevations are a challenge in some cases, which introduces the need to include selection on pulmonary arterial pressure phenotype and expected progeny differences (EPDs). Drought or scarce forage resources would introduce the need to consider mature weight genetics. Other potential chal lenges are specific to areas grazing fescue and the potential for negative effects associated with fescue toxicity. Ongoing ge netic research may result in the ability to improve tolerance to these challenges. At that stage, selection would need to include those tools. The next consideration involves the keys to getting a live calf to sale. This introduces the necessity of including calving ease, reproductive and longevity traits into the selection process. Ul timately, we want low incidence of calving difficulty and high calf survival rates. Success in this area begins even before calv ing, with successful cow and heifer conception rates. While 100 percent conception is often an unrealistic goal, it seems there is always room for reproductive improvement. Higher conception rates result in more calves from older cows and the need for fewer replacements due to open cows. Some of the selection tools to improve reproductive ability include EPDs for Heifer Pregnancy, Scrotal Circumference and Breed Back. On the forefront of EPD research and development are traits and measures that will provide a better opportunity to improve animal health. Ongoing research includes investigation of the genetic contributions to bovine respiratory disease and feedlot heart failure as well as other health-related traits. As new EPDs are generated and introduced, there will be new opportunities to improve animal health and welfare genetically.
Successful selection decisions must be made in the context of the operation in which those breeding animals will be used. There are really four questions that need to be answered. Ad dressing those questions can help the breeder narrow down their search and, in turn, make significant progress toward us ing selection and genetic improvement to improve profitability. The first of these is to identify how the operation will market its animals or, put another way, what will be the primary sourc es of income for that particular farm or ranch. If selling weaned calves and cull cows is the primary source, then selection can be narrowed and focus on weaning growth, milk and mature cow size. If the operation is marketing animals after a summer yearling grazing season, then focus should shift from weaning weight to yearling weight. The key is to concentrate on the traits
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and disposition, to name a few. I will highlight each of these items for you. Cost: Each of us buys bulls as a long-term investment, keep ing them in the herd for several years. But with today’s prices, we can shy away from the price tag. Start with a budget and, as they say with gambling, bet with your head, not over it. The balance is not to sacrifice the traits you want for the cost of the bull. The bull is going to be half of the genetics on the calf and must overcome the deficiency in the cow as well as the previous bull. In setting your budget, be mindful of the return on invest ment or, as some say, how long it will take for the bull to pay for himself. Also, buy bulls from someone you trust. Do your home work when buying a bull. Getting to know the management of your bull is just as important as the cost. Traits: Barzona cattle have specific traits we all desire and what draws us to them. Each herd has unique traits, so when selecting a bull, one must seek out the trait they desire to introduce and improve their herd. One such way is to discuss with the seller about the records kept on the bull, such as birth weight, weaning and yearling weights, maternal ability, calving ease direct, etc. Depending on the producer, some may be able to provide you with data through expected progeny differences or DNA evaluations. If the seller provides you with data, know how to interpret the data to make the most informed decision. No question is a dumb question when buying a bull. Remember, you are selecting for herd improvement. Do not select for a de sired trait and sacrifice a trait in the herd you do not want to give up. Take your time while making your selection. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your herd won’t be either. Conformation: Data and records can only go so far. The bull might be the best thing and the top of his industry – on paper – but does not have what it takes to be turned out with the cows. Look at the bull. My great-grandfather always said, “The best way to tell is to look at ‘em!” What does he look like? How does the bull move? Is he sound? Having a better confor mation bull within the frame size you desire is better on the bottom dollar than one with poorer conformation. According to the USDA feeder calf standard, bulls should generally have a muscling score of 1 and be medium-plus to large-minus framed. Ultimately, select for what you want your bull to look like and for soundness. Scrotal Circumference: When talking to the seller, ask about scrotal circumference of the bull at 1 year of age. A bull with a bigger scrotal circumference can cover more cows. If you are attempting to decide if you can cover 25 head with one bull or two, the scrotal circumference could be a determining factor. If you’re looking for breeding age in heifers, remember that yearling bulls with larger testicles sire daughters that reach puberty at a younger age. The generally accepted scrotal mea surement is 30 cm at 1 year of age. The closer to that size the better. While talking to the seller, also ask if a breeding sound ness exam has been performed on the bull and what the results of the exam were. Condition and Disposition: Last, I would look at the bull’s condition and disposition. A fat bull will have as hard a time breeding a cow as a skinny bull. The bull’s overall condition can affect semen quality, stamina and conformation. Keeping your bulls healthy and at an optimum body condition score will help their longevity and help you get more years out of your investment. Look at the bull’s disposition. Is he nervous? High headed? Difficult to handle? Disposition can be passed on to offspring. Plus, no one wants a bull that is a pain to deal with. Continued on page 3 ›
By Matthew Heinz, Golden Hz Farms, BBAA President
. W elcome to this edition of the Barzona Bulletin . Sever al exciting things are happening within the Barzona Breeders Association of America (BBAA). The BBAA Feedlot Committee met several times over the last few months, ironing out the details for the feed efficiency test. More details can be found in the executive secretary’s report this month. I would like to thank all committee members for taking the time to meet, work together and come up with the rules for our Barzona cattle to go into this test. Golden Hz Farms held our first Barzona auction. Not only did we have high-quality Barzona cattle from our farm, but other members consigned the best bulls from their herds as well. Golden Hz Farms would like to thank those consigners. Bulls are still available from all BBAA members. You can contact the breeder directly or the BBAA executive secretary and she will make sure you get what you need for your herd. Bull-buying season is upon us. Purchasing a bull is the quick est way to see results within your herd, but it should not be done without doing your homework. You want to select a bull that will make improvements to your herd, not delay positive results for several years. As a producer, you want to identify the product you’re producing. Are you selling seedstock? Fat cattle? Freezer beef? When selecting bulls, we look at several factors, including cost, traits, conformation, scrotal circumference, and condition From all of us at Golden HZ Farms a big thanks to our bidders, consignors and buyers !
