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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth


Making Performance Tested Bulls- Determining Their Value

Livestock Update, November 2008

Scott P. Greiner, Ph.D., Extension Animal Scientist, VA Tech

The development and evaluation of yearling bulls has many components critical to the final goal of producing a quality herd sire.  Proper nutrition and husbandry, along with a good health management program, are necessary to ensure breeding capability at 15-18 months of age.  Additionally, performance recording for growth, carcass, and other economically relevant traits are necessary to provide estimates of genetic merit on these yearling bulls.  As with any enterprise, these components of bull development and evaluation are associated with specific expenses which contribute to the total cost of making a performance tested bull. 

The following table presents typical costs associated with developing and marketing a yearling bull.  The individual expenses reported represent approximate costs derived from historical summaries of bulls evaluated through the Virginia BCIA program.

Yearling Bull Development and Marketing Expenses
(per head basis)


$ per bull

Performance Test Expenses


Feed Costs


Yardage (facility, electricity, water, etc.)


Vet & Medical


Carcass Ultrasound


Total Test Costs
Post-Test & Sale Costs


Feed & Yardage
Vet & Medical, Sale Prep & Transportation


Sale Expenses


Registration & Transfer Fee, Beef Checkoff, etc.


Total Post-Test & Sale Costs


Total Development & Marketing Costs


Initial Bull Value


Grand Total


Details and assumptions are as follows:
Test Feed Costs- assume a bull initial weight of 750 pounds, tested for 112 days, 3.5 lb./day gain, $1.00 per pound cost of gain
Test Yardage- includes expenses related to facility maintenance, electricity, water, etc.
Test Vet & Medical- preventative vaccinations and health management
Carcass Ultrasound- ultrasound technician and data processing costs
Post-test Feed & Yardage- includes feeding and management of bulls from end of performance test period to sale date ($3.00 per day x 30 days)
Post-test Vet & Medical- breeding soundness exams, tests for TB, Brucellosis, Anaplasmosis, sale transportation
Sale Expenses- production and distribution of sale catalogs, advertising, sale facility, auctioneer and sale labor
Initial Value- assumes a weaned, preconditioned calf, weighing 750 pounds valued at $1.00 per lb.

As the table above shows, the process of developing and supplying quality bulls is an expensive proposition.  While several of the above costs are variable based on the method in which bulls may be fed and marketed, the $1580 total value presented represents a realistic estimate of the basic costs of making a yearling bull. In simple terms, this value is break-even for the seedstock producer and does not include additional value associated with superior genetic merit.

A sound investment in a quality herdsire that is properly developed and managed will pay dividends through superior breeding capacity and predictable genetics.  As we embark on what many consider a new era in the cattle business, which will partly be defined by producers’ ability to control costs, a close examination of opportunities to do so is warranted.  Costs associated with genetics is likely not an area to cut corners.  In fact, it is likely that the market differentiation between superior and inferior cattle will continue to grow, and the ability to produce the “good ones” is directly related to genetics originating through quality bulls.

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