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Tips to Produce Above Average Cattle; Bull Sale March 25
Missouri Ag Connection - 03/22/2019

Most cow-calf operators seem to think their calf crop is better than average. However, they are then disappointed when they sell their calves, and they do not bring sale-topping prices. One key way to improve the herd is with quality bulls.

The upcoming Southwest Missouri Beef Cattle Improvement Association's sale of performance bulls will offer 49 bulls at their sale starting at 7 p.m., March 25, at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center.

"For year's, buying the genetic package that makes the production of above average calves relied on visual observation. When buying bulls, visual observation usually results in your herd producing average or even below average genetics," said Eldon Cole, field specialist in livestock for University of Missouri Extension.

Cole says that thanks to modern genetics and genomic testing it is easier to make bull and semen selections that will move your calf crop to above average in a variety of traits. It does take time, record keeping and the use of expected progeny difference (EPD) data.

"Serious buyers need to spend time considering the genetic changes their herd needs to be above average. This means they need good records obtained at birth, weaning, post-weaning in the feedlot and on the rail at a packing plant. Keeping track of recent bull's EPD and percentile rank will supplement actual records if they are unavailable," said Cole.

Today, most bull sales and artificial insemination catalogs have a wide variety of bulls or semen offered. The knowledgeable buyer can tell if the bull is above or below average for a variety of traits by studying what traits his herd needs.

The most popular areas of genetic improvement usually are calving ease, growth, milking ability and carcass traits. The carcass emphasis is on marbling, which affects carcass quality grade and ribeye area.

"Each bull has data on nine EPD traits along with accuracy value. The accuracy values are higher as most bulls have been genomic tested. In addition to the EPD trait, a percentile value indicates where the bull ranks with his breed," said Cole.

For example, if an Angus bull has a weaning weight percentile rank of 10 he is in the top 10 percent of the Angus breed for weaning weight. In contrast, if his weaning EPD percentile rank is 75, he is in the bottom 75 percent of the breed for growth to weaning. As a reference, the average EPD percentile rank is 50 percent.

Rather than looking solely at a weaning weight EPD value, most breeds now offer index ranks, which combine several weaning traits into one dollar and cents value. Two Angus bulls might vary in their $ Wean index from $75 to $40. If they were bred to similar cows, managed alike and marketed under the same conditions, the bull with the $75 index would produce an average of $35 ($75 - $40 = $35) per head more returns for his calves over the long term.

The catalogs for this sale are available at most University of Missouri Extension offices of by contacting any of the MU Extension livestock field specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Ozark County at (417) 679-3525; Elizabeth Picking in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.

You may also call sale manager, Pam Naylor, Buffalo at 417-345-8330. The catalog is also online at

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