February 8, 2012

Bleacher Butt at the Bull Sale

I am sure I could ask any parent who has kids in high school sports about bleacher butt and they could write me a book.  It is that time of year when those who raise bulls for those of us who buy them are having their annual production sales.  We are looking to buy a couple of bred heifers and we need to buy 1 new bull this year.  So my kitchen table is begining to resemble my desk when I was in college and was studing for a test.  There are bull sale catalogs, flyers, and other resources layed out everywhere!!  Genetic selection is such a big and vital part of our cattle business.  With out good genetics we will not have calves that will meet our goals and give us the opportunity to be profitable.  Notice I didn't say they would be profitable, just that they will have the genetic ability to potentially be profitable.  There are so many other outside factors that we have no control over that effect the profitability of our cattle enterprise (weather, markets) but with out good genetics we will not have the potential to make money.  On our ranch 1 bull will account for 17% of the calf crop every year.  If we make a bad choice and buy a bull that doesn't produce calves that will meet our feedlot goals or our heifer development program that can be costly mistake.  Not to mention a mistake we may be married to for up to 15 years if we kept any replacement heifers out of that bull.  The nice thing about the beef industry is that we have tools to help make selections on bulls easier and with some of the new technology with mapping the bovine genome we may have some more tools that will help as well.  Researching a sales catalog is like sitting down and studying for a biology test.  I pull the EPD's percentile tables off the breed association website help give me a guideline on where the potential new bull falls within the breed for certain traits.  I set minimum and maximum limits on specific EPD's and a bull must meet 7 different traits on paper and he must meet 4 different physical characteristics as well before I will look at him.  If he gets the paper approval I will look at him and evaluate him for other physical characteristics that we consider to be beneficial for our breeding program.  By the time the sale starts I have a game plan with a list of bulls that meet our goals and those are the ONLY bulls that we will bid on during the auction.  We avoid impulse buying at all cost!! 
Needless to say I sat patiently through 1 bull sale on last Sat waiting for the Bred Heifers that were also for sale.  There was 3 guys there buying everything they could at what ever the cost.  I bid on every heifer I had marked as 1 that would be a great addition to our herd.  I failed to be the winning bidder on any of them.  Sunday rolled around and again I sat patiently for the 2 bulls that I really wanted to buy.  I looked over to they guy bidding against me on the 1st bull and realized I know who he is and I was not going win this battle so I let him buy the bull.  The 2nd bull came in and I had the winning bid going once, going twice, and that same guy jumped in at the last second.  So we battled back and forth for a couple of seconds when I realized I was not going to win again no matter how high I bid.  I couldn't believe it!  So the hunt continues for a couple of bred heifers and a good bull.  It is early and there are plenty of bull sales to come in the next couple of months.  So it looks like I will get to enjoy another case or 2 of bleacher butt at a few more sales.

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