Rayner Reckons

Jul 30

How are you going with the sale catalogue?

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2015

This time of year my mailbox fills up with catalogues for bull sales being held across the north west of NSW and southern Queensland.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be on the mailing list for so many different operations.  Its important I know what bulls are being offered and its important I'm able to know these things if I'm going to do my job properly advising clients of what sire decisions they should consider.

One thing that stands out for me, is the number of bulls available each year, and the overwhelming amount of information that is now available for producers.  Its impressive and exciting that we can make decisions about the genetic potential of a bull and not be wholly reliant on visual observation and pedigree.  

With the availability of EBVs, we now have much more information regarding the genetic potential of a bull to improve herd performance in numerous traits.  That information can be vital in making progress in your herd.  Especially when you remember that genetic improvement is both long term and cumulative in your herd.

However, in practical terms how do you work your way through a catalogue, let alone several catalogues that may arrive on your desk?  I thought I might spend a bit of time offering a few suggestions to make sure you use your catalogue to its full potential, and the bull sale vendors get a return on their investment of producing the catalogues in the first place!

The starting point, as obvious as it seems, is to know what breed you are actually interested in looking at for your next sire! In my case I have a lot of breeds to be across.  But for most producers there is really only a need to worry about bulls from the breeds they use in their herds.  This is important because you shouldn't be attempting to compare the EBVs of breeds against each other!  While the traits recorded may be the same, the EBVs that are published have different values.

When you choose a sire, you should be looking for a sire that will contribute the genetics to move your herd in a specific direction.  So ask yourself what is it you want to achieve with your herd?  Do you want to improve your growth rate to turn steers off earlier?  Do you need more fatness?  How big do you want your cows to be in your herd, and so what is the mature size potential of a bull daughters?  There are plenty of questions to ask, and you need to have the answers in mind.  

With these answers, you can start to look at a catalogue!  The front of the catalogues contain valuable information about the sale, and buying conditions.  They also contain the information on the breed EBVs.  This includes breed average as well as in the breed leaders across the traits.  This is designed to help you know if a bull is likely to offer you a genetic advantage in the traits you may be looking for.  

The following pages contain information such as reference sires, and this often helps you determine what pedigrees and what breeding objectives the bulk breeder has in mind.  

The majority of the catalogue is then made up of information on each bull on offer.  Each description includes the Lot Number, Registered Name, Pedigree and Breedplan information (EBVs).  Most entries also contain the breeders comments or thoughts.  

There are different considerations here.  If you are following pedigrees and using specific sire lines in your herd, the pedigree is important information.  

Most people in a commercial operation don't need to spend a lot of time on pedigree.  Instead look at the EBVs.

The EBVs you should look at are the ones that are important to your breeding direction!  If for example you want to improve yield and eye muscle area, these are the EBVs to look at!  If it helps, highlight the bulls that fall within your desired range.  Often this will be the bulls that have a high accuracy of EBV data and are above breed average in that trait.  

If the bulls don't have the genetic potential for your herd direction, then don't spend time worrying about them!

The reality is, most sale offerings of bulls will only have a small proportion of bulls suitable for the direction of your herd.  Its not to say there are bulls that are no good.  It means not every bull will suit every operation.  So spend time looking for the right one.  Remember a bulls influence can last up to three generations, so choosing the right one is important.  

There is another way to find the sires in a catalogue.  The electronic version is to use the BreedObject website.  BredeObject allows you to search the catalogues in your breed, and rank animals on either $ Index values, or around the EBVs that you have identified as important in your herd direction.

Basically BreeObject lets you automatically search the bulls being offered and identified them.  When you have a result, you can highlight those bulls in the catalogue and take that list of bulls to the sale.

The most important part of the process is to not worry about all the other bulls on offer at a particular sale!

Trust your list and your identified set of animals.  These are the ones you know will be genetically most suited to your herd direction and production goals.

When you get to the sale, take the time to look at the bus you have identified.  This is your chance to look critically at each bull and assess if his physical attributes are best suited to your herd.  

If you have any doubts or you can clearly see the bull doesn't suit your cow herd, then yo can move to the next bull on your list.  By the end of the process you should have a purchase list of bulls in order, and it should be a list you can have a lot of confidence in, based on the genetic information available and on your physical assessment!

Its true this approach is perhaps a little more structured than many people are used to.  But if you want to make the best decision and purchase a bull to take your program forwards, then I reckon you should do a bit of preparation!  If you're not sure where to start, then feel free to give me a call and get some advice.  When you do put the work in, you will find your catalogues to be a key stone in the preparation and on the day you buy your next sire.

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