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Selecting the right genetics: how to assess the best bull for your herd

With the bull buying season underway and the spring joining season fast approaching, cattle producers are urged to carefully assess their breeding goals before investing in new genetics.

“Without a sound knowledge of your product and the markets you are targeting, whether that’s the domestic supermarket trade, EU grass and grain-fed markets, or high quality grain-fed export markets (Jap/Kor B3), it will be difficult to assess the most economically important traits relevant to your beef business,” said Jason Siddell, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services - Livestock Officer (Beef Cattle).

Once you have established your target markets, you will be in a better position to select and purchase the bulls with the most desirable traits to meet market specifications and achieve improved profitability in your herd.”

Producers should be sourcing and analysing feedback from the processors and feedlots they have supplied cattle to in the past. By identifying potential areas of improvement such as growth, fatness, eating quality and yield, producers can look for these traits when considering bulls for purchase, while being mindful of maintaining or improving calving ease, fertility and mature cow size in your female herd.

There are tools available to rank animals available for purchase on their genetic merit. BREEDPLAN (including estimated breeding values (EBVs) and selection indices) and genomic tools are becoming widely used both overseas and in Australia. These tools provide an unbiased description of the genetic merit of animals for those traits which are often not visually assessable.

While these tools will assist in sire selection, according to Jason Siddell they need to be used in conjunction with practical selection for temperament, structural soundness, and ‘maturity patterns’ using visual assessment. When used together, genetic selection tools and visual assessment provide a means of selecting the bulls that are most appropriate for your production system.

“Remember the decision you make today could still be affecting your herd over the next ten years, so utilise all the selection tools at your disposal to buy the right bull this year,” said Jason.

Bull selection checklist

  1. Buy registered performance recorded bulls.
  2. Select bulls which will complement or enhance the traits essential to meeting your breeding goals using visual assessment and genetic selection tools.
  3. Ideally source bulls pre-vaccinated and free of diseases relevant to your district i.e. Leptospirosis and clostridial diseases (7 in 1), Vibriosis, Three-day sickness, Pestivirus, and Johne’s Disease. Animals should also be treated for internal and external parasites, or treat on property after arrival.
  4. Ensure bulls are evaluated using Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BBSE) conducted by an accredited veterinarian to assess reproductive soundness, semen quality and structural soundness.
  5. Use the genomic information available to select bulls to avoid genetic disorders particular to each breed.

For further information about bull selection and assessing breeding goals to meet your market,  contact Jason Siddell at Northern Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6730 1941 or 0459 162 295.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie 02 6720 8317, 0429 626 326