Sunflower State

Sunflower State

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Whole Lot of Bull

With terms like "sire" and "dam" and "progeny," I suppose we could be conversing about the Royal Family. But instead of stretch limos and spiffy chauffeurs in suits, these "royal" passengers were transported in trailers by guys and gals with mud on their boots.

Last Friday, we went to the Sandhill Farms Hereford production sale near Trousdale. We were looking for a bull to add to the County Line. In 36 years of marriage, I'd never been to a bull sale. I'm not sure why, but Randy said it was time to remedy that omission. And besides, it was a free dinner! That is every farmer's dream date. (And those Trousdale ladies know how to bake pies, let me tell you!)
This one made me laugh! It was like this bull was saying, "Hey, don't forget about me!" He did it to another buyer, too. He was like a puppy!

We were certainly not alone at the sale. Sandhill Farms sold 191 lots, including 125 bulls and 15 females with new calves at their sides. Buyers came from 15 states, including Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas, as well as Vancouver, British Columbia. (I jotted down states, but I obviously missed a few.)
Photo from Sandhill Farms website
Randy is retaining all four of the bulls we already had. We bought them in 2014.  This year, we are responsible for an additional bull at the Rattlesnake Pasture. Randy and his cousin, Don, take turns providing an extra bull each year.


Randy was looking for a Hereford bull he could use for breeding to our heifers, who will be first-time mamas in 2018. So he was looking for a bull who would produce lower birth weights calves and calving ease characteristics.

When we arrived, we looked through the lots of bulls. Randy referred to his sale catalog for the particulars and made notes on some of the animals he was interested in.
He told me that these bulls closest to the shed were out of our price range. (One of those went for $25,000, so I concur!)

It's not just a beauty contest, though looking for correct conformation for each breed is one factor in the decision-making process. While Randy looks for bulls that produce smaller birth weight calves, he's also looking for those whose progeny have higher 205-day weaning weights and yearling weights.

At the time we were in the lots, we didn't know which bull we'd ultimately take home. So I was surprised when I looked back through my photos and saw that No. 46 was in my snapshots from the pens.

We bought SHF Distance 20Z D239 (eartag No. 46). Here's what Kevin Schultz had to say about him in the sale catalog:
Here is a low birth-weight bull that will make some eye-candy-type females. The dam of this bull, B66, is one of my favorite young cows. Notice the impressive udder and teat EPDs. We have used the sire of this bull, 20Z, for years on our replacement heifers.

For the past several years, we've used an Angus bull with our heifers. But to add genetic diversity to our cattle herd, Randy opted for a Hereford bull for the heifers for this breeding season. If you want to get all technical, it's a matter of heterosis, "the marked vigor or capacity for growth exhibited by crossbred animals," (according to the dictionary).
SHF Distance's genetics should provide  a moderate weaning weight and yearling weight. The EPD - or expected progeny difference - at weaning is 45 pounds above the average Hereford weight. The yearling weight EPD is 71 pounds above the expected Hereford average weight. Both the weaning and yearling weights are at 102 percent of Sandhill's herd average. Its numbers also ranked above average for meat marbling and ribeye area.
The bull we bought weighed 1,268 pounds at sale time. He was $4,000, which was considerably less than the $25,000 top money, but more than bulls that went for $2,000. However, because cattle prices are lower, we paid about $1,000 less than we did for the last bull we purchased. 
Photo from Sandhill Farms website
After the sale, I went to pay, while Randy got the pickup and trailer in line.

Here he is, about to go into the trailer for the ride home. SHF Distance will likely be used for 4 to 6 years in our County Line herd.