Customizing Herd Sire Specifications

Published on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 2:16pm

Customizing Herd Sire Specifications.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 There is some truth to the saying “the sire is half the herd” – he has more genetic influence over the herd than any other individual animal. We live in an era where more bulls and more genetic influence are extremely accessible thanks to A.I., reproductive technologies and online sales. This has brought incredible benefits to the industry, but it also gives an overwhelming number of possibilities and options for cattlemen to choose from.

Genomics, bull tests, indexes and the like all serve to make the selection process more precise. But these tools, for all their benefits, also present some new challenges to buyers and breeders.

They’ve opened up whole new worlds full of conflicting opinions, fads, confusion and much more. It’s a classic case of perhaps having too much to choose from sometimes. With all the voices in the cattle business, there is something to be said about taking a much-needed step back and really get back to the bones of sire selection for your personal situation.

Whatever your personal metrics and herd goals are, they should be stamped into the criteria for every single sire selection that is made. Regardless of if you choose a live animal or a frozen straw, the right sire makes all the difference in both the bottom line and production.

What’s your type?
Besides specific segment and role in the industry, bull buyers need to be able to break down their needs into their very narrow end goals. There are the obvious overarching themes – sires for terminal herds versus sires for replacement heifers – but the exact markets and end goals come down to specific markets and products.

Herds that are trying to cash in on value-added programs or labels need to consider not only their specific requirements but also the most efficient way to meet them.

Certified Angus Beef, for example, reported the most recent minimum genetic requirements for animals to meet their brand. Based on percentiles for spring 2020, animals need to be +0.54 for the marbling EPD (Marb) and +46.0 per the dollar grid carcass index ($G).

In a similar way, producers targeting the grass-fed markets can also use EPDs to create more efficient grazers by looking at traits like growth, marbling and carcass quality.

There are other unique factors that vary widely depending on region and demand. Some small operations have found a prolific secondary (or primary) market selling 4-H, FFA or club calf projects. In these cases, it may be well worth it to invest in high-quality show-type bloodlines on certain cow or heifer groups.

One growing market of note is the demand for beef genetics in the dairy sector. The Angus Association recently released specific indexes for bulls that fit Holstein and Jersey breed profiles best.

With this major industry shift, more dairies are seeking live bulls and semen from established beef producers and stud companies. Developing bulls and genetics to fit this niche is certainly an opportunity for regions with dairy farms.

And of course, many herds could find themselves falling into multiple production categories needing different bulls assigned to different needs. Adding or increasing A.I. in addition to live cover bulls is one way to save money and stay efficient.

Do the legwork
Purchasing a new herd sire can be an exciting, emotional and stressful process all at once. How well you do your background work can really shape the type of experience that you will have.

Your operation and market types give you a lot of the prerequisites that you’ll be looking for in terms of quality and genetic merit. But the other purchase considerations should also be rooted in the practical sides of things. This includes things like finances and doing the necessary background research.

Deciding on a budget and sticking to it can be difficult when it comes to sales. Online bidding makes it especially easy to spend more money than intended. It takes some discernment to determine what is affordable yet competitive enough to purchase your top candidates.

As always, make sure a full breeding soundness exam has been done before closing any sale. Part of your homework should include checking for any genetic abnormalities and history of family issues. Consider additional things such as bull tests, genomic information (if applicable), and vaccinations when evaluating the true value of a particular animal.

Reputable and experienced sellers are invaluable in the buying process. Sellers with impressive pedigrees and herds are certainly something to be commended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a hidden gem in a lesser-known breeder. Get to know what you can about the seller on your own terms, but also learn what you can from testimonials of other sellers.

In today’s sire market it’s incredibly easy to get lost among the weeds as the industry is in the midst of many disruptive changes. Don’t let trends or external pressures detract from the unique needs and requirements that only you can identify.