Utilizing performance data for improved bull selection

by Mark Mauldin

Bull selection is one of the fastest and most effective methods cattleman can use to change the quality of their calf crop from one year to the next. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the bull. In a small herd, half of the genetic potential of the entire calf crop is determined by a single individual, the bull. Even in larger herds with multiple bulls, the impact of each individual bull can be wide spread, especially if he sires heifers that are returned to the herd. All that said, it is easy to understand why bull selection is an important management decision that should be taken seriously.

When it is time to purchase a new bull, many cattlemen can find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of data that is available to “help” them select the most appropriate bull(s) for their operation. Most cattlemen enjoy picking out the best looking bull in a group. While looks (phenotype) can be important, the traits the bull will pass on to his calves will have more effect on the ranch’s bottom line. These traits are dictated by the bull’s genetic makeup (genotype). To help inform bull buyers about the genetic merit of individual bulls the cattle industry has developed a plethora of ways to quantify and represent genotypes. These representations (EPDs, Indexes, etc.) are collectively referred to as performance data, and they constitute all of those numbers that fill sale catalogs. While all of the data may seem overwhelming, it is very valuable and should be utilized, not ignored.

On Tuesday, January 15th Understanding and Applying Performance Data will be presented at the Washington County Agricultural Center. The primary goal of this class is to help commercial cattlemen decipher all of the performance data available and develop a practical plan for utilizing these resources when selecting bulls for their own operations.The catalog form the Florida Bull Test Sale (January 19, 2019) will be reviewed in detail.

Event details are in the flyer below. If you have questions contact Mark Mauldin, 850-638-6180 or via email: mdm83@ufl.edu.