Tips to Prepare for Bull Buying Season

J & W Heartbreaker 2582433 was the high selling lot at the Florida Bull Test Sale back in January. This Simmental Bull sold for $4,750 because of the combination of excellent muscling, growth, and feed efficiency.

Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension

As the College Football season winds down there is another season that is really going strong, Bull Buying Season. All over the nation there are opportunities to purchase replacement bulls that can improve the quality and performance of your herd. Before you go shopping, however, you need to do some homework.

The first thing to consider is what do you want from a bull? A bulls job is fairly simple: breed, reproduce, work for a number of years, make genetic improvement, and provide salvage value to help purchase a replacement. As you go out to purchase a replacement bull, it is important that you keep these roles in mind to help you make the right purchasing decisions.

Breed & Reproduce
While you fully expect a bull to have the natural desire to breed, this is not always the case. Most of the bulls offered for sale at purebred ranches or bull sales are virgin bulls, so that you do not risk exposure to diseases. Libido is not something that is normally tested, since it is usually not a problem with young bulls. Even so, not every bull has the same libido, so it is a good idea to keep an eye on them once you turn them out to make sure they are willing to do the work you bought them for. Sometimes the issue is not with libido, but actual physical injury or abnormality. In the rare case that you do have a problem, reputable breeders will stand behind their product.

Another more serious issue that is not so obvious is the ability to actually reproduce or father calves. Just because you see a bull out working does not mean he is fertile. Every bull should be tested for fertility prior to purchase. A veterinarian can perform a Breeding Soundness Exams (BSE) to ensure bulls are physically healthy, and can produce both the quantity and quality of sperm to get the job down. BSE’s are normally performed on bulls prior to a sale, but if you buy direct from the ranch you may have to request it. A BSE can’t predict the future, but it can certainly ensure that a bull has the ability to settle a cow. Consider a BSE as breeding insurance. You don’t want to feed open cows all winter only to find that the bull did not do his job.

Figure 1

If you make the investment in a high quality bull, you want him to stay in the herd as long as possible. One of the areas that often gets overlooked is structural correctness. Figure 1 above shows the proper angle for front and rear leg set. While poor structure may have little effect on young bulls, over time as they grow older and much heavier, imperfections can cause a bull to become lame. The act of breeding puts tremendous pressure on the rear legs, and a bull with swelling and pain may not cover all of the cows in heat. Another key factor in the longevity of a bull is temperament. Many bulls are culled early due to bad temperament. Not just the ability to be handled by people, but also their interest in fighting other bulls and jumping fences. While it may be very difficult to asses behavior in just a short drive through, it is important actually walk though a group of bulls and make sure there is not an issue at a young age. In most cases bad-tempered bulls only get worse with age.

Genetic Improvement
For most ranches the greatest improvement to the genetic performance of a herd comes from the bulls they purchase. In just three generations, the bulls that sire calves influence 87.5% of the genes in a calf crop. (Sire 50% + Grand Sire 25% + Great-grand Sire 12.5% = 87.5%). Since bulls contribute so much to the genetics of the herd and are normally purchased from another ranch, they are the simplest tool to use to improve the muscling and performance of your herd. While visual appraisal of physical traits like structural correctness and muscling are very important, indexes called EPD’s are the best tool to use to evaluate the potential performance of a bulls offspring.

