Limousin Latest

Bull Buyer’s Study Guide

Published February 5, 2020

Considerations Ahead of the Sale

When it comes to making the best possible purchasing decisions for your next herd sire, two words should come to mind – be prepared. Preparedness before buying a bull or bulls can mean enhanced profitability for producers, said Bob Weaber, professor and extension cow-calf specialist at Kansas State University. Being prepared means following three main steps: (1) Have a plan; (2) Understand the genetics you need; and (3) Know your budget.

1. Have a plan

Take time to write down goals for your operation, and then select bulls to help meet those goals, Weaber said. Good questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is the desired endpoint for my calves?
    Knowing the endpoint helps you understand what genetics you need to improve profitability. Select for optimal maternal traits in sires if you’re focusing on building your cow herd with replacement heifers; or, you may want to select for terminal traits such as growth (selling calves at weaning) and carcass merit (selling calves on the rail).
  • Where is my herd performing adequately, and how could I make it better?
    For example, your herd may do well currently with calving ease, but your calves aren’t gaining to reach an optimal weaning weight. In your next herd sire or sires, you might want to focus on their growth genetic predictors rather than calving ease.

Understand, however, that with terminal goals for calves, growth and carcass merit would be the desired traits, but growth may not be the best choice if you plan to keep moderate-framed, efficient replacement females for the herd. This all goes back to knowing and sticking to the identified endpoint.

  • Do I have the best crossbreeding system in place? If not, how do I make it better? This one takes several breeding seasons to make ideal, but you have to start somewhere and continue the work. Commercial producers should understand the best breeds to use in a structured crossbreeding system that fits the operation and environment. Seek bulls from breeds known for their core strengths to benefit the herd, focus on maternal heterosis and build genetically sound replacement heifers.“My sense is there are a lot of producers who are taking a step back, looking at their breeding system and trying to put some heterosis in their cows, primarily for reproductive efficiency and environmental adaptability,” Weaber said. “I think there’s enough pressure on production costs that people are thinking more about efficiency.”

Ask experts for assistance through your local extension office, and develop strong relationships with seedstock producers who may be able to help. You should let the seedstock producers know about your goals so they can assist with bull recommendations before the sale.

2. Understand the genetics you need.

Weaber said recent research has shown bull buyers are looking at three main criteria when choosing the right sire: expected progeny differences (EPDs), bull visual appraisal and price. If the genetic profile is top-of-mind, it’s important to understand what the different categories of information mean in a sale catalog.

EPDs will help you pick bulls that genetically fit with your herd goals. EPDs predict the genetic performance of a bull’s offspring relative to the progeny of other bulls. Some EPDs focus on a single trait, such as birth weight (BW), while others such as Calving Ease/Calving Ease Direct (CE or CED) calculate in BW data and other related information. A selection index, such as $Beef ($B), provides a single value typically reported in dollars and, like CE, combines related predictors into one number to simplify selection. Examine breed averages to understand how a particular bull’s EPDs appear relative to others in his breed.

Genomically enhanced EPDs (GE-EPDs) are EPDs that also include information from the DNA of the animal. The benefit of GE-EPDs is increased accuracy values on several traits, and they add to the selection value for sires. Weaber said GE-EPDs allow a producer to buy a bull with EPD accuracies equivalent to his first calf crop having been evaluated for all the traits that are in an EPD profile. Studies have shown that more producers are using genomics in their selection decisions and are looking for GE-EPDs in the genetic evaluation of the animal. (Side note: NALF GE-EPDs are highlighted in yellow on performance reports in the NALF-DigitalBeef platform).

Learn more about selection tools available through NALF on the DNA & Genomics page (

3. Know your budget.

Have a budget in mind, and stick to it when buying a bull or bulls. It helps to evaluate a seedstock producer’s prior year sale averages to know what to potentially expect this year. Weaber said a good rule of thumb for buyers is a quality seedstock bull costs about the same as the value of four or five feeder steers in the current market.

After determining the budget, sort through the sale catalog and make a list of bulls as possibilities to purchase. Choose about three times the number of bulls needed to purchase that meet your identified goals and specifications. This list may be cut down once you are on-site and able to evaluate each bull visually for structure and soundness. Once the sale begins, keep the sale order in mind, focus your bidding on bulls at the top of your list, and ensure purchases remain within your budget.


Limousin cattle deliver to your bottom line. With superior genetics, a simple crossbreeding plan and state-of-the-art selection tools, the Limousin breed will serve profit-minded cow/calf producers. In today’s competitive markets, taking advantage of all available opportunities is key. The Limousin breed offers a variety of options from Fullblood to Purebred to the Lim-Flex® hybrid (Limousin x Angus cross) to match your program’s needs and market goals. Crossbreeding for the right blend of muscle, maternal ability and profit is easy with Limousin seedstock.