This Week’s Headlines
Bull sales welcoming in spring season
By JANE W. GRAHAM
(March 29, 2016) One of the rituals of spring arriving in Virginia is the series of bull sales held across the state in late March and April.
This year, beef cattle producers have a wide variety of sales to attend to find the perfect herd bulls.
A quick glance through The Virginia Cattleman, can give industry members an indication of what is out there, when the sales are being held and who is selling. Some of the sales are sponsored by the state’s Beef Cattle Improvement Association, while others are sponsored by breed associations.
More are conducted by private producers acting on their own or with more than one farm participating.
These sales provide commercial cattle producers opportunities to find quality young herd sires in an efficient manner and helps them reduce travel time and effort looking for good bulls.
Two of the patriarchs of the seed stock segment of the Virginia cattle industry threw some light on how these sales have grown and developed recently in separate telephone interviews.
Tom Templeton, a veteran leader in the Virginia Angus Association, and James Bennett, head of his family’s Knoll Crest Farm at Red House, Va., talked about how the sales have evolved and helped the industry over their lifetimes.
He explained that registered weaned bull calves are placed in the BCIA feeding tests to be evaluated and the top two-thirds of them are then offered for sale in the annual events. He said this has helped improve the genetics of Virginia’s commercial cow herd.
Bennett said the first BCIA bull test was done at his Knoll Crest Farm with the first sale being held in 1972. He ran the operation until 1998. Bennett said in those 26 years the station known as the Red House Bull Evaluation Center had served its purpose.
Changes in the industry and his family allowed Knoll Crest to begin holding its own private sales. The farm has a fall and a spring sale. Bennett’s three sons and a grandson have joined in the farm operation as it has expanded and added breeds.
Their spring sale is set for April 9 at Knoll Crest.
When the evaluation center at Red House started there were very few cattle in Southside Virginia, he said. Tobacco was the main crop in the area. As tobacco and other crop production has declined, cattle have become much more prevalent in Southside pastures, Bennett said. He said the BCIA sales have influenced this development and led to the creation of numerous private bull sales across the area. This appears to be the trend across the state as well.
Templeton is currently working on a heifer sale called the Genetic Investment Sale to be held April 15 at the Virginia Beef Expo on the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg.
The BCIA’s annual Southwest Virginia Bull Test Sale was held in Wytheville on March 26.
An open house was held at Hillwinds Farms, site of the test station March 20. Tim Sutphin is farm owner and operates this test.
This is one of two BCIA test station sales in the state.
The other sale is at Culpeper in December. The test is conducted on the Glenmary Farm in Orange County, owned by Tom and Kim Nixon.
Dr. Scott Greiner, Virginia Tech Extension beef specialist and BCIA advisor, said in a news release that about 150 bulls will be offered at the sale.
“These bulls will represent the top end of the 92 fall-born senior bulls and 132 spring-born junior bulls currently being developed” at the station, Greiner said.
“Only bulls which meet stringent BCIA criteria will sell,” Greiner said. “This includes complete breeding soundness exams.”
It also includes semen evaluation on the fall-born bulls and enhanced soundness and fertility guarantee on all bulls selling. Volume buyer discounts will be offered.
A BCIA-Influenced Bred Heifer sale will be conducted in conjunction with this sale, Greiner added.
All the heifers are AI bred and certified through the Virginia Assured Heifer Program.
An example of the private on-farm bull sales scheduled in upcoming months is the “Pick of the Pen” Bull Sale, set for April 2 at McDonald Farms near Blacksburg.
This is the 13th year the family, now in the seventh and eighth generation of farmers, has offered this sale.
April 2 is also the date of the 38th Wye Angus Sale at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown, Md., beginning at noon and selling 37 yearling bulls.
As he drove across the hillsides of his family farm, McDonald discussed a trait many people associate with bulls, aggressiveness.
He noted the industry is working through genetics to reduce this kind of behavior in beef cattle, both bulls and cows.
McDonald said there is now a docility Expected Progeny Development trait for most of the predominate beef breeds.
He cautioned that the hard part in trying to breed for docility is not making cows so docile that they will not protect their calves.
The McDonalds produce both Simmental and Angus registered breeding stock on their farm.
They will be joined for the fourth year by a guest consigner, Black Creek Farm operated by Jim and Kim McKenzie of Rural Retreat, Va.