Students in a Bull Sale Class at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, were recently given three key take-home messages from seedstock producer Dave Judd of Judd Ranch, Pomona, Kansas:
Message #1: Bulls for the commercial cowman should not be a purebred breeder's by-product. Bulls should be the product.
Message #2: Only after a purebred breeder has established a quality product is he ready to sell bulls.
Message #3: Sell yourself and the rest will take care of itself, and selling yourself requires being honest, having extremely high integrity, working hard and standing behind your product.
Dave Judd, who has a highly successful commercial Gelbvieh and Red Angus bull sale each March, shared with students the steps he's taken to develop a successful bull sale. Dave encouraged students to identify goals that stay with the basics and the industry's needs, to keep an eye on the bottom line, to be true to themselves and their beliefs rather than follow trends and to put customers first.
“From the beginning, our goal at Judd Ranch has been to establish a seedstock herd where we could produce and sell, for a profit, some of the highest quality range bulls on the market,” Dave stated. “We soon realized that producing top bulls came down to establishing goals for a top cowherd and that we had to stick with those goals to achieve them.”
Dave said he and his wife, Cindy, agreed that, to be successful, they could not assume anything and that objective measurements needed to be incorporated in the scheme along with subjective areas such as structural soundness, eye appeal, etc. They also quickly recognized that they must keep selecting and culling, and that they could not go the single trait selection route.
In establishing their breed-recognized, and industry-recognized, Gelbvieh herd, Dave said Judd Ranch focused on a functional cowherd where performance tells the story. To remain in the cowherd, females must have balanced EPDs and meet a high standard when it comes to acceptable birth weight, excellence in teat and udder structure, fertility and milk. They must also produce an acceptable, profitable calf. If that calf is a heifer, she will be the keeping-kind. If that calf is a bull, he will sire flexible offspring that make his owners money and that hang acceptable carcasses while providing consumers with a satisfying eating experience.
“Fertility is the main reason we went with Gelbvieh,” Dave revealed. “Data from the Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Neb., shows that Gelbvieh is Number 1 when it comes to pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed.
“Fertility is still an extremely high priority, and we're finding that it pays tremendous dividends. There is so much research out there about the value of having calves born early in the season so they weigh more at weaning and about fertility being passed from sire to daughter.”
To secure and propagate top genetics, Dave explained that Judd Ranch has an extensive AI program and an on-farm embryo transfer program and uses only top quality clean-up bulls. AI sires are either proven sires or from a proven cow family. As for clean-up bulls, Judd Ranch turns to several of its ranch-raised bulls that are breed-recognized AI sires.
“We're pretty fortunate that way,” Dave added. “But, if you don't have breed-recognized AI bulls of your own to use natural service, think about leasing bulls of that quality or buying at least one super bull for clean up.
“Every sire in a breeding program is a stepping stone toward a more complete product.”
To propagate superior genetics at a reasonable cost, Dave told the students that Judd Ranch started its own on-farm ET program that uses an outside embryologist.
“Rather than talk about donor females – because we all know you only use the best females in the herd as donors, I want to stress the importance of using a top embryologist,” Dave said. “And it pays to use high quality recipients. Many of our recips are purebred Gelbvieh, and I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Another goal at Judd Ranch, Dave said, is to properly develop bulls and replacement heifers. The seedstock producer stressed making certain calves get off to a good start. That includes providing shelter and making certain calves suck right away.
“The first few days of a calf's life can determine if they make a replacement,” he interjected.
Dave explained that Judd Ranch uses a higher roughage, low energy diet. This diet, he contends, enhances fertility and maintains sound feet and legs.
Turning to the finished product – selling bulls, Dave urged the students to make certain the bulls they were selling were ready to perform when their new owner used them in the “real world.”
“At Judd Ranch, our annual March sale features about 100 fall-born bulls that will be 17 to 19 months old sale day and about 100 spring-born bulls,” Dave elaborated. “Our spring-born bulls are not however, April and May calves. They are January and February bulls, with a few early March ones. That makes these bulls a year of age at sale time and hitting 14 to 16 months when they are turned out with cows.”
Dave also explained that a successful bull sale program must involve having a complete health program in place – vaccinations and parasite-control. Plus, he said that all bulls offered for sale, whether private treaty or in an auction, must be semen checked.
“A complete breeding soundness exam is best,” he noted. “And, at Judd Ranch, we follow this up by guaranteeing that every bull sold is a breeder.”
In wrapping up his presentation, Dave reminded the KSU students that customers should always be a priority and that different customers have different environments, management practices and cow genetics.
“Your customers, however, must be aware of four things, and I'll name those four,” Dave summarized. “Number 1: There are always bargains in a bull sale, and there is a right bull or bulls in a sale for a price a customer can live with. Number 2: Most of the time, the top 25% of the bulls in a sale are the cheapest when you consider their genetic potential. Number 3: Selecting bulls is a three-step process – Step 1 is to go through the sale catalog and pick the bulls you like on paper; Step 2 is to go through and visually pick the bulls you like; and Step 3 is to then match them together. And Number 4: Be prepared when the sale starts and have alternate bulls selected in case you don't get to purchase your first picks.”