EPD’s or Expected Progeny Differences are an estimate of the performance of future offspring of a parent, compared to progeny of other parents in the breed. Today there are numerous traits that are measured and estimated with EPD’s. The numbers can seem overwhelming the first time you really try to compare bulls. The value of EPD’s is the huge data base that allows a fair comparison with every herd within a given breed. It would be helpful if EPD’s were reset to “0” each year. That would mean an average animal would be zero and a negative number would mean below average. However, that is not considered wise marketing by the breed associations So, you as the buyer have to know the averages to be able to judge the potential of a bull. Most breed associations offer a tool to help producers sort out the sea of numbers created for each animal. Percentile tables are available to provide a guide. Figure 2 below is a partial sample of the percentile chart for non-parent Angus Bulls. The 50% line is the average for the breed, so if you look at a young Angus bull with a weaning weight EPD of 53 you can see from the table that he is actually in the top 25% of the breed. But a bull with a weaning weight EPD of 45 would be below average for the breed. This is just one trait and there are many that are measured. This is why it is really helpful to develop some target EPD’s before you start shopping. It also is helpful to view performance data first, to sort out the bulls you are interested in, before going to the sale or ranch. The main thing is to know the numbers that matter before you ever start shopping and fall in love with that beautiful, fat bull that ultimately won’t improve your herd.

Figure 2

Salvage Value

If you have not been keeping up with bull prices, they have risen dramatically the past few years. The American Angus Association reported the US average sale price for Angus breeding bulls was $4,627 from October of 2011 through March of 2012. The average price at the Florida Bull Test Sale held in January was $2,858. Several bull sales in the Southeast this fall have averaged from $3,000 to $3,500 per bull. Part of the reason for the rise in price is the demand caused by the expansion of the US beef herd. Another reason is the increase in the salvage value of bulls sold at the market for slaughter. Figure 3 below shows the average prices for slaughter bulls in Alabama the week ending November 16. So you can see why a budget of $1,500 for yearling bulls or $2,000 mature bulls is no longer adequate. Bulls that will truly improve the quality of your herd are going to be much more expensive. As you cull older bulls however, you will also have more money put down on their replacements.

Figure 3

Where to Buy Bulls
There are a number of reputable purebred cattle breeders in the Tri-State region that sell replacement breeding bulls. There are also bull sales that offer bulls from multiple herds. Your County Agent can provide you with contact information for purebred ranches or bull sales in your area. For the 13th year, the University of Florida has evaluated the performance of breeding age bulls in the Florida Bull Test. The majority of the 93 bulls enrolled in the test will be sold at auction on Saturday, January 19, 2013. For more information on the performance of these bulls, and the upcoming sale you can go to their website: Florida Bull Test.

But no matter where you decide to go to purchase your replacement bulls, have a plan before you start. Only purchase bulls that have had a BSE to ensure fertility. Visually evaluate the bulls for muscling, correctness of structure, and temperament. Know the EPD values of your chosen breed and have a cheat sheet to help decipher the above average bulls. Be prepared to pay more than ever before for a good bull that will positively impact the performance of your herd for years to come.


Posted: November 30, 2012

Category: Agriculture
Tags: Beef Cattle, Bull Buying Tips, Panhandle Agriculture


September 8, 2021

Hey. Cuz. ,!,, I’m the son of. Earl. He’s the son of. Clyde. His mother was. Lillie. Cross. Over. In. Gretna. Bro Ed. Ted & Jack. Farm. On. ! Johnny D. Conrad!,,

Doug Mayo

April 23, 2021

Yes. Satsumas are naturally alternate bearing trees with a large crop one year and a reduced crop the next. With adequate fertilization, the trees produce more uniform crops. The tree will also drop off fruit to compensate for poor fertility. The goal is to provide nutrition just prior to flowering, after fruit development, and again after the fruit begins to fill. So, the goal is to ensure the tree has adequate nutrition in the spring and early summer.

Greg Mc Innis
April 22, 2021

Hello you all its your old friend Greg Mc Innis from Louisiana. I see that the peanut farming worked out for you all. Im very happy for you all. You look like a farmer... Were is Loyd at? And how is he? Tell him i said hello. You all are looking good for your age. Here's my # 985 817 0890 please call me. Truley Greg....

April 19, 2021

what about the yield of the Satsuma Tree which is given fertilizer is it getting better?

Doug Mayo

January 13, 2021

I have seen sonic mole repellent stakes for sale online, but am not sure how well they work on pocket gophers? I have not seen any research for using these devices on moles either. One issue that I would see with this type of repellent is that pocket gophers have a long series of tunnels that can be modified, abandoned or closed off.

