Bull Prices Higher

Customized Bull Selection Maximizes Investment Dollar

The best bull for an operation varies with production and marketing goals. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo by Victoria G. Myers)

Bull prices continue to climb this year, with recent sales reports showing average prices for that new commercial herd sire in the $10,000-to-$20,000 range. While few would argue a good bull is a worthwhile investment, it has become a sizeable one.

Just how much should an operation invest in a herd bull? That question came up in a Cattlemen's Conference session led by University of Nebraska animal scientist Matt Spangler at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association summer meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, this month. Spangler has a new tool he hopes producers will use to analyze and compare bull prices, based on the operation and its unique set of goals.

Funded by a USDA grant, Spangler, along with colleagues from the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Kansas State University and Theta Solutions LLC, developed iGenDec, a new software tool that enables a producer to customize the bull-selection process. Rather than relying solely on selection indexes provided by breed associations, producers will be able to use this software to plug in information from their own operations and get customized economic selection indexes.

For example, a producer selling calves at weaning rather than backgrounding may find the most profitable bull for that operation is different from that of another operation, based on those unique marketing goals.


The breed composition of the calf crop is an important part of the iGenDec equation. A producer who retains ownership and sells on the grid would enter into the calculation finished calves' average feedlot and carcass information. The software will even ask for the average price received for cattle. Spangler recommends using a multi-year average.


Here, producers supply information ranging from a herd's dystocia percentage, pregnancy rate, average cow age and annual cow cost. Whether a producer buys or raises replacement heifers also influences the index.


After entering numbers for the herd, data is put into the program for available bulls, including bulls from different breeds. The software is designed so a producer can enter and rank an entire digital bull catalog before going to a sale.

Spangler explained, "You can rank those bulls based on their genetic differences and the unique objectives and economics of your operation."

Spangler noted iGenDec has gone through extensive alpha and beta testing. The Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) formed a subcommittee to investigate the possibility of hosting the software and making it widely available to the U.S. beef industry.

Producers can look for this new software tool to become available sometime in early 2022.

For more information: https://www.ars.usda.gov/…