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I was listening to Kit Pharo’s podcast about assessing bull value to a producer. He had a few key points I thought to share.

  1. The herd bull is 50% of your herd. And influences 100% of the offspring.
  2. The average bulls 1:3 only last 1 breeding season before they fail.
  3. What is your herd size? That is relative to what you can afford to pay for a bull

We will use the low value of a good bull at $2500. Salvage value of the bull at 1500 lbs is about $1400 for this example. So there’s $1100 of value plus expenses to figure in.

It costs about $2 a day to maintain a breeding animal. This includes the land, feed, mineral, vet, and so on. That adds up to $730 a year.

Let’s say you have 5 cows.

To keep the bull for 5 cows for 3 years he will cost you $219 per calf if you get 5 calves per year.

For 10 cows , producing 10 calves, is $109 per calf.

For 20 cows. producing 18 calves or $59 per calf

Now for the lifetime of the bull, he can sire about 20 the first year, and 30 each year after that. In 3 years, that’s 80 calves. or $40 per calf.

Now Kit had discussed that a forage developed bull (not feedlot fed) can produce about 280 calves in their lifetime. I will add, I’ve proven this to be true with my own herd bulls. This computes to under $20 per calf. With that same bull. We have had British White bulls naturally service and sire over 75 calves in 1 season, more than 1 season in a row.

So how much can you afford to pay for a bull and maintain a $40 per calf return in 3 years where you live?

The numbers I used to calculate this are based on annual feed/ maintenance cost, and non-salvage value of the bull.

It may be more economical in smaller herds to AI the cows. That should be considered. If it costs over about $50 per calf, I’d recommend going that route.

AI costs about $30 per cow (semen + shipping), plus the tech cost which varies widely on location. Here it costs about $12 a head, so It’s quite nominal, until you AI 100 cows in a week.

An open cow costs $700 or more to carry over. Can you afford that? In a smaller herd, I’d say not likely. In a larger herd, I’d say not likely.

Bulls that are forage developed don’t have feet and leg problems like pen raised bulls. They also may not be excessively fat/ over conditioned, which can lower fertility when fatty deposits inhibit the bulls ability to properly protect their scrotum muscles from excess fatty tissue.

There’s more than economics to consider when buying a bull. Remember, the bull is 50% of your herd. That is paramount. A cheap bull might work, but might not take you in the direction you really want to go.

We always recommend buying bulls from a breeder who has a management program already doing what you’d like to do. Better yet, with cows already producing the type of animal you want to produce.

Line bred bulls will also have pre-potency bred in. When used on commercial or registered unrelated cows, that pre-potency will pass on stronger than plain heterosis.

Forage developed bulls work for every cattlemen, feed efficient bulls work for every cattlemen. We all plan to graze our cow herd. Only the calves will be used for seedstock or feeder stock or both.

I think one can safely plan to pay 5-10k for a good herd bull that will already be properly developed for where you are planning to go. We get what we pay for. Don’t let a couple state lines stop you from getting the right genetics for your operation.

For more information on bulls offered by Rolling Hills Cattle Company, Contact Christina at 320-293-2995