Joseph Lyons
January 11, 2021

Are their sonic pocket gopher repulsive tools

Doug Mayo

December 22, 2020

Thank You Sally. I appreciate that.

Sally Waxgiser
December 20, 2020

Congratulations to all of this year's Awardees, would be Awardees and to those that tirelessly work behind their scenes. And I give a special thanks to those that work with and help guide them and our county to perform so well. That includes you, Doug!

Matt Lollar
September 11, 2020

Hi Kristy, If you suspect your shrubs of having bacterial galls, I would recommend that you cut the affected branches back below the location of the galls (maybe an inch or so below). As for your other questions, I suggest you contact your local Extension Office. Here's a link to a map of Extension Office throughout the state. Your local office will also be able to help you with identification of the galls. Matt

Shaylee Packer
September 11, 2020

As you mentioned, when buying a bull, it is important to know what you want from the bull. My brother is wanting to start his own herd, and needs a bull to breed and start the direction of the breed for his herd. I will have to share this article with him, and see if it helps him select the right one for him.

Franklin White
September 3, 2020

Thanks for explaining how having cattle can produce more income that you can then use to reduce your interest load on your farm. I think a lot of new farmers ignore this and mainly stick to crops at first. I'll tell my brother to do the opposite and to invest in cattle as soon as possible after he buys the farmland he wants.

Kristy G
August 24, 2020

Hello, I have 3 Loropetalum and 2 ligustrum that have either phytoplasmus Or pseudomonas savastanoi they are both around 7 years old and I am trying really hard to save them. I also have 2 sapling loquats that are still in a pot that are showing signs of leaf curl and the leaves are stunted in growth. I have heard that using antibiotics help and using prevention after for prevention of them getting it again. I think my oak trees have the phytoplasmus because a few of my 15 trees have what they call witches broom growth. They tower over my 3 acre property. I am fairly new to all of this and considered myself a casual gardener until my shrubs started getting sick. I would like to eventually have a food forest but I would like to understand and get this disease under control before I subject more plants. Can you please help. Zone 9a

July 29, 2020

Thank you for this video, Larry. Not surprised that you have used your time so well to help others. I appreciate the Master Gardner program. I call Carl for help often. During this virus, we Emil each other. From your post, there seems to be more l can reap/harvest from your program and l will. Congratulation; You are a star. Barbara and Wayne

Sharon McRoy
July 29, 2020

Very nice video, with great information! I especially appreciated the idea of combining edibles (herbs) with ornamental plants. The result is an attractive and appealing planting, which is also functional. Great job, Muriel!

Sharon McRoy
July 29, 2020

Very nice video, with interesting information. I especially appreciated the idea of combining edibles, such as herbs, with ornamental plants. It is more attractive and appealing, while being functional. Great job, Muriel!

Melissa Moore
July 28, 2020

Great job Muriel

Doug Mayo

March 2, 2020

Contact your local County Extension Office and talk to the Agriculture Agent. In Florida we also have county foresters, but I am not sure about Minnesota? Your local Agent would know.

Rachel Frampton
February 27, 2020

My dad owns a portion of land in the forest where he grows trees for timbers. He's planning to sell them off this month, and I think you're right, he should seek help fro a professional Forster first because as you've mentioned they consist all of the right equipment and expertise. I wonder where we can find a forestry consulting service here in Minnesota.
January 6, 2020

Just like your washer, your dryer is another essential appliance that helps you save so much time each week. Your dryer works hard every time you turn it on which is why some parts might need to be replaced every now and then. When this is the case, remember to always call a trained professional rather than attempting risky DIY repairs.

Doug Mayo

September 23, 2019

The dried material is toxic, but is of less risk than the fresh materials. Here is a UT publication to view: This is a direct quote from that publication: "All plant parts are toxic, especially the flowering structures. Dried plants in hay can be toxic, but the greatest risk is associated with consumption of fresh plant material, especially if flowers and fruit are present."