LIST OF CONSIGNORS: G olden H z F arms r aymond B oykin d odd C armiCHael
Golden Hz J45, consigned by Golden Hz Farms and sold to Mike Decker.
2 | BARZONA BULLETIN OH Jasper 102, consigned by Raymond Boykin and sold to Steve Smith.
Raising Quality Barzona Cattle for 46 Years. Bulls & Females Available 2-Year-Old Bulls Available Now F & F Cattle Company On another note, we have some cattle for sale to list! BBAA members have bulls in Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa, Texas, Ore gon and potentially a few others. Members also have females for sale in Missouri and Iowa. Most of these are listed with pic tures or videos on the BBAA Facebook page ( www.facebook. com/BarzonaBreeders ). Make sure to follow us there. If you would rather call, I have most of those pictures and videos avail able to send via message or email as well. BB By Alecia Heinz, Golden Hz Farms, BBAA Secretary From Our Association Secretary F rom what I’ve gathered interacting with breeders all over the United States, this winter has not been a nice one. Hay expenses are up for everyone, and efficiency has played a major role in operations across the board. From moder ate-sized cows to corn expense for feedlots, this is one trait that has become a fixation point for multiple reasons. The Barzona Breeders Association of America (BBAA) is putting out feelers for anyone who would be interested in placing Barzona calves into a BBAA feedlot test. More than 30 different data points will be collected for both association and breeder use. Ownership of the calves can be passed to the feedlot upon delivery if you choose to sell them. Forms and entry details will be posted on the website. These are not contracts yet, they are simple forms to gather info from potential participants. If you have any ques tions, please contact me.
Finally, the last consideration is identifying the operation’s cost centers and opportunities to reduce the costs of produc tion through genetic improvement. For instance, traits such as mature weight, maintenance feed requirements and dry matter intake become important as they represent the cost of feed as sociated with production. If there are tools to reduce the main tenance feed requirements or feedlot intake (while maintaining gains) in retained ownership programs, these will all help im prove overall profitability. One aspect often overlooked in the context of reducing costs is calving ease. Elevated incidences of dystocia often requires additional labor to deal with calving difficulties in an attempt to improve calf survival. One of the challenges associated with trying to select and make simultaneous genetic improvement in multiple traits is that the more traits used to select breeding animals, the slower the rate of genetic improvement in any one of those traits. By considering these four key factors characterizing breeding sys tems, the list of traits upon which selection is based can be re duced to only those that influence profitability. These are often known as the economically relevant traits, or ERTs. Hopefully these recommendations will improve your ability to select the animals most suited to your production environ ment and marketing plan and, in turn, improve profitability. BB Selecting Bulls to Match Your Management, Environment and Marketing System Continued from page 1 Once you get your bull home it is recommended you keep your bull up by the house for a month to keep an eye on before turning out with the herd. This will give him time to acclimate to a different environment and feedstuffs as well as clean out any potential pathogens or other things from the previous herd without exposing yours. BB President’s Message Continued from page 2
Weichman Feedyard, L.P. We have more than 30 years’ experience finishing cattle and more than 10 years’ experience finishing Barzona cattle. We offer a value-based marketing systemwith a history of premiums for Barzona cattle. Give us a call (620) 872-2945 Office (620) 874-5236 Cell
Mike & Pat Fitzgerald 130 Fitzgerald Lane, Mosquero, NM 87733 (575) 673-2346 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hampton Cattle Company Breeding Purebred Barzona since 1973 Fertile Range Cattle Steve Hampton P.O. Box 134 • Kirkland, AZ 86332 (928) 442-3438
4030 Highway 83 North Scott City, KS 67671
WWW.BARZONA.COM • WINTER 2023 | 3
Barzona Breeders Association of America P.O. Box 154 Greenfield, IA 50849
PRESORT MKT. US POSTAGE PAID GUNNISON, CO PERMIT #154
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please contact Alecia Heinz at
(641) 745-9170 or barzonabreeders@ gmail.com
FOUNDATION HERD BREEDING STOCK Since 1974
Selling bulls private treaty. Yearling bulls available now.
REGISTERED, PUREBRED BARZONA Breeder since 1986
Semen available on a number of older bulls. Females available periodically private treaty. Foster, OK 73434 (217) 649-5616 Bard Cattle Co. Nancy Bard Nunn 18800 E. County Road 1603
Raymond Boykin, Jr. (334) 430-0563 • email@example.com 8727 Lydia Lane • Montgomery, AL 36117
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