Brooks (Rural Roots Canada) – Selecting the right bull for your herd.

Blake Balog is a veterinarian and the owner of Bow Valley Livestock Health in Brooks, Alberta.

He says you should not be deciding which bull is best for your herd just by looking at it, as there are only a few things you can tell by making a visual scan of the animal.

Balog says you can tell the bull’s temperament, udder and teat structure, and a little bit of the skeletal structure such as feet and legs by looking at the animal.

However, other important characteristics, such as whether this bull will allow for calving ease, are only going to be proven by gathering more data.

“I can just about guarantee you that people try to infer the calving ease, just by looking at it.  I’m here to tell you that you can’t do it,” Balog asserts.

“There have been various tonnes of studies that have been done by measuring various things like the tightness of shoulders, length of the body; however, you can’t tell.”

He reiterates if someone tells you, you can remind them that you can’t and that you need to look at genetics to get that kind of information.

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Balog says there are several considerations you should make when selecting your breeder.

“Pick breeders that are developing critters that are from your local environment with similar breeding objectives.”

If you want bulls that allow for calving ease, lower maintenance critters that are maybe moderate on milk, moderate in performance, then pick someone that has those objectives and obviously has the breed of interest you want to nail down.

Balog adds if you can push for applying genomically Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) to improve accuracy and actively get involved in disease testing, do that as well.

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He says there are also factors you should consider using EPDs to determine the animal’s genetic merit as a parent.

“I would avoid single trait selection, using index when you can and ensure the traits are complementary to whatever your breeding objectives are and don’t overemphasize live bull data.”

Balog says it’s common for people purchasing bulls to use this metric; however, he stresses you need to consider many factors.

“You see, he has a low birth rate, did you consider that he was a twin? or that it was out of a first calf heifer?”

He says there are many things you need to look at when looking at live bull data and really looking at what their genetic data is or the EPD.

“It pulls in a lot more data point, improves the accuracy above what that live bull data is.”