Home Raised Clean up Bull ?

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Stocker Steve

Well-known member
May 2, 2005
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Central Minnesota
Fifty percent of my cows are above average, and all my bulls are expensive. How many bull calves would you have to leave uncut to have a decent chance of one of them being better than his sire? How would genetic testing of these bull calves change these odds?
If I keep a calf for a bull I'm looking for a calf from an older proven cow. The sire should be a bull that has proven himself to produce heifers that work for me. Bull price and EPD numbers don't drive me so can't help you there.
We have been raising some of our own bulls for several years, and are moving towards more of it. So far we have been keeping back 2-3 bull calves. Quality is a pretty subjective term, and depends on what your goals are. For me, it comes down, to being satisfied with a particular sire, and cow. If a bull consistently sires good doing calves, and checks the desired boxes, then I consider his calves as a possibility. The cow figures heavy into the equation. if she is a consistent producer and has a good udder, or if it is a 1st calf heifer from a cow that meets the aforementioned criteria then calves from those cows or heifers are considered. The EPD aspect is something that is hard to replicate and seems to decrease some each generation removed from the mainstream parent stock therefor I don't put a lot of dependence in EPD's. I think a lot of folks sell themselves short as to the quality of their cattle vs the quality they perceive in others stock just because of numbers and prefixes. Genetic testing hasn't really proved much to me yet as far as accuracy of performance and other traits. It is useful as a tool to test for genetic defects or coat colors, etc.
Odds? Chances? I don't think of it that way.

When I want to select a bull to raise-up, I start with my herd records. What you look for depends on your breeding goals. Here's what I look for. Any cow that has ever needed calving assistance is out. Bad temperament, she's out. She should be a good mother and have a good udder. This usually narrows the
calf crop, and I will run DNA on the few that are left.

If you're only worried about big calves, which of your cows wean the heaviest? Which ones had bull calves this year? That should be a start anyway.
Udders are what gets quite a few of our cows culled as they age. I would guess that around 70% of our cows 8 years or older still have good sound udders. There are some that are on a definite watchlist to cull.
Been exclusively using our own bulls for years and udders are one area where the herd has really improved. Start with calving ease. There are many good suggestions above on other traits, especially concerning his mother.
The cow figures heavy into the equation. if she is a consistent producer and has a good udder, or if it is a 1st calf heifer from a cow that meets the aforementioned criteria then calves from those cows or heifers are considered.
Look at the cow's fertility. Did she gain in the latter breeding seasons or gain. Look at daughters of cows you would consider as your top cut. If they are replicas of mama then you have more positives in that cow(s). We have used home raised bulls for 20 or 30 years. We have bought one occasionally and use a limited range of semen if we want another boost from an old bull or want to trial something. Udder quality is all acceptable. There is one cow I do not prefer but it is OK. You will be amazed at the progress you make by using your own bulls.
A lot of the more successful cattle producers here swear by home raised bulls. They say you are then breeding cattle that perform in your environment and conditions. Start with your best cows and bulls that have performed the best for you as a whole then apply all the selection criteria you would for a bull purchase minus EPDs. Those numbers are for people who don't know the cattle and how they have performed.

The only other thing to consider is how much cross breeding is in your herd. I have been told and seen a few instances where to many outcrosses particularly in a bull is not a good thing.

The ones you keep that don't make the grade still eat good so your not really out anything. Your as good a cowman as most any around. I wouldnt hesitate to buy a bull from you if I was in your area so I sure wouldn't tell you not to use one you raised.
With our program, we source bulls from within our herds and buy from others. When we wean, we typically select one bull calf from my daughter's herd (about 10 cows) to develop and around 3 from my sister's herd (right around 30 cows). First we sort by phenotype. If we don't like how they look, I'm not feeding them all winter, no matter how good the rest of it is. Throughout the first fall and winter, they are constantly scrutinized for performance and docility. By the time spring rolls around, we usually only have one or two left as bull prospects. If they get through spring work (clipping, bathing, BSE, vaccinations, ect), they get a nose ring and a price tag. Some years I have 3 to put rings in, some years none.
@SmokinM i have heard that too about using several breeds in the mix, I'm sure that does dilute some things down and make for less uniformity.
We do sometimes eat the ones that we don't use or that don't get much use. We have found that young bulls are very little if any different than steers as far as meat quality.
I've been raising my own bulls plus buying.
The red angus bulls I bought ( lots of $) and put on my red angus cows I kept bulls out of turned out better than the ones I bought.
I just can't get the big $ for them.

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