Tips for buying bulls online

May 24, 2020In Livestock3 Minutes

Bull sale season 2020 is very nearly upon us and some studs may move their sales to an online platform due to Covid-19 restrictions. This means it is even more important to spend time establishing your breeding objectives, matching traits to those objectives and continuing to develop your understanding of estimated breeding values (EBVs).

Even if the lockdown is lifted by the start of the selling season, we have already seen a shift to online selling with the national sale now a videosale and some studs already choosing to sell online.

Without the day-sale chat with the breeder and other buyers, are you confident enough to buy a bull based on videos/photos and the catalogue alone?

The first step is to establish clear breeding objectives for your herd. How is the herd contributing to your production and profitability? Are there traits that you are nailing and just need to maintain? On the flip side, are there traits or trait groups that you believe you could improve?

Examples of probing questions you might ask yourself:

  • At calf marking, are there a lot of later-born calves?
  • Is my scanning percentage acceptable? How does it compare to the industry average?
  • Am I culling more cows due to being wet-dry or weaning poorer calves?

Determining what trait or trait groups (e.g: reproduction, growth or carcase quality) to maintain or to emphasise, can then assist in the selection of the relevant EBVs that are of more or less importance to your herd. There are a lot of them, so the key is to focus on and understand those traits you wish to emphasise before you buy.

Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call the breeder to ask more about the bull/bulls that interest you as well as confirmation of their own breeding objectives – do they match your own? Not only is breeding their ‘bread and butter’ but also their passion and expertise. They may just recommend a bull that better suits your beef system. You can also request genetic trend graphs and actual measurements (scrotal size is a perfect example of this).

If online sales are the way forward this year, make sure you take the time to complete a structural soundness assessment when the bull arrives on farm. Feet, leg and shoulder structure, scrotal and sheath shape are all important.

Remember that bulls contribute to 80% of your genetic gain. The better the bull, the bigger the buck. Happy buying.

Relevant resource available on the Beef + Lamb NZ website:

Better Beef Breeding

Bull buying for the commercial beef breeder (Resource Book)

Buying bulls that perform (Podcast).

  • Anna Boyd is B+LNZ’s genetics operations specialist-beef.