Doug Mayo

September 23, 2019

Thanks Carl. I fixed it, but even after folks leave their name remains on the articles. They were the author.

Henry Smith
September 22, 2019

If I mow Perilla Mint how long do I need to leave cattle off of the pasture. If mowed does it still have toxicity and if so how long. Thanks Henry Smith

Carl Strohmenger
September 13, 2019

Hi Doug, I notice that Matt Lollar is still on the Jackson County Blog page as Hort agent and Stephanie Herzog is not listed as FCS agent, although several articles on the blog are authored by her. Perhaps these corrections could be made. - Carl Strohmenger

July 2, 2019

hanks for sharing this great post. I always ask for warranty and return policy for the product.

Logan Boatwright

January 23, 2019

Hi Lyla, I'm thrilled you are interested in horticulture! You are not limited. This area of agriculture has a variety of career paths to choose from! One can choose to work in production such as operating a greenhouse, landscaping service, vegetable farming, or orchard production. Others may choose landscape design and maintenance, or marketing of horticultural products. Then you have applied research to help further our knowledge of plants and pests, teaching, crop inspection, and many more fields. There is a continuous growing demand of horticulture services. However, increasing agriculture mechanization and efficiency of managing a farm means that there will probably be less need for workers to complete tasks that machines can do. Do not let that discourage you from majoring in horticulture. As far as jobs in Jackson County, I am not 100% sure. Hurricane Michael caused very significant damage to many businesses. Only time will tell how those businesses faired. I hope my answer was helpful! Please ask anymore questions that come to mind or stop by the UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension office on 2741 Penn. Ave. You can reach us at 850-482-9620.

Lyla Allen
January 6, 2019

Hello! My name is Lyla and I was wondering what the outlook is for horticulture jobs in Jackson county within the next few years. I currently go to USF, however they do not offer horticulture options and was planning on transferring eventually. Just wondering what types of horticulture jobs may be up and coming? Thank you so much!!

eli setiawan
December 20, 2018

Thank you for telling me the original link of this article, I will write on my blog along with the original reference source

Logan Boatwright

December 13, 2018

Hi Karen, UF/IFAS has research planned to grow hemp in spring 2019 with a possible field day in the fall.

Karen Schoen
December 13, 2018

Welcome: The farm Bill is about to pass which means Hemp will become legal to grow. Hemp is a huge cash crop and from what I have been reading not hard to grow. Can you have a class on growing hemp?

Roxanne Spear
November 7, 2018

Places for people to reach out for Equine and small AG assistance for hay and feed we are located at the Jefferson County AG Extension facility. supply located at Jefferson County AG Extension and also South Port, Supplies located at Jefferson County AG Extension Facility. We still have volunteers running donated supplies to those effected by the Hurricane.

Cricket Moore
November 2, 2018

As Warren's Sign Language Interpreter for several year, I can vouch for how special he truly is. Love u Warren

Matt Lollar
September 12, 2018

Hi Barbara. Yes, digging the infected plants up and sterilizing your tools is the best protocol to help prevent the spread of the disease.

August 3, 2018

If I just dig them up and use bleach on the pruning tool and shovel will this benprotwction for my other plants

Anthony Smith
August 1, 2018

I need to identify a mature ficus. I'm not sure which type it is because the leaves are very similar. Can someone help? Tony Smith

Doug Mayo

May 15, 2018

This chart is a product of the USDA Research Center in Nebraska. I doubt they would have an issue with translation, but it is not mine to provide approval. Here is the link to the original publications with the authors contact information included:

eli setiawan
May 4, 2018

wow good info, Can I translate in Indonesian? and I uploaded it on my blog ?

carlos j edenfield
March 19, 2018

thanks for this valuabe information!

February 22, 2018

Thanks for sharing this great post. I always ask for warranty and return policy for the product.

