Calving season is again upon us. This year’s calves will be out of a new yearling bull we purchased last spring.
Last breeding season, we rented an unused bull from another local producer. For more detail about the specifics of that decision take a look here. Renting a bull was a cost-effective solution for breeding our six (at that time) cows. He was a registered Red Angus bull with proven calving ease. His calves, born this spring, were beautiful and I was very pleased. We will be retaining two of his daughters as replacements this year and they are exactly what we were hoping for; smaller framed, friendly, red Angus.
A great deal has changed with our operation from the past year. Our base heard has more than tripled in number. With our new property, we have additional pasture, separate pens, and far better corrals. The upside of having previously rented a bull, and then added bred cows to our operation is that we do not have any animals sired by our bull. We have the opportunity for a fresh start and two breeding seasons before we need to address this issue of replacements sired by an on-site bull.
Despite all the changes, our goals have remained the same. Our focus is on Red Angus Moderator cattle. With another year under our belts, our half low line (American Aberdeen) or Moderator cattle have proven themselves outstanding. True to breed expectations they are easy to handle with mild-mannered friendly dispositions. They calved without complications and have proven to be excellent mothers. Moderators require less feed, a major advantage when focusing on grass-fed beef. They have successfully raised calves that are every bit as nice as our full-size Angus cows. We retained four of the five original moderator cows we initially purchased. We call them, 56, 57, Rosie, and “the tall black lowline.” Each of the four had and raised an outstanding calf this year. Two of which are beautiful replacement heifers that will remain here on our farm. “Sugar and Spice.”
The general recommendation is one mature bull for 20 to 30 cows. We started the year off with 36 cows and a heifer. We spent a fair amount of time reviewing EPDs and talking with producers in our area. After much consideration, we purchased a yearling, registered Angus bull. To be really honest, Handy Husband and I spent some time squabbling about the right move here. Introducing a bull into your herd is incredibly important. After all, this single bull will sire and therefore represent half the genetic material of all of his calves. All the best material traits cannot make up for a false step when it comes to deciding on a bull. Spend some time really doing your homework before investing in a bull. Buy the best animal you can afford.
We spoke with a producer a few hours away who specializes in red Angus bulls. We knew he had a pen to select from so Handy Husband made the trip over. Normally we would have tried to make this a family event, but with a new baby in the house, he took the lead.
We landed on Clancy:
Because we are on the upper limits of what can be expected for a mature bull, let alone a youngster, Handy Husband’s parents graciously loaned us one of their yearling bulls. We call them Clancy and Roger. Roger is a high-quality black Angus bull. We turned Clancy in two cycles before Roger in order to maximize his opportunity to breed each cow. Red Angus is a recessive trait requiring the recessive gene from both parents. Our red cows, when bred to a red bull, will produce a red calf. At least one of our black cows carries a recessive red gene, so when bred to a red bull she will sometimes have a red calf. The advantage here is we will easily be able to tell which of the two bulls bred each of the red cows. This allows us to choose only replacement heifers or finishing steers with the traits we have selected to focus on (small body size and red coat.)
Further, if for some reason Clancy was not performing as expected, we would still get a calf crop, but we would easily be able to tell that he was unsuccessful. Observation suggests Clancy had no trouble covering all the cows, but exposing them to a black bull after they should have been bred gives us a clear measure.
It is a good idea to have a veterinarian conduct an annual breeding soundness exam, particularly when selecting a new animal. Clancy had such an exam prior to our purchase. This exam in combination with our observations of him suggests he should be a great bull.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bull:
- Herd Size
- Maintaining separate pens/pastures for separating animals after breeding
- Retention of herd sire’s daughters/replacement heifers
- Availability of Desired animals