As we transition out of spring and into summer, most of you have moved out of marketing mode and into breeding season. Creating new mating combinations is probably my favorite part of being in the seedstock business. In order to make informed mating decisions, you have to first evaluate the demands of your customer, the commercial cow-calf producer and even his customers, the feeder and packer. With that in mind, NALF compiled results from spring Limousin bull sales and analyzed what buyers have paid for.
In my experience, a commercial customer is slightly fickle. For instance, most will tell you they donâ€™t want fat bulls, however, this spring commercial buyers paid $1,000 more for them. So we should evaluate commercial buyers based on what they spend their dollars on in order to get an accurate representation of their needs and desires.
It should be noted that phenotype is not taken into account in this analysis, only performance and EPDs as reported to, or supplied by the Foundation, along with any additional data supplied to buyers on sale day. In my travels, phenotype varies slightly across the country in types and kinds that are available for commercial producers and that fit into their programs. For example, a rancher in North Dakota who has a terminal-cross program and keeps no replacement females needs a different phenotype than one in Oklahoma who is keeping replacement females and has a different forage system. This variation is also dependent on the genetic demographic of the regionâ€™s cowherd. With that said, a pounds-heavy, bold-ribbed, thick, soggy bull with structural integrity was in demand no matter the region.
It should come as no surprise that commercial producers are paying particular attention to the weight traits in their selection process. As Kiley McKinna noted in the March issue, the 90-600-1,200 rule of thumb still applies. Commercial buyers paid $500 less for bulls that had birth weights over 90 pounds, $1,300 more for bulls that had weaning weights above 600 pounds, and nearly $1,400 more for bulls over 1,200 pounds at yearling.
These numbers arenâ€™t additive, but following this rule and in particular, developing bulls to reach 1,200 pounds as yearlings, had a profound effect on price as well as the amount of bulls that were sold through the sale. Though it may be taboo to discuss, in any sale season there are a number of bulls that go through sales that end up going home to be sold off the farm. This is the same across all breeds, but having those bulls developed to their full potential yielded more bulls being sold sale day and for higher prices. This is something to note as you plan your feed ration for developing bulls post-weaning this year, as these weights can be influenced through environment and 1,200 pounds seems to be the critical value.
Looking at things from a Foundation standpoint, it is interesting to note that commercial producers used EPDs more in their selection than last year. As most Limousin bulls sold are bred to mature cows, moderation of the birth weight (BW) EPD was more important rather than moderation of actual weight. As compared to last year, bulls with genetic predictions for higher birth weights were not as well received. They were $700 cheaper than bulls that were at, or slightly below, breed average. Curve-bender bulls were in demand as you would expect, but true calving-ease bulls with decreased growth potential also sold around $300 back. That data does not suggest we should ignore birth weight in any way, but rather that the commercial emphasis is on moderate BW EPDs with maximum growth.
The data suggests that Limousin bull buyers are looking to keep more heifers and still place value on fertility. Bulls in the top 25 percent of the breed for Milking Ability (MA) were worth $1,000 more than bulls at or below average. Scrotal circumference remains a critical measure to provide to customers. Bulls without a scrotal measurement sold $800 back of the below 30 centimeters (cm) scrotal bulls. Bulls with scrotal measurements of 34 cm. or higher were accepted as adequate and held the most value. Docility is still a factor as well with above average Docility (DOC) EPD bulls bringing $1,000 more than bulls that are breed average or below.
This analysis did not find that marbling and other carcass traits are under the same selection pressure by the majority of commercial users as the above traits mentioned. This follows the fact that most producers sell based on weight rather than carcass quality. Like birth weight, balance seems to be key. Producers did not pay more for bulls that had high-ranking carcass traits if they also did not meet the other benchmarks mentioned above, though bulls that were below average for carcass traits took a discount. It would suggest that commercial producers are relying on the seedstock producers to make those selection decisions and that they select their bull source based partially on that factor.
This analysis looks at the breed from a 10,000-foot view. It seeks trends across the breed for traits of high selection pressure. Taking a look at your individual operationâ€™s bull sales for the past year and what your customers are looking for would be advantageous to aid your breeding decisions. If you would like help with this, contact me at the NALF office.
The takeaway point from this is that commercial producers are more selective and are looking for the right kind of bulls with balanced traits. When they find these bulls, they are willing to pay a premium for them. Those that fail to meet the benchmarks face a heavy discount. In order to capture more commercial acceptance, we must produce bulls with moderate birth weights, maximum performance, and balanced maternal, carcass and convenience traits while being easy-fleshing with eye appeal. This is a challenge we can meet and one that will continue to move us forward and drive demand for Limousin cattle.