Why ranchers are seeking 'easy calving' bulls

As herd sizes grow, it seems some ranchers are leaning towards finding bulls that make raising the cattle a little bit easier, whether it be with calving or dealing with them daily.

Speaking at their annual bull sale, Soderglen Ranches Cattle Manager Jared Sherman says they have seen this first-hand in their operation.

“What we’ve seen is our clients are moving to bigger cow herds, we’ve got an increased market share by default of that,” Sherman says. “Our cow herds are growing and the traits lean towards calving ease. They lean towards less birth weight, and, as we create cattle that have less birth and more growth, that is what we really see shine.”

He says this year’s sale was another good example of that.

“We have 75 to 85-pound birth-weight bulls, with 750-plus weaning weights and big yearling weights and those outsell those 100-pound birth-weight bulls,” he says.

Airdrie-area rancher Laura Vanderstoop, who raises 300 commercial cows with 12 to 14 bulls, says when they look for a bull, they are looking for a couple of traits.

“For us, it is about calving ease and getting live calves on the ground that are viable and healthy,” Vanderstoop says. 

One-stop bull shopping

Auctioneer Dean Edge says he sees a lot of buyers these days looking to improve their herd at home and they are doing that by doing their homework and going to sales where they can get everything all at once.

“They can buy heifer bulls, they can buy performance bulls, and they can buy crossbred bulls as well for their own herd. That allows them to improve their own herd as they are keeping the better genetics around from maternal strengths and improve weaning weights on their steer calves too,” Edge says.

Crossbreed support

Randy Norrie, who raises a herd of about 200 Charolais cross near Delisle, Sask., says they are always looking for a crossbred bull because it produces calmer and therefore easier to work with animal.

“We’re looking for easy-doing heifers off our cows to put back into our herd,” Norrie says.

“Crossbreeding is so important when you’re raising commercial cattle, you can’t just stay in a straight breed forever and ever you’ve got to have a cross in there.”

Bottom line

Bull sales reflect a trend to calve ease and seek these traits at auction. The result is larger herds with signs on increasing market share.

Article by: Craig Lester