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Producing Bulls for the Southwest

Three seedstock breeders share perspectives on raising bulls for extensive production environments.

RUIDOSO, NEW MEXICO (Aug. 30, 2018) — With terms like “fuel economy” and “engine power” flying around, it might be hard to believe cattlemen were learning how to select bulls rather than ranch trucks at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle symposium hosted in Ruidoso, N.M., Aug. 29-30.

John Heckendorn, J-C Angus Ranch, Moriarty, N.M.; Clayton Gardner, Manzano Angus, Estancia, N.M.; and Tate Pruett, Brinks Brangus, Arabela, N.M. composed a panel of breeders who aimed to teach cattlemen and women how to “look under the hood” of bulls and select the best sires for their operations.

“We don’t just want cows that stay in good shape and raise little burnt calves,” Clayton Gardner said. “We want cows that raise calves 50% of their body weight, hold their body condition and get bred back.”

Before being able to pinpoint the best bulls, Gardner said, ranchers need to have a solid herd of breeding females. He encouraged herds to contain low-input, moderately framed cattle with a body condition score of 5.

“We don’t just want cows that stay in good shape and raise little burnt calves,” he said. “We want cows that raise calves 50% of their body weight, hold their body condition and get bred back.”

Looking toward replacement females, all three breeders stressed the importance of studying the genetics of heifers.

“It’s not necessarily the biggest, oldest or heaviest,” Pruett cautioned. He said ranchers should look at what the past generations in the female’s bloodline were able to produce rather than judge a heifer solely on her own phenotypical traits.

Heckendorn said calves are the key to profit in the beef industry. Once females get a live calf on the ground, his goal is to get these calves growing as quickly and efficiently as possible. He described feed efficiency as a heritable trait and one he looks for during sire selection, using the Tucumcari Bull Test as a way to evaluate the trait.

In regard to the locomotive of the beef industry, the bulls, Gardner offers a unique perspective on raising quality bull calves. Besides utilizing tools such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer, he said his operation understands the importance of not pushing the bulls too hard during development.

Gardner wants long-lasting sires and aims for his bull calves to gain between 2-1/2 and 3 pounds (lb.) per day as calves. With a high-roughage diet, Gardner is able to produce bulls with both sound genetics and desirable phenotypes.

Tate Pruett also emphasized the importance of raising bulls with the ability to perform.

Pruett also emphasized the importance of raising bulls with the ability to perform. At the end of the day, he said, if a bull is not sound, “he can’t do the job.” Pruett stressed the importance of a breeding soundness examination (BSE), as it reveals the animal’s ability to perform during the breeding season.

When raising bull calves, like Gardner, Pruett aims to only produce the soundest sires possible. By placing feed and water on opposite sides of the traps where bulls are kept, Pruett makes his young bulls travel extensively. This production method allows him to “weed those bulls out at an early age that are not feasible to move forward with.”

For details of the ranchers’ presentations — including video of their presentations — visit the Newsroom at www.appliedreprostrategies.com.

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Media. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact the Angus Media editorial team at 816-383-5200.