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As breeding season quickly approaches, finding the right bull starts to become top priority at our farm. About every few days a new sale book magically appears in the mail and sparks a sometimes heated debate about buying a new bull. Generally two sets of eyes are better than one, but more often than not we lock horns over the subject of selecting the right bull. In the end and after much debate we narrow it down and can usually agree on the one that meets our needs and is within our budget. So I thought it might be helpful to put together some of the things we have learned over the past several years about selecting the right bull for your operation. 

Before you start looking at bulls evaluate your herd - know your strengths and weaknesses in regard to your cattle and decide which areas you need the most improvement. When you begin looking at bulls keep these things top priority. Once you pinpoint the area's that need the most improvement, research the breeds that you are interested in and decide what breed best fits your needs and environment. I am convinced that incorporating Hereford genetics into your breeding program can provide you with improved efficiency, fertility and longevity, an unbeatable disposition and a very marketable cross. With that being said, I also believe you can have too much of a good thing. We go back with Angus bulls on our commercial Hereford heifers to keep a truly crossbred calf that the market loves. 

The next step is to determine what a bull is worth to your program. The right bull is the best $$$ you will ever spend on your cattle operation because it is the fastest way to improve your herd. How much can you afford to pay for a better bull? A bull that will add 30 lbs. to the weaning weight of his calves, mated to 25 cows per year for 4 years and you sell the calves for $1.50 per lb. would be worth $4,500.00 more than the average bull and that is not even considering the added value of higher quality replacement heifers, yearling growth, and carcass quality. 

So by this point in my quest for the right bull, I know what I want to work on (for our program it's growth, fleshing ability and udders) and I know what breed (for me that's a no brainer - HEREFORD) and how much I can afford to spend. That was the easy part now it's gets a little more complicated. My advice is to start your search close to home because the cattle are acclimated to your environment. Once you find a producer with the kind of cattle you are looking for, ask questions, get to know them and their operation. Look at their herd not just their bulls. Tell them what you are looking for and they should be able to point you toward the right bull. If possible look at more than one operation and compare the cattle. When looking for bulls the producers that take the time to visit and that are sincere in helping us find the right bull always rise to the top.

So fuel up the pickup truck and hook up the trailer. Buying a new bull should be a great experience and if you do your homework it will be a profitable one too.