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Tips when purchasing a new stock bull

Tips when purchasing a new stock bull

It has come to the time of year again when many farmers around the country will be looking to source new stock bulls for the coming breeding season. In this article, Enda Maloney, Teagasc Drystock Advisor, discusses some key points to look out for before a purchase is made.

The purchase of a stock bull is a significant investment on any farm and will have a huge impact on the productivity and profitability of the farm for a period of time. Fundamentally, a bull could contribute to 50% of the genetics on a farm. Farmers must put a lot of thought and consideration in place before they make the purchase to ensure the investment they make will have a positive impact. The ICBF (Irish Cattle Breeding Federation) holds a wealth of information, which can be used as aid to farmers in there decision. Below is a list of few key things a farmer needs to consider before purchasing a new stock bull.

What type a bull do I need?

  • Terminal/Maternal - the question needs to be asked do I want a bull to breed heifers that will make good replacements or do I want a bull to breed terminal-type animals, which will be suitable for sale or slaughter, or maybe a bull with a balance of both?

Visual appearance of the bull

Visual assessment is still the main method of choosing a stock bull for the majority and the key areas to assess are:

  • Conformation – length, depth and width are all desirable, but bulls excessively wide in the shoulders or back end could possibly indicate a difficult calver.
  • Legs – ensure the bull has good straight back and front legs and walks with a free range of movement.
  • Feet – check bulls for evidence of pairing as generally this will be a practice that will have to be continued.
  • Testicles - check to ensure the bull has two even testicles, free from any lumps. Bulls of over 15 months should have a scrotal circumference of greater than 30cm.
  • Temperament – bulls that appear flighty or any way ill-tempered should be avoided.
  • Head - nice, sweet and small head is desirable for calving ease.

Euro-star Index

  • Ideally the bull should be four or five star for either the Terminal or Replacement Index or both, depending on what your requirement for them are. For farmers looking to participate in the new Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme, they will be required to have a genotyped four or five star bull on the farm.
  • Reliability - the higher this figure is the less likely that a bull’s breeding values will change considerably, or even better still have bulls that have their genomic evaluation completed.
  • Calving difficulty - this is one of the most important figures that needs to be looked at before any purchase is made. For first calving heifers, ideally this figure should not go above 4%. Mature suckler cows should be capable of calving difficulty figures of up to 8%.