Wednesday, June 2, 2010

No Bull, It's a New Bull

Since we run a closed herd (the only new brood cows that enter the herd are daughters of existing cows not purchased at auction), if we save back replacement heifers and want to continue to run only one herd, we must buy new bulls so we aren't breeding sire to daughter. So this year we needed a new bull to bring in some fresh genetics to the herd. It took a bit of extra time and work but we ended up sourcing one that looks decent for our price range and will hopefully throw some nice calves.

We already have one bull, a red Angus we call Archie, but he is a heifer bull and can't cover the entire herd himself. The difference between a herd bull and a heifer bull has to do with the size of calves and overall calving ease. Heifer bulls throw lower birth weight calves that make it easier for first-calf heifers to safely deliver. With a herd bull, since he is being bred to cows that have all calved before, it is not necessary to throw low birth weight calves.

OK, so not only does he have a different job than Archie, he is also a different breed. The new bull is a polled (hornless) Hereford, a traditional British beef breed. Herefords are known for docile temperament (unlike Angus which can be defiant and high-headed), being easy breeders and fast growing calves. One of the reasons we were looking to bring some Hereford genetics into our highly Angus influenced herd has to do with hybrid vigor.

Within a particular breed (Hereford, Angus, Charolais, whatever) that breed has its' own gene pool where certain traits have been bred out of the pool (i.e. horns) while other desirable traits have been concentrated (like coloring, frame, marbling). Inbreeding further concentrates and limits the available genetic options while mating with another breed introduces a whole new library of genetic information which can lead to heterosis or hybrid vigor.

If we breed our black Angus cows to a Hereford bull, the resulting offspring is known as a F1 (filial 1) hybrid and possesses characteristics of each of the Angus and Hereford breeds. What does this mean in English? We get cute black calves with white faces (aka Black Baldies) that grow more vigorously than pure Angus or Hereford calves.

Of course this is a highly simplified explanation of a very complicated genetic process but you get the idea.

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The new bull. At right is Spats, an example of a black baldy
where her sire (Curly) was a Hereford and her dam an Angus.

In short, we have a new bull, we've already seen him doing his job and we hope he throws some nice calves that will grow well here at the ranch but first... he needs a name!

I am waiting on his papers to see his registered name but I want to hear from you first. What should we call this guy? Leave your suggested name in the comments field (for a refresher on how to comment without an account, click here).

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All in a name. What should mine be?

1 comment:

Rachel said...

The first thing that popped into my head was either Nacho or Mr. Magoo, or maybe Pib...Pretty ridiculous I know... :)

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