One of the most important steps in genetic improvement of a herd is the selection of bulls to be used in the herd. The bull has a very big impact on a herd since 50% of the genetics of the calves will be influenced by him.
Choosing a suitable breeding bull however needs not be difficult. If you select a bull in the same way that you would go about appointing a new employee, you are on the right track. An employer will not appoint a worker on the presentation of a birth certificate only, but if the potential employee has the appropriate qualifications and a good CV, the potential employee stands a better chance. Buying a bull is very similar.
“Are you prepared to use a bull of which you have no information or only a birth certificate? No. You would like to have proof of the bull’s performance”. Similarly, an employer will not appoint a worker on which he has no information, except for a birth certificate. A bull’s registration certificate will only tell when and where it was born (breeder) as well as who its parents are.
Whether a bull is required for stud breeding or for commercial purposes, it should be picked on its performance record. Pick a bull that suits the production system and farming environment best. The “job description” for the bull should be determined. Determine what the specific herd needs: fertility, a better growth rate, bigger or smaller cows, increased milk production or increased weaning weight. Once this step is complete, a farmer can draw up a “shortlist” of the most suitable bull.
The comparison in Table 1 below demonstrates the similarities between appointing a new employee and choosing a breeding bull.
Table 1: Comparison between appointing a new employee and choosing a breeding bull.
Lookout for the next article focusing on breeding and production.
This article was authored by Prof Michiel Scholtz of the ARC-Animal Production Institute, Private Bag X2, Irene, 0062, SOUTH AFRICA, Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences, University of OFS, P O Box 339, Bloemfontein, 9300, SOUTH AFRICA