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A Guide for Bull Buyers

It is vitally important to identify bulls and cows with superior genetic merit (breeding potential), as their genes are the only attribute that will pass from one generation to the next.

This is easier said than done, because so many factors influence an animal’s appearance – including its age and most importantly the amount it was fed.

Performance recording schemes were developed to make the process of identifying superior genetics easier. Records of performance are analysed to tease out the non-genetic influences on an animal’s performance so that its true genetic potential can be assessed.

This is important when the traits of interest are clearly visible, such as growth rate and carcase conformation and absolutely vital when it comes to maternal traits that can’t be assessed visually.

Trials have shown the right bull can be worth an extra £1500 to £2000 over his working lifetime – so it makes sense to find the bull with the right genetics for your herd.

There are a number of factors to consider when buying a bull using performance records:

  • Focus on the traits that will make you the most money and set appropriate breeding objectives
  • Select bulls with the right EBVs to realise these objectives
  • Talk to the breeder about your requirements
  • Obtain a breed benchmark – this will indicate how the bull performs compared to others within the breed – indicating strengths and weaknesses
  • Review each bull’s EBVs online - for Signet you would use this search engine
  • Don’t ignore traits that influence ease of calving or maternal performance (if female replacements are retained)
  • Low heritability traits such as longevity and fertility can be enhanced by crossbreeding and exploiting hybrid vigour
  • When planning a breeding strategy take into account available resources such as forage, labour and housing
  • Remember EBVs can be compared between herds, but not between breeds
  • It pays to invest. The difference between an average bull and one with high EBVs could be worth £2000 during its lifetime
  • Look after the health and nutritional requirements of your bull to ensure he has a long productive life.