Friday, December 21, 2007

Gerald Fry on Bulls

The whole process surrounding our search for a bull has been very interesting and informational. I have learned quite a bit about what to look for and the signs and measurements that you can use to help choose your bull. I have really taken the old adage that the bull is half your herd to heart and I tried to find something that was more than just male. To that end I have had a lot of help from people in the Dexter community and folks that just plain know cattle.

One guy that I was pointed to quite often was Gerald Fry. He has a website called, Bovine Engineering, that has a lot of information about grassfed beef, selecting genetics, choosing a bull, and so much more. One article that John Potter recently pointed me to is this one titled, "A Well Balanced Bull and the Benefits of Masculinity". It is just a short article, but it is full of great information on selecting a bull.

Mr. Fry describes a well balanced bull with this sentence, "The objective for a well-balanced and functional bull is to get 85% of his cow's settled on first service and do that job on grass and or hay and maintain his body weight." This is something that I couldn't really judge as we picked out our bull, but it is something that I'm going to pay attention to in our future breeding. Mr. Fry also places a lot of emphasis on selecting a bull that is masculine. As I have mentioned in the past this is one thing that has been difficult as we looked for Dexter bulls.

According to the article a good bull will show its masculinity in its head, neck and shoulders. Look at things like the amount of muscle, the thickness of the skin, coarseness of the head hair, position of the legs, and more. A well balanced bull as described in the article will be a benefit to any beef herd.

I look forward to continuing to learn about selecting a herd bull so we can begin improving our herd through our breeding. Do you have any other links or thoughts on selecting bulls? Let me know if you do!


Mellifera said...

I'd be interested to see the research all this is based on. I mean, basing judgments about an animal's reproductive ability 100% on its looks sounds a little suspect and I didn't see any citations. Usually when people do real research they show charts and graphs and other scientists they looked up. Sorry... bein' picky again. : )

Yeoman said...

Living in range country, I'll confess that we have, on more than one occasion, picked bulls out based on oral representations and looks. Granted, this might not be the best method, but we've done it. This is the Readers Digest version, of course, as we considered more than that.

Not commenting at all on this fellow, as I don't have the background or knowledge to do so, I thought I'd pass along the sad story of one of our bulls, El Toro. Geez, he was a great looking bull. The very epitomy, if you will, of bullness. Darned thing wouldn't do anything with cows, however. He just liked to hang around by the highway and look pretty.

Suffice to say, he did not last long.

Again, I'm not commenting on the main post here, as I don't know anything about the fellow, and I don't have enough knowledge to comment one way or the other.

Ethan Book said...

Mellifera ... I do understand what you are saying, but I will say that Mr. Fry is well respected in the cattle community and that respect comes by results in his herd and if people agreeing with him. There is an awesome amount of wisdom in the agricultural world that is just plain true ... sometimes you can't quantify it in numbers and on charts, but it just works.

There are other things you can do such as a Breeding Soundness Exam, but it is important that Mr. Fry isn't just talking about how well a bull can do it's job, but how a bull looks and what it's offspring could look like ... that is very important stuff!

Mellifera said...

It's true, not knowing anything about Mr. Fry's work from the outset I don't have anything other than his website to base an opinion on, which can be unfortunate.

And it's true that some things are just the way they are, scientists be darned... for example, all the books says cowbirds eat bugs off of cows but every time I see them here they're running around the dirt in the horse paddock picking up spilled grain, and the cows in the next paddock are covered with flies and not a cowbird in sight. I kinda have to wonder about that one. : )

Anyway, I guess what got me was he said "This is backed up by tons of research" but then didn't have a link to it or anything. It's like... if you did it, then you should already have the charts and photos, and why not at least have a link? This is probably an unfair prejudice in his case but that stinkin' juice company I worked for was exactly like that. "It's backed up by Tahitian tradition... and we did research!" And when you looked for it, neither were actually there. It's made me knee-jerk suspicious of people who say they have science but don't show it, is all.

Anonymous said...

Mr Fry's writing are based on the works of Dr. Jan Bonsma and James Drayson. These two men are very well respected cattlemen and researchers with many decades of scientific research and measurements backing up their claims.

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