As seedstock producers, we’re always on the search for the next “great one.” A herd sire that will come in and be a major game changer in the herd and produce bull calves we can sell to commercial cattlemen and other purebred breeders with confidence. Unfortunately, this task is easier said than done and it comes with its own amount of stress whether you’re searching bull studs, for one to AI to, or going to sales. I’ve had the pleasure of riding shotgun for many years as my dad hunts for the next great addition to our herd. Here are a few of the “struggles” I’ve seen throughout the years.
1.Sorting through the catalogs
When bull sale season comes around our mailbox seems to be continuously overloaded. The Angus Journal starts weighing 10 pounds with all its inserts and every producer we’ve ever met sends a catalog. It’s overwhelming. You sort through daily deciding who gets thrown into the keeper stack and what catalogs don’t get a look past the cover.
2. Play the Numbers Game
There are so many numbers. By the time sale season is in full swing you’ll be cross-eyed and confused trying to remember which bull had what set of EPDs. Who weaned heaviest? Which one can we use on the heifers? No one remembers.
Ahhh, you’ve found the perfect new herd sire. The EPD spread is flawless. He’s built just right. Perfect on the move… So you go look at him and realize he’s truly perfect on the move as he plows into the sides of the sale ring attempting to murder the ringmen.
4. Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Why are the intriguing ones never close to home? You have to decide if a bull might be good enough to blow a day of work driving a few hours, or a few days flying out to see him. All the while crossing your fingers that you’re met with a great one when you get there… because if not you’ll just be cussing yourself wishing you had gotten caught up on tagging calves, cleaning pens, office work…the list never ends.
5. Family Bonding
Buying a bull is a family affair. Most of the time if you and your spouse both want to look at an animal it means loading up the kids and driving to a sale. Now, I don’t know about everyone but I’m pretty sure my parents cringed in fear whenever they stuck the three of us kids into the back seat of a vehicle. The front seats are trying to discuss cattle while the back seat is beating each other, screaming that they’re being touched and kicking the seats for hours. Ahhh, family time.
6. Your pocketbook will hurt
By the time this whole ordeal is over you’re out travel costs for yourself, trucking on a bull, insurance on the bull, and possibly a hotel room fee along with who knows what else! Then you have to pay for the bull, and of course he wasn’t cheap because he was the one everyone else wanted too. When he’s with the cows you’re hoping he doesn’t get hurt and end up with a vet bill. In the off-season he’s eating like a savage — racking up a feed bill and destroying whatever he can scratch himself on.
7. You Might Lose Your Vision
Now that most people have videos or at least photos of the cattle available online you’ll find yourself up all night staring wide-eyed at a computer or phone screen that feels like it’s burning your eyes. You’ll wake up in the morning looking like a college student coming off a Netflix binge during finals week.
8. Your Phone Will Die
You’ll probably end up calling 15 different people who might’ve seen the potential herd sire, his dam, or someone who raised a set of cattle out of the same sire. You’ll talk to one guy for half an hour and then get off the phone and start questioning if you completely trust his opinion. Call another friend, repeat the process until you’ve exhausted your contact list. Your phone won’t have any charge by the time the breeder calls you back to tell you about the bull.
9. Online Auctions
Your internet connection will fail right as the lot you want is about to come into the ring. The audio cuts out. Your ancient laptop freezes. Everything is going perfect until the bull enters the ring and you realized you forgot to register to bid.
10. Wait, we need two bulls?
It’s hard enough to choose one bull but it never fails that as soon as you get settled down from the purchase of one herd sire you realize you’ll need two because a bull got hurt last year, you have to cull an old one, etc. The struggles of a herd sire search never end. You’ll be on the hunt multiple times throughout the sale season, or at least every couple of years. The struggle is real, repeatedly.
Though sometimes bull shopping can mean a ride on the struggle bus, we still wouldn’t change what we do for the world. The travel, money spent, family bonding and improved herd are all worth the minor problems we face trying to breed better cattle. Did we miss any that you want to add? Let us know!
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