Cheryl A. Fairbairn, PSU Animal Science Educator
SELECTING BREEDING BULLS AND
FEMALES FOR A GRASS BASED SYSTEM
Number of cows to service
Ultimate goal for offspring
Weaned heifer calves
Yearling heifer calves
Two year olds
Past herd history
• Where did they originate?
– Environment plays an important part
– Are they able to efficiently convert grass?
– Are the acclimated to your environment?
– What area of the country are they coming from?
– How were they handled?
• Use of EPDs on specific breeds.
• In bulls look for sires that will provide growth
• To be profitable cattle must grow quickly on
grass so optimal growth is a must!
• Cows should be adequate in milk but not
• High milk cows will wean off big calves but
sometimes will not rebreed.
• When grass gets short there is not enough
energy provided to allow them to milk and
• They get thin and then you have an open
• So moderate milk selection is better
• Birth Weight EPD on bulls and females is
Are you always around?
Are you away during the day?
Is there help readily available to pull a calf?
Lower BW EPD’s are the best for many parttime producers or for those who may work
away from the farm.
• It all starts with a live calf!
• Structural soundness is the key to longevity in
• Feet and legs are so important to any
operation because they must be able to get
around and forage.
• Unsound cattle will spend their day laying
down rather than foraging.
• Unsound cattle are often less fertile
• Udders must be sound on females
– Small teats so baby calves can access them easily
– Tight udders are healthy udders
• If they have no suspension they are susceptible to
disease and are not easy for calves to access.
• If teats are large like coke bottles calves cannot get
started on their own and will die if not tended to.
• Do you have time to milk out a cow every time she
• Are their any records on the cattle you are
• Mature cows
– Calving interval
– Average weaning weight
– Dystocia problems
– Mothering ability
• Vaccination and worming schedule
• History of where they have been and where
did they come from
• Breeding Soundness Exams
• Any injuries
• Health papers? Within state and from out of
state makes a difference!
Replacements from your own herd
• Much easier to understand but still not a sure
• Really don’t know until she gets into
• Even the best numbers can fail miserably
• Better bet though because you know the
history and they are acclimated to your
• Don’t just purchase because cattle look the
• Be able to evaluate soundness
• Understand records
• Understand EPD’s for that breed
• If possible look at cows with calves on them
• The cow and calf will tell you a lot!!!