Farm Ireland
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Friday 9 December 2016

Traits vital in deciding which bull to select

Functionality and fertility key but choose breed and price range before purchasing

Robin Talbot

Published 22/03/2011 | 11:16

Some people successfully use Belgian Blue bulls on heifers, but Robin found that an easy-calving Limousin allows a lot of the heifers to calve unassisted and consequently go back in-calf without any difficulty
Some people successfully use Belgian Blue bulls on heifers, but Robin found that an easy-calving Limousin allows a lot of the heifers to calve unassisted and consequently go back in-calf without any difficulty

Buying a new bull is both an exciting and daunting task, fraught with many pitfalls and, unfortunately, it will be at least 12 months after purchase before you start to get an idea of whether you have made the right decision.

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I say 12 months because, in my opinion, you need to buy a bull at least three months before you let him run with cows -- and even longer if possible. That's because a lot of pedigree bulls have been pampered from the day they were born and, at the time of sale, can be on very high concentrate diets. So it takes them time to readjust to life on your average farm and for them to get into a fit, working condition.

There are two things that you need to have fixed in your mind before you buy a bull -- the breed and the price range, in that order.

The terminal sire used on the mature cows on this farm is a Belgian Blue, while a Limousin is used on the maiden heifers. Some people use Belgian Blue successfully on heifers, but we have found that an easy-calving Limousin allows a lot of the heifers to calve unassisted and consequently go back in-calf without any difficulty. Our scanning results this year show that only one of our first calvers did not go back in-calf.

Over the years we have bought Belgian Blue bulls at sales and privately. Personally I prefer to buy a bull on the farm where he was bred because often you get to see the dam and other close relations as well.

Looks

The first thing I think about when I am selecting a bull is that I must like the way he looks. After all, we hope to be looking at him for the following 8-9 years.

Once I like a bull, I will check out his breeding figures. If these are good I try to buy but if they are poor I would look elsewhere. Good figures would persuade me to buy but if I didn't like the bull in the first place I would be reluctant to buy him regardless of how good his figures are.

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At a physical level, I like a bull to be above average for all traits for the breed, with none of them extreme and, obviously, the two Fs -- functionality and fertility -- are critical.

Any stock bull that's going to run with cows must have a good set of legs under him, a good presence and a nice, loose walk.

Then I try to get the best deal possible, prepare for the long wait and hope for the best.

Indo Farming



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