A Bull Buyers’ Insight
Livestock Update, December 2008
Joi Saville, Beef Extension Associate, VA Tech
The Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association has served the needs of the Virginia Cattle Industry for over 50 years through the coordination of the Central Bull Test Program in the state. On December 13, the 51st Annual Culpeper Senior Bull Sale will be hosted at the Culpeper Ag Enterprises.
Through input from bull buyers, BCIA has made several enhancements to the bull development and marketing program including semen testing all bulls, offering volume buyers discounts, and expanding the guarantee for all bulls purchased. The strong relationship between seedstock suppliers and cow-calf producers form the strong foundation of the BCIA bull testing program.
A few commercial cattlemen provided the following thoughts regarding the BCIA Bull Tests.
Bobby and John Goodwin have kept up with the trends within the beef industry and improved their herd through a variety of changes and improvements. Bobby and John have a multi-generational father/son operation that spans through Orange, Spotsylvania, and Louisa Counties. Their diverse operation includes both a dairy and beef herd. They milk 100 Holsteins and run a 300-cow commercial cattle operation. In addition, Bobby and John pre-condition their calves, as well as work with the verification programs to source and age verify their cattle.
Over the years, the Goodwin’s have moved to a moderate frame cow that is productive 365 days a year on fescue. “We wanted to develop a functional cow for our environment,” stated John Goodwin.
In order to move to a more moderate frame type cow, the Goodwin’s look at bulls to improve and continue to foster that improvement towards a functional cow. “We look to the BCIA bulls because BCIA provides an independent set of data on those bulls that are tested,” explained Goodwin. “At the end of the test, they only sell the top 2/3 of all the bulls that are tested, so you know that you are getting a good bull.”
In the end, the Goodwin’s want to continue to improve their herd and genetics. “This gives us an opportunity to have a large pool of bulls to choose from,” continued Goodwin. “I think this is the biggest draw to the BCIA bull test sales.”
While looking at some of the new changes to the BCIA program this year, Goodwin felt like BCIA was demonstrating good strategies for their market. “These new changes only reassure the buyers that the seed stock producers are standing behind their bulls and the program,” stated Goodwin.
Robert Bradford and his family began their cattle operation in 1988 with a base cow/calf herd of 20 cows and 1 bull. Since that time, he has grown his commercial cattle operation to 130 brood cows in Orange County.
In 1988, when Bradford started his full-time cattle operation, his goal was to expand his herd without buying too many outside cattle. “I wanted good cows with good genetics,” stated Bradford.
Ultimately Bradford wants to raise his own replacement heifers and have easy fleshing cattle that would manage well on good grass and hay. “BCIA has given me an opportunity to buy good bulls with data on them, so that I can match them with my cows and produce good replacement heifers that are easy fleshing,” explained Bradford. In addition, the BCIA test station sales have also given him an opportunity to acquire half and full brothers together, “even some of the top gainers,” continued Bradford.
The main draw to the BCIA Test Station Sales for Bradford is the convenience as well as advice. Bradford works with both his county extension agent and the test station owners, Tom and Kim Nixon to get advice on bulls and keep up with them as they are on test. “I know Tom does a good job of raising the bulls,” stated Bradford. “This gives me a great opportunity not to go into buying a bull completely blind.”
Bradford continued with the fact that he knew the producers always stood behind their bulls and their products. “With the changes, however, it is just more of a commitment on the producer’s side, and that is a good idea.”
Since the early 1970’s, Bill Crigler has watched his family farming operation grow and change in a number of ways. Working with one manager, Crigler began his farming career raising feeder pigs in Madison County. Since that time, he has phased out of the pig operation and started, along with his father, raising a 140-cow commercial cattle operation and a 100 head feedlot. Now, a new father/son generation has used their resources and knowledge to move into the commercial cow/calf business.
“I began with black Limousin bulls in my herd,” explained Crigler. “Now we have moved our herd to predominately Angus-based genetics.”
As Crigler looks for basic characteristics in his bulls, he likes to find bulls that will provide him with fast growing calves to weaning. “I try to market my cattle around weaning time,” stated Crigler, “therefore, I want my cows to produce a good quality calf at weaning with little input costs, and the bull can help.”
With plans to grow his herd to a 200-cow commercial operation, Crigler tries to find good bulls that can “help out” the herd. “I look for bulls that are good ‘heifer bulls’. I want to make it easier for my heifers to calve,” stated Crigler. Crigler tries to keep about 15 of his heifer calves for replacements each year.
The BCIA Test Station Sales serves as a source of bulls with the complete package for Crigler. “I try and find the right combination of genetics and traits that I need for my herd,” he continued. “I look at the paper first and find what I am looking for and then I look at the bulls. As long as the bull works on paper and he is sound, I don’t care what he looks like.”
In addition to the unbiased test data, Crigler is drawn to the BCIA Test Station Sales because of the variation of genetics that the sale provides and the convenience.
“The Culpeper Bull Test has a good reputation for good bulls. They do a good job of screening out those bulls that do not perform well,” explained Crigler.
Much like the Goodwin’s, Mr. Bradford, and Mr. Crigler, they look forward to the 51st Annual Culpeper Senior Bull Sale at Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises on December 13, 2008. BCIA, Tom and Kim Nixon, as well as all the bull consignors look forward to you joining us on that date for another exciting sale.