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Bull choice is a factor in calving ease and disposition

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By David Harrison

 When selecting a new beef bull there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Buying a bull that fits the specific needs of an operation is very important and will be different for every farm.

Look at all the traits for each bull being considered and determine which one best fits your needs. Using tools such as Expected Progeny Differences will help in the decision-making process. 

Two traits often considered as the most important are calving ease and temperament. Both traits are associated with added convenience, but they also have an impact on production.

Assisting in the delivery of a calf that is too large for the pelvic cavity of a heifer is something you want to avoid. Not only is it an unpleasant experience, it can result in the death of the calf and or heifer. 

When the heifer survives, it results in delayed rebreeding or she does not rebreed at all. The best way to avoid this problem is to select bulls that have higher values for calving ease EPDs while maintaining adequate performance in other traits.

The other trait of special interest is temperament or docility; how gentle is the bull or his offspring? This in an important trait for farm safety, but it also has an impact on production.

Research has shown that cattle with a poor disposition do not gain as well and have reduced carcass performance. Some breeds have EPDs for this trait but most do not. This is often a trait that must be determined by interacting with the bull prior to buying it. Many breeds are becoming more interested in developing docility EPDs.

Whether your selection is based on added convenience, added production or both, selecting for calving ease and disposition in beef cattle can have positive effects on your farm.