Cattle producers who thought they left homework behind when they graduated from school should reconsider if they want to make the grade when it comes to herd sire selection.

Purchasing a bull is one of the most important choices a cattle breeder makes in terms of operational profitability, says Bob Kropp, Oklahoma State University professor of animal science and executive secretary of Oklahoma BEEF Inc., one of the largest bull test stations in the United States.

“Before attending a bull sale, the producer needs to determine his or her operational goals and develop criteria about the type of herd sire required to accomplish the objectives,” he said.

Common questions leading to criteria include:

● Is there a particular genetic change that needs to be instilled in the herd?

● Are the daughters of the bull going to be kept as replacement heifers?

● How much growth rate will be desired in the calf crop?

Producers may narrow down their bull purchase choices by using Expected Progeny Differences and other types of information that are available in sale catalogs.

“EPDs are extremely useful in helping to predict how future offspring of a bull are expected to perform compared to future offspring of another bull within a breed,” Kropp said. “A buyer should make the breed choice first and then study the performance data.”

Many sale catalogs provide birth, weaning, yearling and milk EPDs from the national breed associations.

“The breeder should pick uniformity in EPDs, with an eye toward selecting the bull that meets performance criteria for the producer’s specific herd,” Kropp said.

At the sale, the buyer should always do a visual appraisal of the animals selected from the catalog as potential herd sires

“Study the animal and talk with the breeder, if possible,” Kropp said. “The buyer can get a lot of quality assurance by asking questions. It’s an investment well worth the time and effort.”