What do I look for in a herd bull . . . ?

111515_1507_ForSaleFals2.pngI believe that many breeders make the mistake of thinking that every bull calf born out of good parents will make a quality herd sire. That swapping their bull calf for another’s bull calf will fix or ensure genetic diversity. Make no mistake about it; there are a lot of other characteristics to consider when choosing a prospective herd sire than just having a different bull. Falster Farm doesn’t select our Mini Bull herd sires on their draw in show ring or if someone will trade us their bull calf for one of ours. After the show ring, most animals are unfit for real ranch and a farm breeding life, not by genetics necessarily, but by rearing on high powered forced gains by grain! Fact: he will be short lived, short winded, and if taken off grain, a serious loss of virility ensues. Same for the female show cow. Show animals are a great way to downgrade your herd’s virility and sustainability (proven in my experience.)

Let’s Look um Over . . . What should you look for?

First place to look: A Breeders Reputation is the basis of our cattle ranching heritage. It’s your 1st assurance of quality, and ethics of the breeder, you should consider his guarantees – if any. The STUD BOOK of any registry is only reliable if the governing membership enforces the rules of the organization, and the members adhere

America's #1 Pasture Monthly.

Falster featured in America’s #1 Pasture Monthly.

to those standards. Now, I’m going to make a course statement in a minute about show cattle but it wasn’t always a case of grain fed stock vs. pature finished beef as the driving force for the associations. Be that as it may, the breed association is the basis for the quality and reliability of the pure bred seed stock.

Disposition is a very important trait that I look for. Ninety-nine percent of the time, if the mother cow has a good disposition, so will the calf. I won’t even consider a calf for a herd sire if he is constantly bouncing off the fence and

Horn Weights

Buyers looking over Horn Weights on yearling Mini Hereford Bull KNF CIBOLO

trying to crawl under the gate every time he is brought into the corral pens. Besides that, his mother won’t stay long with that kind of attitude (thus the importance of data base selection records.) My Herd Bulls are not to be feared, but, respected and enjoyed. Even though they are short (just tipping the end of the ear), I train the horns to curve down, they are powerful animals, and they must to have a good disposition. Again, disposition is bred into an animal and is a very important trait when choosing a herd sire prospect. If you can’t work with him, he can hurt you and your stock.

Masculine traits are very important. I want a bull calf that looks like a bull calf and acts like a bull calf. I want to look in his face and know I am looking at a bull. As I observe him out in the pasture, I want to see him following after cows that are in heat. I want to see him butting heads with other calves and

Mini Bull Yearling PRINCE RUPERT

Yearling Mini Bull PRINCE RUPERT

generally acting like a young boy. It’s just like watching boys grow up. They are rolling around, getting dirty, and acting tough and chasing girls even though at the time they wouldn’t know what to do if they caught one. These are early masculine traits that can be observed and noted at an early age. They must be there if he is to be a working Herd Bull. AND here’s one reason why: I’ve had more than one big Brangus bull jump over our fence and try to breed a miniature cow in heat. The herd bull must protect / defend his herd from intruders as well as service them. This is a must with me. I’ve had my bull Dagmar hold off three different bulls over a three year period . . . once he went two days sparing with a Beef Master before I knew the brute was in our pasture. Dagmar’s face was looking like a beaten prize fighter but his momma cows were not damaged, and he healed up soon enough. His get are with us today, and we love um. The winners are seed stock, the loosers taste great. Both have the very best life that can be had living on the land with excellent pasyurage and clean water and minerals.

Physical Conformation too; a good disposition, masculine traits, and a good sire and dam are things you would want in a herd sire prospect of any breed. When I look for a Miniature Registered Hereford or Mini Jersey herd sire prospect, I look for the traits that made our cattle what they are. An overall view of this calf would show me a clean underline with a tight sheath and navel. The testicular development would be normal and adequate with both testicles down and of equal size. A straight top line, adequate length, beefy broad hips, but not overly muscled, small to medium ears and showing good horn growth for his age. I want to see a calf that is healthy and his general appearance is attractive. I’m looking for length of loin and a medium and balanced skeletal structure. A youngster < 14 months will not have the big neck, but the hair should show curly density and the scrotal sac should too. An 18 month old prospect should be showing size in the neck and very curly neck and forehead hair. His sack should look like a ping pong paddle when viewed from the rear. The older he gets the more distance from the body (heat) it should descend. 

From conception to birth and from weaning to yearling, he is a herd sire prospect. But, somewhere along the way, I have to make a decision. Do I have a bull that represents the Miniature Hereford or Jersey breed of cattle and can he pass on the traditional traits to future generations? Is he going to fulfill the breeding plan of our Falster farm? Do I like him? Does my wife want to keep him? Her sense of judgment is very intuitive and I rely on it to “feel” things that are relationship orientated, feelings that I often over look.

My grandpa taught me that the bull was ½ the value of the entire herd. I won’t tell you that story here, but; I’ve learned to be very critical when it comes to choosing herd sire prospects. Unless a bull calf surpasses his sire, that bull ought to be in a pet steer or on some discriminating dining table. A quality herd sire is an expensive, but the most important investment you can make in the cattle business. Anytime you breed undesirable traits you are multiplying those bad traits many times over and polluting future generations. One year of poorly selected breeding can take several years to correct.

Using these guidelines, I, and you will have chosen consistently excellent herd sire prospects. I will closely observe him through weaning and on to breeding age. He will be weighed at weaning and at yearling age. His scrotal measurements will be taken and recorded. At breeding age he will he bred to a good set of heifers, and his production record will have begun. Hopefully, I have made the right choice, and I will have a great Miniature Hereford herd sire.

Karl Emmett Falster, Sr.

Capt. Karl is a lifelong student of Southern Agricultural principals of small family farm sustainability. He and his wife Nancy own and farm Falster Farm on Pasture 365™ in Wood County Texas. He reguarly does consultation services. A former United States Marine, Falster is the CEO of a non-profit organization that teaches Veterans to Farm: WARRIORS THAT FARM®

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