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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #393177

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Factors important for bull purchasing decisions and management in extensive rangeland production systems of New Mexico: A producer survey

item GIFFORD, CRAIG - New Mexico State University
item TAYLOR, KEEGAN - New Mexico State University
item Spiegal, Sheri
item DUFF, GLENN - New Mexico State University
item ANEY, SKYE - New Mexico State University
item Elias, Emile
item STEINER, JEAN - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item MACFARLANE, Z - California Polytechnic State University
item SCHOHR, T - University Of California - Cooperative Extension Service
item DEATLEY, K - University Of California
item BANWARTH, M - California Polytechnic State University

Submitted to: Translational Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/21/2022
Publication Date: 3/11/2023
Citation: Gifford, C., Taylor, K., Spiegal, S.A., Duff, G., Aney, S., Elias, E.H., Steiner, J., Estell, R.E., MacFarlane, Z.D., Schohr, T.K., DeAtley, K.L., Banwarth, M.R. 2023. Bull selection and management in extensive rangeland production systems of New Mexico: A producer survey. Translational Animal Science. 7(1):1-13.

Interpretive Summary: Survey results have identified key traits important to bull purchase and selection in New Mexico. This information will assist New Mexico seedstock producers at targeting the needs of the clientele. Both physical characteristics and genetics are important to selection and purchasing decisions; however, structural soundness was often cited as the primary selection criteria. Although physical characteristics and genetics of the bull were most important, producers also desired bulls from seedstock producers with a favorable reputation and the producer-customer relationship is important for bull buyers. Producers consistently cited calving ease, the bull’s sale preview, body condition score, feed efficiency, and actual scrotal circumference as important. Elements that were considered unimportant to purchasing decisions included social media and magazine advertisements.        Survey results also identified bull management practices on operations in New Mexico. Newly purchased bulls are primarily kept separate from the cow herd until the following breeding season. During the off-season, bulls are commonly grazed in a separate bull pasture with few producers providing bulls with energy supplementation. Bull management practices vary across the state, however, certain practices such as vaccination, evaluation of semen quality and parasitic control were reported as common. Bulls have an average reproductive life of five years on operations in New Mexico and age was reported to be the primary reason for culling bulls, followed by soundness and fertility. 

Technical Abstract: There were 463,000 head of beef cows in New Mexico as of January 1st, 2021 (NASS, 2020), down roughly 4% from 2020 (NASS, 2019). Frequent drought often results in herd reduction and loss of valuable genetic progress. Bull selection is critical due to their influence on herd development. A survey was conducted to identify traits important to bull selection in New Mexico. Surveys were collected digitally (n = 83) and via the mail (n = 74). Responses were largely by cow/calf producers averaging 57 ± 1 years old with 24 ± 1 years’ experience. Survey respondents represented 4,384,296 acres of private owned, private leased and leased public rangeland and irrigated pasture meadow in New Mexico and surrounding states. Average cow/calf operation size was 294 ± 39 head and average bull herd size was 21 ± 3 head. Average price paid for a bull in the past two years was $3,981 ± 213. Physical characteristics, individual bull performance information, and genetic information are all important traits to New Mexico bull buyers; however, most producers (56%) indicated that structural soundness was the most important factor influencing their selection decisions. Amongst expected progeny differences (EPDs), New Mexico producers consider the calving ease direct (CED) and birth weight (BW) EPDS to be most important (40% and 35%, respectively). Producers also indicated that multi-trait selection indices used by the American Angus Association were important to their selection decisions, with the beef value ($B) and weaned calf value ($W) indices being cited most often (35% and 31%, respectively). Elements important to bull purchase include the bull’s sale preview (87%), body condition score (86%), feed efficiency/average daily gain information (85%), and actual scrotal circumference (82%). Following purchase of a new bull, most (60%) keep the bull separate from the cow herd until the following breeding season, while the remaining 40% of producers turn newly purchased bulls out within 30 days of purchase. Sixty eight percent of producers evaluate semen quality annually or prior to the start of the breeding season. Few producers (39%) utilize reproductive technologies like estrus synchronization and artificial insemination, although most (80%) test for trichomoniasis. The primary factor influencing culling decisions is age, followed by soundness and fertility.