Published on December 19, 2013
Cheryl A. Fairbairn, PSU Animal Science Educator SELECTING BREEDING BULLS AND FEMALES FOR A GRASS BASED SYSTEM
Purchasing Bulls Breed Age Number of cows to service Ultimate goal for offspring Replacements Terminal
Purchasing • Females – Breed – Age • • • • • Weaned heifer calves Yearling heifer calves Bred heifers Two year olds Mature Cows
Past herd history • Where did they originate? – Environment plays an important part – Are they able to efficiently convert grass? – Are the acclimated to your environment? – What area of the country are they coming from? – How were they handled?
Genetic Information • Use of EPDs on specific breeds. • In bulls look for sires that will provide growth • To be profitable cattle must grow quickly on grass so optimal growth is a must! • Cows should be adequate in milk but not excessive • High milk cows will wean off big calves but sometimes will not rebreed.
Genetic • When grass gets short there is not enough energy provided to allow them to milk and rebreed • They get thin and then you have an open cow. • So moderate milk selection is better • Birth Weight EPD on bulls and females is essential too!
Genetics • • • • Are you always around? Are you away during the day? Is there help readily available to pull a calf? Lower BW EPD’s are the best for many parttime producers or for those who may work away from the farm. • It all starts with a live calf!
Phenotype • Structural soundness is the key to longevity in the herd. • Feet and legs are so important to any operation because they must be able to get around and forage. • Unsound cattle will spend their day laying down rather than foraging. • Unsound cattle are often less fertile
Phenotype • Udders must be sound on females – Small teats so baby calves can access them easily – Tight udders are healthy udders • If they have no suspension they are susceptible to disease and are not easy for calves to access. • If teats are large like coke bottles calves cannot get started on their own and will die if not tended to. • Do you have time to milk out a cow every time she calves?
Records • Are their any records on the cattle you are purchasing? • Mature cows – Calving interval – Average weaning weight – Dystocia problems – Mothering ability – Attitude
Records • Heifers – Weaning weights – Yearling weights – Individual Birth Weight
Records • Bulls – Birth Weight – Weaning Weight – Yearling Weight – Attitude – Breeding Soundness Exam
Health • Vaccination and worming schedule • History of where they have been and where did they come from • Breeding Soundness Exams • Any injuries • Health papers? Within state and from out of state makes a difference!
Replacements from your own herd • Much easier to understand but still not a sure thing • Really don’t know until she gets into production • Even the best numbers can fail miserably • Better bet though because you know the history and they are acclimated to your environment!
Summary • Don’t just purchase because cattle look the part • Be able to evaluate soundness • Understand records • Understand EPD’s for that breed • If possible look at cows with calves on them • The cow and calf will tell you a lot!!!
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