Carol Schoepf
September 8, 2016

Matt, I have a redbud tree that developed big nodules on the trunk. Do you have any idea what would cause this.?

robert turner
September 3, 2016

Mr. Mayo: Would you give me a call when you have a minute. Thank you, Robert Turner The County Record Blountstown, FL

Doug Mayo

August 22, 2016

With cattle pens there is nothing that can't be customized, but the "Bud Box" design is based around cattle movement around the handler. I think what you describe could work, if the double alley connected to a corner of the pen, rather than a funnel in the center. The basic concept is that instead of allowing cattle to move forward by themselves, the handler only loads the pen with the number the alley can hold, and controls their flow into the double alley standing in the pen with them. The handler serves as the sweep tub.

Steve Wurtz
August 17, 2016

Is it possible building a Bud Box coming up from behind the double alley instead of from the side?

July 26, 2016

Thank you. We appreciate your help very much.

Doug Mayo

July 25, 2016

Perilla mint can be controlled with several common herbicides, labeled for pasture use. GrazonNext, Milestone, and Weedmaster will provide good control of Perilla Mint. None of these products have grazing restrictions, so technically you can treat with the animals in the pasture. There are haying restrictions of 7 days for GrazonNext and Milestone, and 37 days for weedmaster. The labels do not mention dogs and cats. I would suggest keeping all animals out of a pasture the day the herbicide is applied, but once it has dried, there should not be a problem.

July 25, 2016

This mint weed has taken over our pasture. Please recommend a poison that will kill it but safe for goats, dogs, cats. Thank you for your help. Sent from my iPadThis knot weed has taken over our pastures.

Doug Mayo

June 24, 2016

The skin to repare her face came from his rear end... Mother-in-law kisses that skin...

June 24, 2016

OK, I do not get the joke....

Robert A. Stoker
May 23, 2016

Enjoyed the article. Herbicides by all forms of positive

May 9, 2016

Good one. I can use these in school visits.

Doug Mayo

May 7, 2016

I like that one too. Thanks

May 6, 2016

What do you call a cow with two legs? Lean beef !

Sam Lincoln
April 24, 2016

Mr. Mayo, Enjoyed the article. When spraying hard to kill invasive weeds (cogon grass) or briars, I generally have better luck with an MSO than a non-ionic. I was glad to see the line about the homemade surfactants. Sometimes technology really does work better and this is one of those cases. Sam Lincoln Pasture Solutions LLC Milton, FL

Doug Mayo

April 23, 2016

I agree. You may kill out some spots, but won't lose the whole stand.

Tim Tucker
April 22, 2016

Mr. Mayo , Nice article. Thanks I plan to try this approach in my clover pastures. Maybe I can save part of my stand of clover and kill some weeds. Thanks again, Tim Tucker Uriah AL

Matthew Orwat
March 28, 2016

I've seen it for sale at the various big garden centers, as well as online and small nurseries. I'd check with local nurseries in your area to determine if they can get it in with their next supply of plants.

Andrea Schnapp
March 24, 2016

Where can I find this for purchase?
March 7, 2016

Never underestimated people ability.

Vicki Fuqua
January 25, 2016

That was a good one Doug!

M Frost
January 9, 2016

25" on the south side of Lake Iamonia....

January 9, 2016

Could this be an even better system for spring calving cows since their nutritional needs are lower during this time? Sounds like these cows were in good shape going in (since they "lost weight, but maintained 5-6 body condition scores"). Would spring calvers might be able to start thinner or live on lesser quality grass? Also could be a gap filler before the winter grazing we always plan to come by Thanksgiving but frequently isn'ready until New Year's, arrives.

Doug Mayo

June 29, 2015

I am glad you enjoyed it. Quite a teachable moment.

sue wiley
June 26, 2015

mr. mayo., i must say that is a very very bright story. good laugh and good results. wonderful. sue wiley

Doug Mayo

June 22, 2015

Todd Dailey, a Facebook follower from Ocala shared the link to the Jerry Clower audio version of this classic story:

Victor Alvarado
October 31, 2014

Do you have data for the current year? I heard that for the current year the price decreased tendency ceased and that prices stabilized and I some cases start to increased.

