Production of future herd sires begins before a bull is born

When selecting a herd sire, producers look to what they want in the future. While some look to their own genetics for that future, others turn to producers who specialize in bull production. 

Either way, it takes time, proper management and nutrition to develop a bull to breeding age.

According to the University of Arkansas’ Dr. Shane Gadberry, associate professor of animal science, and Dr. Jeremy Powell, DVM, developing bulls is a substantial commitment, a commitment that begins before a calf is even born with the careful selection of a sire that will complement the cow herd, and is expected to produce the type of bull calf desired. 

Physical evaluation

EPD numbers should not the be only reason a bull is considered for a breeding bull. 

Once the bull calf is born, careful evaluation is required to determine if the calf has a future as a herd sire. 

Bulls being considered for a development program should be physically sound, free from genetic defects and exhibit an acceptable level of reproductive potential. 

Gadberry and Powell caution producers to make early identification of calves that do not meet certain criteria early, such as not thriving or meeting growth goals, as soon as possible to reduce production costs.

At weaning time, evaluate bull calves closely, culling any calves that are low preforming, unthrifty, structurally unsound or genetically inferior. Bulls that meet or exceed the producer’s standards should also be evaluated for temperament. 


Once calves selected for development are identified, the management process becomes a little more intensive. 

Gadberry and Powell recommend separating bulls according to age, such as weanling bull calves, yearling bulls, 2-year-olds and mature bulls. Separating into groups allows producers to provide the proper nutrition to each individual group.

Younger bulls require less quantity but higher-quality diets than older animals. For example, daily dry matter intake generally increases with increasing body weight, crude protein (CP) requirement as a percentage of dry matter intake declines. Younger bulls require higher protein percentages for the rapid lean muscle growth that is occurring during early development. Producers should not, however, overfeed younger bulls. Overconditioning can be detrimental to future fertility and soundness, as physically fit bulls are active breeders. 

To determine the nutritional needs during each stage of a bull’s development, consult with a livestock nutritionist or with Extension experts. 

Another advantage of separating by age is it reduces the chance of injury to younger animals.

Health protocals

When considering the proper vaccination protocol for breeding bulls, it is good to know which diseases can lead to reproductive problems, such as leptospirosis, IBR, BVD, vibriosis and trichomoniasis. Gadberry and Powell recommend consulting with a local veterinarian to discuss specific recommendations. A parasite control plan should also be discussed and put into place. 

Bull Soundness Exam

Bulls should receive a bull soundness exam (BSE) by a veterinarian one to two months prior to being sold or prior to the breeding season. 

A BSE strives to determine which bulls will not perform satisfactorily for potential culling from the herd. Approximately one in five bulls will not pass a BSE. 


When it comes time to market future herd sires, the more information that can be provided to potential buyers, the better. 

Information should include birthweights, weaning weights, yearling weights, sire and dam pedigree information and performance, as well as any performance results, such as carcass scan results, EPDs and BSE results. 

Sellers should also have herd health information available, as well as information about nutritional programs.

Julie Turner-CrawfordFarm Helpdeveloping bulls,herd siresProduction of future herd sires begins before a bull is bornWhen selecting a herd sire, producers look to what they want in the future. While some look to their own genetics for that future, others turn to producers who specialize in bull production. Either way, it takes time, proper management...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma