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BCIA Kick-Off 2008 – 2009 Bull Testing Season

Livestock Update, November 2008

Joi Saville, Beef Extension Associate, VA Tech

The Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA) has begun its 2008 – 2009 bull tests.  With 197 Senior bulls and 155 Junior bulls already in or just beginning the testing process, BCIA is looking forward to another strong year.
The Virginia BCIA was formed in 1955 for primary purposes of fostering the improvement of beef cattle in Virginia as well as carrying out educational and promotional work with the production of improved beef cattle.
“Most of the producers have grown up in the program, like we have,” explains C. W. Pratt.  Pratt has a 250 head cow herd and has been consigning bulls to the test stations since 1979.  “Most of our competition today are producers that started out in BCIA test stations and sales.”

“The BCIA bull testing program is an important tool for cattle breeders and bull buyers across the state.  It has been the central test stations that taught breeders how to test bulls.  It has been so successful that now many of the large breeders in the state are running their own tests and sales,” explains Jim Tate, President of BCIA and bull consignor.  Tate has been consigning bulls since 1990 with his own herd, but has been a part of the bull test program since the mid 1970’s.

BCIA coordinates and manages five test groups and 3 sales on two test locations (Culpeper and Southwest Virginia).  In the 2007-08 test and sale year, we tested 400 bulls and sold 238 for an average price of $1,994.  These bulls were consigned by BCIA members from Virginia and surrounding states.  These bull tests and sales have been the mainstay of the organization since it was formed and continue to provide performance testing and marketing opportunities for breeders.  Additionally, these sales have a strong reputation as a source of proven, dependable genetics.

“The Central Tests are still a venue where buyers can evaluate animals from multiple consignor herds, that have been soundly and thoroughly performance tested in a test conducted by unbiased parties,” stated Tate.

In its 51st year in the Central Virginia area and 30th year in Southwest Virginia, these bull testing stations are available to BCIA members to provide a standard, impartial post-weaning gain test and development program that will furnish records which will be useful to the buyer and consignor in their breeding programs.  In addition, these test stations provide a source of and market for performance tested bulls and provide the quality of genetics which address the current demands of the industry.  Lastly, these stations and sales serve as an educational tool for beef cattle improvement and promotion.

These test stations are privately owned and are under contract with Virginia BCIA to conduct the tests and sales according to rules set forth by the BCIA membership.  The Culpeper area test station is owned by Glenmary Farm, Tom and Kim Nixon of Rapidan, Virginia.  The Southwest Virginia test station is owned by Hillwinds Farm and Tim Sutphin of Dublin, Virginia.

This year began with the rollout of a newly redesigned web site to help with the ease of finding up-to-date bull test information, as well as highlights and features from previous years.  The web site address is

In addition to the web site, several other changes have been introduced for the 2008 – 2009 testing year. These changes were brought forth by input from both consignor leadership and bull buyers, and recently approved by the BCIA Board of Directors, with the goal of continuing to build on and strengthen our program and include: a changed format for the Culpeper Junior Sale, Semen Testing, Consignor Agreements, Bull Guarantees and Volume Discounts.

“Input was sought from a wide variety of cattle folks in terms of what was good about the tests and what needed updating.  This included input from former buyers, consigners, and industry professionals,” explained Tate.  “Many suggestions were made and the individual test committees and the BCIA board carefully considered each of the changes and are desirous of keeping the Central Bull Test Stations current and in a leadership role in producing sound quality breeding bulls for the state.  Many other changes were suggested, but BCIA was limited by costs and practicality aspects.  A consignment test and sale is more limited in making significant test changes rapidly than individual breeders.”

“We are very excited about these changes and improvements,” states Pete Henderson, a consignor from Williamsburg, VA.  Henderson has a 160 cow herd and has been consigning bulls to the BCIA test stations for about 13 years.

“BCIA has implemented these changes and improvements as we try and keep up with the trends and changes in the beef industry.  We hope that buyers are as interested and excited about these changes as we are,” explained Henderson.

After an in-depth survey of bull buyers across the state, modifications to breeding soundness exams and bull guarantees have been added to all the BCIA test programs.  All Senior Bulls will be subject to a full breeding soundness exam including semen evaluation, and must have a satisfactory rating to sell.  In addition to the semen testing, all bulls are sold guaranteed.  Guarantee will be applicable to bulls which prove to be infertile, have structural soundness problems (including foot soundness), or have other issues which apply under a good-faith guarantee.  This guarantee is contingent upon the buyer providing proper management prior to, during, and after the breeding season.

“Our guarantees will allow us to be competitive.  This is something that we knew we needed to address and change about our program,” stated Pratt.

Also new to this year will be the feature of volume discounts.  Buyers purchasing three or more bulls will receive a $50 discount on all bulls purchased.

On December 13, 2008 the first of the Senior bulls will be sold at Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises.  Bulls eligible for sale had to have a minimum gain ratio of 80, a minimum yearling weight ratio of 90, a minimum frame score of 5.0, and meet minimum YW EPD requirements as specified by the Virginia Quality Assured Feeder Calf Program.  All bulls were required to attain a satisfactory breeding soundness exam rating at the completion of the test.  Qualifying bulls from 87 Angus bulls, 3 Gelbvieh Balancers, 1 Polled Hereford, and 1 Simmental are currently being developed for this sale.

On March 28, 2009 bulls from Southwest Virginia will be sold at the E. D. Umberger Sale Facility in Wytheville, Virginia.  Two-hundred ten bulls will be eligible for this sale, meeting the same above requirements.  Out of the Senior group, we are currently testing 76 Angus, 2 Charolais, 3 Gelbvieh, 5 Gelbveih Balancers, 13 Simmental, and 6 Simmental% bulls.  In the Junior group, we have 65 Angus, 5 Charolais, 4 Gelbvieh, 3 Gelbvieh Balancers, 16 Simmental, 10 Simmental%, and 2 Polled Hereford.

The Culpeper Junior Sale Format has now changed to an Open House format, potentially scheduled at Glenmary Farm in April 2009.  After several years of declining consignment numbers and sale prices, a change was necessitated for the Culpeper Junior Sale.  These changes will hopefully help to foster the active engagement between consignors and buyers.

“I personally would like to see a resurgence of the influence of the Central Bull Test Stations,” declared Tate.  “I hope the changes made this year, are precursor steps to making significant updates to the tests to boost demand and prices, and to encourage a wider cross section of bull breeders to consign bulls to the tests.”

“I think semen evaluation on the Senior bulls is a step forward that has long been needed,” Tate continued.  “Upgrades of guarantees are another positive step.  The new format of the Culpeper Junior sale brings tremendous opportunity for innovation and upgrading.  The consignors to the test will form their own subcommittee and structure the sale according to their needs and mutual marketing aspirations.”

Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association invites you to visit our new website at to find out more information about the program and information on the bulls currently on test.  In addition, we look for you to join us at one of our open houses, or sales this winter or spring.

“This year seems to have a better set of bulls, as it seems to get better every year,” commented Pratt.


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