Wisconsin BEEF Improvement Association Information

A potential new consigner called last week and was wondering just what makes a strong bull test candidate. We discussed much of the criteria set by the board, what it intended to accomplish and how his bulls might fit into this scheme. We talked about the difference between successful bull testing and successful bull marketing and made a point of recognizing that difference. It occurred to me that this might be an opportunity to give bull buyers some insight into selection criteria that might be used by consignors as they consider their nominations.

If you hope to make a profit on your consignment, bring a candidate that you would be willing to pay for. The time for honest bull evaluation is now. Testing a candidate can seem expensive. Your bull must be developed if you intend to sell him as a yearling no matter where he is raised. At home, you (or maybe your spouse or kids) will do the feeding, cleaning and bull care through three seasons, maybe with home-raised feed ingredients, to have him ready for prospective buyers by spring. For a tested bull, the feedstuffs and bedding are all purchased and staff is hired to provide bull care. If you paid yourself and built a facility to do this the costs might be similar, but the cash outlay is likely quite different if you use an existing yard and don’t clock your time. Be realistic. If you’re not confident that your prospect will provide value to a buyer at a price that covers expenses, don’t bring him. Your bull will be at the station for approximately 160 days and will potentially gain 500+ pounds. Testing, feed, bedding, ultrasound scanning and vet costs can exceed $500. Bulls that qualify for the sale incur additional costs for advertising, breeding soundness evaluations, fitting, auctioneering and other sale related costs. Because mid-western cowherds tend to be smaller in size, a bull might be used on heifers as a yearling and on cows as he matures. A more complete bull with a balanced EPD profile is often attractive to buyers. A bull with issues such as a bad disposition, exceptionally high birth weight or birth weight EPD, or unsound feet or legs doesn’t have a chance at profitability.

Once you’ve weeded out the bulls with marketing challenges, take some time to do the math on your best candidates. Sale qualification is based strictly on performance. Only the top two-thirds of the tested bulls will be eligible for the sale, based on weight per day of age, 365-day weight and average daily gain. Does your candidate carry enough weaning weight to be able to post a Weight per Day of Age next March above 3.5 pounds? Does he have a frame that will allow him to gain 4 or 5 pounds daily (or more) for the 100 days between December 1 and March 10? Will he have enough maturity next March to be thick and attractive and pass a breeding soundness exam? Or will he mature before the end of the test and have his performance go flat? Take some time to view past sale catalogs on our website and pay attention to the performance of past bull test graduates. Do your candidates have the genetics to compete with bulls of this type?

Ultimately, we can’t know just how each individual will perform, that is why we test them. We can, however, identify bulls with the best chance to compete successfully and focus on putting them in a position to rise to the top of some stiff competition, always remembering that the ultimate goal is to provide lasting value for the WBIA bull test buyer.

The Wisconsin Beef Improvement Association has conducted and overseen a central performance bull test each year since 1957. Young beef bulls from all over Wisconsin and the Midwest have been brought here to develop a performance proof in an unbiased environment designed to let the cream rise to the top. Over 5000 bulls from over 250 consignors have been tested. Commercial and purebred breeders from Texas to North Dakota as well as nationally recognized A.I. studs have purchased genetics at the annual WBIA auction held at the conclusion of each test. The bulls are currently tested in Southwest Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville university farm and have been housed there since 1970. The current test is 100 days long. Bulls are fed a corn silage and hay based diet adjusted with locally available ingredients in a ration designed to promote lean efficient growth while providing adequate energy to allow individuals to express their genetic potential. At the test conclusion, bulls are ultrasounded for carcass traits, evaluated for breeding soundness and made available to the public at auction on the first Saturday in April.Nominations are open to all registerable bulls born between January 1 and April 15, provided they meet the health requirements set by the board. All birth dams of nominated bulls must have a current negative Johnes test before their bull calves can be unloaded at the test station. All bulls are also required to have a negative BVD PI blood test. All candidates are required to be preconditioned for at least 30 days before delivery. That translates into weaning and two rounds of vaccinations for IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, Leptospirosis, Clostridium, Haemophilius Somnus, and Pasturella. All bulls are required to have official state health papers. Registration papers are not required as a condition of nomination or delivery, but every bull must be registerable. That is to say that percentage bulls are accepted as long as requirements have been met for those bulls to be registered by an official breed organization. Nominations are due in mid September; delivery is in late October or early November. The test runs 100 days with the sale being the first Saturday in April. The station has space for 150 bulls with the top two-thirds qualifying for the sale.

The receiving protocol has remained the same for the past several years. Each bull is assigned a new ear tag, which carries his test station number, and all other temporary identification is removed. Each is treated for internal and external parasites, receives an I.M. vaccination with a modified live product for respiratory infection and a dose of nasalgen. Bulls are then grouped into pens of approximately 20 head. Breeds are segregated as space and numbers allow.

The 28 day warm up period allows time for all the bulls to acclimate to their new surroundings and establish the social structure of each pen before the test starts.

Anyone living in or traveling through southwestern Wisconsin is encouraged to stop by the station at the UW-P Farm, four miles south east of Platteville on College Farm Road and have a look. Visitors are always welcome and you can usually find a current report out front to refer to as you walk the pens.