I will focus on quality as opposed to breed

The ICBF active bull list for AI beef sires clearly shows that the variation in the terminal and replacement index within breeds is much greater than the variation across breeds. The message is clear – the quality of the bull is more important than the breed.

I will buy the bull early

A lot of farmers make the mistake of purchasing the bull the day they want to put them to work. Take time to plan, keeping in mind the desired conception and calving dates for your herd, and just as importantly the production targets you want to obtain.

The bull should be purchased at least one month before his intended use, giving him time to adjust and settle in a new environment.

I wont buy a bull on visual assessment alone

While visual assessment is still important, it should not be used as the only means of assessing the quality of the bull. You should also use the ICBF index when identifying which bull is best suited to your production system.

For example, if you are finishing all your animals then the terminal index is the most important index to concentrate on. If you are a part-time farmer then obviously you should also focus on a low calving difficulty percentage

I will get the sale catalogue in time

A catalogue will usually be available seven to 10 days before the sale, and will provide essential information that you can use to make an informed decision and purchase exactly what you are looking for in your breeding programme.

Before opening the catalogue, rank the traits that are important to you. For example, is calving ease more important than milk or is daughter calving interval more important than beef carcase?

When you have the traits ranked, then go to your catalogue and based on the figures/star ratings, identify a selection of bulls that are best suited to deliver what you require.

I will get to the sale early

The show will usually start between one and two hours before the start of sale. It is essential that you put this time to good use. Get around and look at the bulls on your shortlist. If they are haltered, ask for them to be brought out on to a clean concrete area where you can get a close look at their feet. Look for any sings of their feet having been pared.

In the case of a young bull, if there is evidence of paring having already been carried out, stay well clear. Pay close attention to how the bull walks. He should be moving freely and show no signs of stiffness or lameness.

By the time the sale is about to begin, you should have your shortlist reduced down to two or three bulls. Never impulse-buy a bull that is not on you list just because you think he is cheap.

I will talk to the breeder of the bull after the sale

If you have been successful in buying a bull, make sure and talk to the breeder after the sale. The key information you require is the feeding regime for the bull, eg what type of ration he was being fed, and the health status of the bull. Also find out what vaccinations he received. For example, has he been vaccinated for blackleg, BVD, etc? Oh and don’t forget to get a good luck penny!

I will get the bull home and settled ASAP

Get your new bull home and settled as soon as possible. Try to put him into a well-bedded pen where he can see other cattle and where possible try and get a few bags of the same ration that he was being fed before you purchased him. This will help reduce stress levels. Concentrates should be reduced down gradually to around 3-4kg per day.

I will introduce the bull to the cows gradually

Remember, young bulls have had no breeding experience and therefore should not be treated in the same way as a mature stock bull. After the bull has settled, he should be let out into a paddock with a few cows that are either in-calf or not due to come in season.

After a two to three weeks, introduce him to a few cows that are coming in season. You should observe him closely to make sure he is doing the job correctly and inseminating the cow. Keep a close eye on these cows. If they repeat, alarm bells should start ringing and further investigation should be carried out immediately.

I will not over-work the young bull

It is essential that you do not over-work a young stock bull in his first year. Twenty to 25 cows is the maximum a he should be allowed to serve in year one. Ask the seller before purchase, is the bull fertility-tested. Many society sales are now insisting that all bulls are fertility-tested.

I will not forget about the young stock bull after the breeding season is over

All to often, the young stock bull is forgotten about at the end of the breeding season. By the end of the season, the bull will have lost condition. It is important that he is fed well in order to get him built up again and in good condition before going into the winter. While you don’t want him fat, you want to make sure he is fit.

I will include the bull in the dosing programme

It is important that you include the bull in the dosing programme. He should be dosed for worms throughout the grazing season and treated for fluke when housed. He should also be vaccinated for all vaccinations that cows are receiving including Lepto and BVD.

I will purchase a genotyped bull if possible

For farmers who are participating in BDGP, a four- or five-star bull on the terminal or replacement index must be on the farm on 30 June 2019. The important point is that the bull must be genotyped four- or five-star at the point of purchase to be eligible.

If the bull drops after genotyping, that is OK. However, if the bull drops and he wasn’t genotyped, then the bull is ineligible.

Genotyped bulls will have a higher reliability and therefore there will be a less chance of his figures dropping in the future.