When it comes to bull buying, farmers should be reminded that a bull is half your herd.

A good female will produce one good calf a year while a good bull can produce 50 good calves a year. That’s why it’s important to spend time selecting the right bull. Your selected bull will hopefully be around a minimum of four years, so will sire hundreds of progeny that should make you a profit.

When deciding how much to spend on a bull, it’s important to look at it as an investment. Valuing an investment requires determining cost and balancing that against expected returns from that asset.

The initial cost should be spread out over a number of years, taking into account the number of cows you hope the bull will serve.

Table 1 highlights what the expected annual bull service cost per cow would be for a bull that is on farm for four years and kills out at €1,800 (600kg deadweight at €3/kg). This salvage value may change year on year depending on beef price.

It could also reduce or increase based on the type of bull killed – if you buy a bigger bull he’ll likely kill out heavier or vice versa. This price excludes the cost of bull maintenance each year.

In an ideal world, bulls will be around for much longer than four years, so the number of progeny produced would increase further and the cost of service would reduce. However, the number of cows served should not be the only thing that determines spending price on a bull.

The idea of spending more on a bull is to try to secure a genetically superior bull which, in turn, will produce genetically superior calves.

If buying a bull for dairy heifers or cows, easy calving is paramount, but by buying a better-quality bull, better-quality calves are to be expected.

For weanling calves, an old rule of thumb was that a stock bull should cost the price of four to five weanlings

If calves from this better-quality bull demanded a premium of a modest €20/head over the average calf at the sale, then an extra €1,000 in the bull’s initial purchase price could be cleared in one year.

For weanling calves, an old rule of thumb was that a stock bull should cost the price of four to five weanlings. If an average bull is purchased to produce weanlings that sell for an average of €800, he should cost €3,200 to €4,000.

If, however, you’re striving to produce weanlings that make €1,000 this autumn, your bull investment should be €4,000 to €5,000.

These are examples of purchasing terminal bulls to produce progeny to sell.

When purchasing a bull to breed replacements, some think because you mightn’t make as much on the male progeny you sell, you shouldn’t spend as much. This certainly isn’t the case, as the lasting effect of a replacement bull will be seen in the herd for generations from his daughters.