Mathews and Son. And Choosing Bulls.

Chris Mathews and son Ben, have been buying bulls from Totaranui for 6 or 7 years now, which we appreciate greatly. They have a Jersey herd of 400 cows near Ohakea, and mate close to 90 heifers a year. They decided to try Angus heifer bulls after some frustrations with other breeds and came to a Totaranui sale and have never looked back. The Angus bulls have provided good outcomes, with very little calving trouble at all. They might pull two or three, and sometimes that is simply seeing a heifer calving at ‘go home time’ and thinking, well, were not coming back, so let’s just get her in. But having said that, Chris says he is very careful about what bulls he selects. He says that if he selects the right bulls he doesn’t have to worry about how he feeds the heifers.

Some people will choose a yearling bull for heifers (and retain it for MA cows later) that will breed both heifers they will retain, and steers that will not be severally compromised from a growth point of view… so they will be prepared to buy a yearling bull with more growth, more maternal values, and not the lowest of low birth weights, perhaps placing more emphasis on Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Daughters.

Others, however, want a pure calving ease outcome. They will chose a bull that has a birth weight in the 20’s and a very short gestation. Some of these grow too – the curve benders that we as a stud breeder are looking for. So, fortunately, not everyone is looking for exactly the same bull.  It takes experience and stockmanship, to know your herd, as to what bull will work, but I guess, where there is doubt, erring on the side of caution is perhaps the best policy.

A few years back we did a 2YO calving workshop, to which Dr Rebecca Hickson from Massey came to talk. Her notes are on our website, but she makes the point that the biggest influence to the heifer mating outcome is bull selection (both EBVs and shape of shoulders), and growing the heifers to their full potential up to mating. Feeding after mating the debate starts and there’s lots of different views, best seek your vet’s advice if you have any questions you want answered in that respect.