It’s a tried-and-true saying: “Plan for a healthy calf per every reproducing-age female each year.” But that strategy may at times demand that to get all females covered at breeding season, it becomes necessary to purchase bull power. For some cow-calf producers this can be a time- and energy-consuming task for which they are ill-prepared, often lacking the contacts, knowledge and understanding of the data to complete the transaction in a productive way.
If you hadn’t thought of it before, bull-sourcing services are available. Bohrson Marketing based in Olds, Alta. is one service that can offer stress relief, organization skills and the ability to dissect the immense amount of information available to help buyers make an intelligent bull-buying decision.
Their extensive contact network of purebred breeders, test stations, production and private treaty sales, combined with number-crunching expertise can make them the perfect partner.
Owner Scott Bohrson says for cattlemen looking to fill out their bull roster, it’s important to take stock of what is needed and where they want their operation to go. Communication is the most important ingredient. “We want to visit with them to determine what types of bulls may be suitable for their programs,” he says. “When we have success buying cattle for commercial cattlemen, it all starts with proper communication.”
Checklist of requirements
Bohrson says it’s vital to determine the buyer’s production and marketing system along with environmental and management considerations. “Beyond the breed of the bull, we need a breakdown of what kind of cattle they prefer,” he says. “How important are specific traits to them?”
For example, is the production system aimed at marketing the calf crop at weaning, backgrounding, retaining ownership through the finishing process or other more specialized targets? Will this bull be used on heifers, mature cows or both? Does the producer want to retain some heifers as replacements? What are the feed resources and environmental conditions? These are among the questions that often need to be answered.
EPDs are a fixture of bull buying and recently genomic testing has pushed them to the forefront, but Bohrson says while it may be more of a factor in the purebred industry, most commercial cow-calf operators are still more concerned with the basic parameters such as birth, weaning and yearling weights.
“We get very few comments on genomic testing although over the 12 years I have been doing this, there has been an increase in EPD interest,” he says. “Most commercial cattlemen we deal with are concerned with the different weights, the type of animal and the eye test.”
He says potential buyers usually ask about breeding soundness exams (BSEs) and their results. “Buyers want to know if the bulls have passed their semen test and what the exam looked like,” Bohrson says. “Was it the breeder’s and the vet’s professional opinion that the bull could be a satisfactory breeder? The actual scrotum measurement is also important to them as much as anything.”
Nail down the details
Another vital aspect Bohrson likes to nail down is the warranty arrangement in case things go wrong and a bull fails. He says many repeat customers often contract them to buy bulls from the same place and there is a familiarization and comfort level there. “We have the discussion with breeders to determine how they handle different situations. Then we visit with our customers beforehand to let them know that if unforeseen circumstances arise, this breeder is willing to do ‘this’ for you.”
When the specifics have been ironed out and buyers are comfortable with the breeders and their animals, Bohrson demands three things of the cattle they purchase. “We are a huge stickler for quality of udders, feet and structural soundness,” he says. “It’s the big three we never want to overlook. We work with lineage and genetics that are strong in those aspects.”
He encourages buyers to visit the sellers to view their heifers and mature cows. A visit to the seller’s farm can provide a valuable look at what the buyer’s future cow herd could look like. “Get in touch and visit to see the cattle and meet the people,” Bohrson says. “Everyone can get on the same page and we can be sure we have sourced the proper bull that the customer is looking for.”
Bohrson believes a marketing service can be a great option for those unable to invest their time in the extensive bull-buying procedure. “We promote programs buyers can have confidence in. The process can be successful and like I said before, communication is the most important part. It is all about being upfront with the potential customer, and helping them make a smart decision on the investment in their next herd bulls.”