Bo McMullian
October 25, 2014

This newsletter is very good, I do wish to continue to receive it by email, like it is coming now. It can help us at the newspaper Jackson County TIMES to keep up to date ourselves and decide when to do stories on the subjects for our readers, thanks so much--Bo

Doug Mayo

July 25, 2014

Sure. It was a great event, and I know the Cattlemen would like to share the success of their event.

Barbara Bird
July 25, 2014

Hey Doug, Can I reprint the article on Jackson County Cattlemen's Tour in The Florida Cattleman & Livestock Journal? Could you email the article and photos to me? Thanks, Barbara

Doug Mayo

May 15, 2014

It is USDA that surveys a random sample of farmers from each county. They do this annually, but not necessarily with the same farmers each time. Typically farm leases are for more than one year at a time, but a single may have multiple farms they lease. These leases are typically negotiated between the farmer and landowner, so having an third party determine averages for the area can be a good starting point for negotiations.

Sophia Liam
May 15, 2014

It's pretty cool to see how much the prices vary per location. Question for you, how often do farmers need to survey their land? Does it need to happen every few years, every time the lease changes hands? Thanks! Sophia Liam |

Doug Mayo

April 21, 2014

Pensacola is the cheapest bahiagrass seed on the market. Tifton 9 is an improved Pensacola type, but it is almost impossible to get certified Tifton 9 seed anymore. There are so many acres of Tifton 9 out there now that the price is not that much more for Tifton 9. Argentine is always higher than Pensacola, because there are simply fewer seed heads and fewer pounds of seed harvested per acre. Riata and TifQuik are patented cultivars still, with limited seed available that you must buy directly from the company that owns the rights to the cultivar. If price is a key factor in seed purchase, I would suggest Tifton 9 since it is an improved cultivar that is widely availabe from a number of seed suppliers.

PB Smallwood
April 18, 2014

Can you comment on the price of the various alternatives? Specifically the difference between the Pensacola and the Tifton would be of interest. I just ordered and paid for a bag of Tifton 9 and was delivered a bag of Pensacola.

Doug Mayo

December 16, 2013

This article deals with vaccinations for serious horse diseases. I don't know of any other alternatives to prevent these diseases. There are natural, old school treatments for pests, such as crop rotation and cultivation. Commercial farming depends on thoroughly tested, specialized chemicals for pest control, because they offer the most consistent control for the money spent. You don't always have to use chemicals, but there are many troublesome pests that very difficult to manage without them.

Clay Robertson
December 14, 2013

Why isn't more emphasis placed on "natural" remedies to weeds, weed seeds and pests? I've been researching steam sterilization of soils because I personally have an allergic predisposition to chemical concoctions and avoid inhalation, ingestion or physical contact with ANY chemical treatment. There are perfectly viable and natural alternatives to chemicals.

Tim Tucker
September 7, 2013

Nice article. I always said when you shipped cattle out west it was like some of them blew out of trailer on the way. However I did like you chart and info detailing what I thought. Please keep my old pal Herman out of trouble. Take care and again nice article. Tim Tucker Uriah AL

Mary Veitch
August 24, 2013

What were the land values prior to 2004, the year of major hurricanes and land values 2005-2009? My thinking is that in those 5 years values increased and now we are seeing values returning to previous average values.

Doug Mayo

August 15, 2013

The best advice I can give you is to visit your local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), and talk to their loan agent. There are special funds for New and Beginning Farmers, but I think mostly they are low interest loans.

Donn Flyingeagle
August 13, 2013

Need a small 10 ac. farm to grow produce and to raise rabbits for meat ? Need an Agriculture grant to help in purchase of said farm . have 70 years of expertise of raising rabbits and making the most money . My son has ten years in growing produce for the table and to sell . Between the both of us we have the expertise to make the farm grow .

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