The question that ranchers have been asking for a long time now, or at least as long as we have been breeding cattle with a notion of trying to make the next generation better. It is a classic and timeless question. It is an important question.
Many times the answer given will be something along the lines of “A good bull is worth the value of five calves he sires.” It is a good answer and a good rule of thumb to follow but it doesn’t exactly narrow down the range. In fact, it may lead to further questions, such as, ‘When are you marketing your calves?’ and/or ‘What is the value of these calves?’.
According to the most recent USDA Cattle Market Report from Oklahoma National Stockyards:
523lb. weaned steer calves are worth about $2.31/lb. for a value of $1,208 per head. Therefore, if your future marketing plan is to sell weaned steers, $1,208 x 5 = $6,040 is the answer.
874 lb. yearling steers (Large, 1) are worth about $1.78/lb. for a value of $1,555 per head. Therefore, if your future marketing plan is to sell yearling steers, $1,555 x 5 = $7,775 is the answer.
1,400 lb. finished beef steers are worth $164.50/cwt live for a value of $2,303 each. Therefore, if your future marketing plan is to retain ownership through finishing and sell fed cattle on a carcass value basis, $2,303 x 5 = $11,515 is the answer.
So, in the current market, a good bull is worth somewhere between $6,040 – $11,515 to a commercial cattle operation. Where exactly in that range depends on your marketing plan and the market conditions at that time. It is not possible to give an exact figure here because there are so many different factors and variables but it should give you a rough idea. One key point illustrated here is that the longer you will own the offspring before marketing, the greater the value of the bull to your operation. Retained ownership gives you more time and opportunity to capture the value of your investment in genetics. And we haven’t even considered the value added to replacement females if we select daughters as our next generation of cows.
For cow-calf operations it is advisable to consider the production system and marketing plan in order to determine where to apply selection pressure. Genetics will pay when you purchase a bull capable of improving genetic potential for the specific traits that will translate to added value at your intended marketing point.
For many cow-calf producers, cutting costs has become a matter of survival. But when it comes to the bottom line, lower costs will get you only halfway. You must also increase the performance of and add value to your calf crop to stay competitive. Because 80% of herd improvement is directly attributable to bull selection, determining what you can pay for a bull depends on more than finding the lowest price.
Get in touch if you are interested in the best quality of grass-fed beef that North California has to offer.