MCA-MSU Bull Evaluation Program soft reset

The program is undergoing principal changes including a new manager and state-of-the-art facility construction.

gray colored cow with orange ear tags
Wernette Cattle Co. in Remus, Michigan, is building a new facility in which to conduct the 2022-23 MCA-MSU Bull Evaluation.

While a “hard reset” returns your computer or phone to its factory settings, turning your computer or phone off and on completes a “soft reset,” which allows you to keep your data, work, and functionality you want to keep; it merely refreshes your system and gives a new starting point. The Michigan Cattlemen’s Association (MCA)-Michigan State University (MSU) Bull Evaluation Program will soft reset this fall with a new station manager, Karl Wernette, and a brand new, state-of-the-art evaluation facility, currently under construction, at Wernette Cattle Co., Remus, MI.

The facility will be ready in October and nominations are currently being accepted for its first set of bulls from regional seedstock producers. While much will be new, the program will build upon a 34-year history of beef cattle improvement in preparation for the next sale this coming March.

With principal program changes come opportunities for both reflection and foresight. To continue as the pacesetter of Michigan beef cattle improvement, a reinvigorated future vision of service is now warranted. Traditionally, the bull evaluation has served to assemble bulls from different herds to evaluate post-weaning performance under defined, uniform conditions. The bull test helps inform seedstock breeders and commercial cattle producers about the importance and utilization of performance records and expected progeny differences (EPDs). A centralized Michigan bull test also provides seedstock operators that are too small to support an individual on-farm test, a means to evaluate, advertise, and market bulls from their progressive breeding programs.

Over the last five decades, the needs, standards, and procedures for improving efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of beef cattle production have been firmly established by the collective knowledge of the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF). The BIF Guidelines for Uniform Beef Improvement Programs serves as a strong foundation for Michigan’s program. The following BIF guidelines incorporated by the MCA-MSU bull test will include:

  • Enrolling bulls in their respective breed association performance program to calculate EPDs
  • Maintaining farm contemporary groups and grouping within 90 days of age
  • Providing a pre-test adjustment period
  • Weighing (on- and off-test) on two consecutive days to minimize gut fill effects on calculated weight gains
  • Providing a balanced, free-choice diet with adequate protein (e.g., >11% CP) and energy (e.g., up to 0.50 Mcal NEg/lb.) to allow for expression of genetic differences in growth
  • Conducting the test for a minimum of 112 days to accurately rank growth among bulls
  • Evaluating structural soundness (e.g., claw shape, foot angle, leg set)
  • Conducting a full breeding soundness examination by a qualified veterinarian
  • Providing an adequate exercise area to prepare bulls for breeding rigors

In addition, the MCA-MSU Bull Evaluation Program has and will continue to include:

  • Genomic testing which increases breeding value accuracy and verifies sire parentage
  • Eliminating bulls with lethal genetic defect potential
  • Standardizing the pre-test health program (e.g., vaccinations, deworming, BVDV testing)
  • Evaluating docility throughout the test and removing bulls with unacceptable disposition
  • Setting a minimum allowable growth rate to qualify for sale
  • Estimating carcass value drivers through ultrasound measurement of fat thickness (yield), ribeye area (yield), and intramuscular fat (quality)

All seedstock breeders are invited to consign bulls and all cow-calf producers are invited to review the program and bull offerings in pursuit of beef improvement in Michigan. We would also welcome input on services you would like added to the program in the future. If you have questions or would like to provide input, please contact me, Daniel Buskirk, or any of our Michigan State University Extension beef experts. We would be pleased to talk about how the program may benefit you.

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