Submitted by Bill Halfman, UW Extension Agent, Monroe County (adapted from Jim Neel, University of Tennessee)
This is a frequently asked question from farmers who are striving for a short and definite breeding/calving season in their efforts to produce a uniform calf crop as well as how to manage and feed the bull until the next breeding season. My question back is, “Have you considered selling him and purchasing a better bull prior to the next breeding season?”
Recently in August, bulls marketed in Wisconsin weekly auction markets have been bringing $60.00 to $64.00/cwt for those with a low dressing percent where as those with a high dressing percent classification fetched $69.00 to $76.00/cwt. Commonly those bulls classified as low dressing percentage are lighter muscled and have less condition, therefore expected to yield a lower percentage of carcass weight compared to live weight. For example, an 1800 lb. bull could sell for $1100 to $1350 using the mid-range ($64.00 to $69.00/cwt) described above.
If the bull is maintained for another year, the winter feed bill alone could cost around $400. If we consider a yardage cost for wear and tear on fences, facilities, and related expenses, this can add another $100 to the cost of keeping the bull on the farm. In addition, if this bull has been used in the cow herd for the last two years, this could result in the bull potentially breeding some of his progeny this next spring. Therefore the producer may want to consider introducing new genetics for the next breeding season as well.
If the bull is sold after the breeding season, the total dollars profited would be about $1600 to $1850 with the expense of maintaining the bull. This money could be used to invest in a replacement bull next spring that would be of “better genetic” potential than the “old bull.”
While this is not a common practice most cow-calf producers use, producers should consider “putting the pencil to the paper” of this option compared to keeping the bull around for another year.