Genetic traits aren’t the only factor when selecting bulls—they also need to be structurally sound.
The front shoulder angle to the top part of the shoulder needs to be sloped at a 45° angle (see graphic). Then from the point of the shoulder coming into the top of the knee needs to be at a 45° angle, says Shane Bedwell, chief operating officer and director of breed improvement for the American Hereford Association.
“That’s how that bull is going to get the absolute most athleticism out of his front end,” Bedwell adds.
Moving to the rear end, producers can easily identify the hock joint. Just as important to identify, Bedwell says, is the stifle joint.
Going from the top of the pin bone coming down into the stifle joint there should be a 45° angle. Another 45° angle at the stifle joint leads down into the top of the hock.
“If we lose that we’re losing overall locomotion and movement of that bull,” Bedwell says.
When looking at structure in cattle they should have 45° angles at important bone joints like the hock and shoulder, with a functional top-line.
Visually it is easy to see in a picture, but it is more difficult to see in the bull pen.
Bedwell recommends studying the top line of a bull and how the animal holds their head when they move.
“The other thing is to go to the ground and see how they fill their track. If you see something out of whack with their top line or if you see they’re missing the track, there’s something going on with either side of that skeleton,” Bedwell says.
Additionally, bulls need to pass a breeding soundness exam in terms of semen fertility and scrotal circumference. Bedwell recommends a minimum of 34 cm to 35 cm scrotal circumference for producers who plan to retain replacement females.
For more on bull buying read part two: Bull Buying Considerations: Trait Selection
Note: This is the second part of a two part series on bull selection that ran in the April 2018 magazine issue of Drovers.