Choosing the best bull for your herd

Northern Tablelands Local Land Service (NTLLS) cattle expert Jason Siddell is doing the rounds with bull selection workshops to help buyers choose the best investment for their herd.

Mr Siddell conducted a workshop at Greg and Sally Chappell’s Dulverton Angus Stud at Shannon Vale outside Glen Innes on Wednesday, July 5, attracting potential bull buyers from around the region.

He said ideally a new bull would be allowed eight weeks to settle into its new home before it sets to work, but buyers should be aiming for at least four weeks.

Many in this area start joining their cows from October 1, although heifers are often given a head start and are joined from September 1 or at least three weeks before the cows. Given that this younger cohort will take an extra three weeks to cycle again after their first calving, this then puts them in sync with the remainder of the herd for their reproductive lives.

With buyers dropping $7-8000 on average per bull, Mr Siddell said it makes sense to invest some time in learning some of the finer points of bull selection.

He spoke at the Glen Innes workshop on deciding on the market being targeted and choosing a bull to suit. Smaller-framed bulls (frame score 3 to 4) produce slower-growing, early-maturing animals laying down more subcutaneous fat.

Medium-framed bulls (frame score 5 to 6) offer faster growth and good fat coverage, while bulls with higher frame scores produce animals with much faster growth, and a lean carcase.

“It all depends on the market you want to supply,” he said.

“And you’ve got to ask yourself if you’re using a bigger-framed bull, can you keep his female offspring in your herd?”

He said while large-framed bulls do suit certain markets, breeders have to be aware of potential calving problems, particularly as the push for greater muscling inevitably leads to broader shoulders.

This has to be balanced with higher-muscled cattle rating better in eating quality tests, and each increment in muscle score potentially leading to a 20 cents per kilo increase in liveweight carcase value.

Mr Chappell said cattle producers may start being paid for carcase yield rather than just weight, making muscle-to-bone ratio an important consideration. He said producers are still in pursuit of the perfect carcase with minimum bone, maximum muscle and optimum fat, and will need to continue that pursuit to be price-competitive against pork.

Longevity and temperament were also discussed as important traits in bull selection, with the latter becoming more critical as aging farmers don’t want to be dodging cranky bulls in the yards.