Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Selecting a Bull

With our growing Dexter herd it is becoming apparent that we are going to need a bull to breed our four cows next summer. We have two that will calve after the new year and then two that will be ready to breed whenever, so we are going to shoot for the summer to give us late March or April 2008 calves. I have been contacting different Dexter breeders in the area in an effort to see what is available, and I have found a few possibilities, but since I have never selected a bull before I decided to do a little research on the subject.

Initially I posted a question on the new Irish Dexter Cattle Forum. Olga from Impromptu Acres had a few good thoughts for me. She wrote, "I wouldn't buy a young calf; a sexually mature (around 12 month old) Dexter has more to judge him by. I would find a bull from a breeder with a large number of animals, whose animals exhibit consistency, and whose animals have the characteristics I'm looking for." Also, she said, "But generally, you look for a herd sire that's going to "fix" the faults of your cows in his offspring. I don't know of anybody who has perfect cows, but we should all strive for a perfect bull. That way the offspring is always an improvement." I think she made a lot of good points in her post and you can read the rest of them in the link. One problem that I am having is finding a mature bull and someone with a large number of cattle. But, I really appreciate the comment about having a perfect bull in order to improve the offspring of our cows. I believe this is something that I am really going to study to gain the knowledge to pick out that "perfect" bull. I have been looking at lots of pictures of Dexter cows and I do find my self thinking a lot of the time, "that is what I want my cows to look like."

HERE is another article that I read about selecting a bull. The author points out, "The choices you make impact your herd in next years calves and further down the line if you keep replacement heifers. If you're building your herd up the bull you choose can map the next dozen years - or make or break your program." This quote really hits home with me because we are looking to build our herd here at Stoneyfield and I realize this bull will have an impact on our following batches of calves if we are keeping back heifers to grow our herd. You can read the article for some other thoughts on selecting a bull if your would like.

On thing about selecting a Dexter bull is that you have a few other things to consider that you normally wouldn't have with other breeds of cattle. First of all you need to remember that the Dexter breed is only moderately popular and there aren't a lot of animals out there to purchase. Also, with Dexters there is always color to be thinking about. Most Dexters are black followed by dun and then red. The colored animals usually bring a premium when they are sold so it does behoove someone to have a bull that at least carries some color. I personally would like to have a dun bull, but we will just have to keep looking.

If you have any other tips on picking out a bull please let me know in the comments section. I need all the help I can get!

P.S. The bull pictured above is "Boxcar". He is a Legacy Dexter which means he comes from some of the older lines of Dexters and has many of the early Dexter traits. He is currently owned by the JAMS Hundred Herd and is possibly for sale if you are in the area and interested. I would be interested if I was in the area!

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