Linda Benedict, Schultz, Bruce | 9/24/2010 1:51:43 AM
The bull performance testing program at the LSU AgCenter, which identifies the best genetics of a producer’s bulls, has been under way, twice annually, since 1958.
“There have been about 8,000 bulls go through this program,” said Danny Coombs, LSU AgCenter animal sciences professor.
Producers usually enroll several bulls in the program, although a single entry is allowed from smaller producers. The cost is $550 per bull, along with a $100 nomination fee.
For 112 days at the Dean Lee Research Station near Alexandria, the yearling bulls are kept in a feed lot and fed a mixed diet high in roughage. The rate of weight gain is monitored closely, and they are put on the scales every 28 days.
“A bull that gains rapidly and efficiently will sire calves that gain rapidly and efficiently,” Coombs said.
The animal’s ribeye region is examined with ultrasound to determine the size and amount of marbling. A breeding soundness exam is conducted to make sure the young bulls have the potential to produce calves.
Coombs said in the 1960s, the Brahman influence bulls with Beefmaster and Brangus were usually in the program. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Continental breeds were typically submitted. “Now we’re pretty much testing Angus and Charolais,” he said.
In 1981, the program was expanded to allow producers to sell bulls that have been in the testing program.
Producers selling their bulls have documented, unbiased data to show potential buyers.
“This provides other producers with a source of good genetics,” Coombs said.
Producer Dick Walther of Houma has been sending his Charolais bulls to the program since 1971.
“It’s an excellent way for a small producer like me to finish his bulls and market them,” said Walther, a retired veterinarian.
He said he also relies on the program to help him select a bull for his own herd.
“I select bulls from the performance data they give me,” Walther said. “For a fellow like me with a small herd, it’s perfect.”
Cattle producer Dave Means of Mansfield said he relies on the program for his Black Angus bulls. He said he sends five or six animals during the winter and summer sessions.
“It’s a great asset for the purebred breeder,” he said. “It gives us a great opportunity to evaluate performance, and it’s good data from an independent and trusted source.”
(This article was published in the summer 2010 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)