Quality Animals Providing Big Value on Oct. 22
After a few years absence, the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association’s (BCIA) Wiregrass Forage Based Bull Evaluation Sale returns October 22 under new management and with a new location.
Test managers Max Bozeman and Larry Reeves of Coffee County’s Advance Genetic Resource, LLC, are gearing up their efforts in the year-long process of evaluating bulls raised under strict guidelines in order to bring cattle producers a group of 40-plus registered bulls ready to go to work as herd sires.
"This is the first year we’ve held the test and sale here, but Larry and I feel like it’s an important opportunity for cattle owners in our area, and worth our time and work to make it happen," Bozeman said.
"In past years, many of the bulls that were tested and auctioned through this sale went to herds in this part of the state, and offering quality bulls with this kind of extensive data behind them has done so much good for the beef producers in our area," Bozeman added.
Extension Agent Rickey Hudson echoed the sentiment that cattle producers in the Wiregrass and surrounding areas have missed the sale in recent years.
"I’d say in past years the majority of the bulls sold have gone to work in herds within 50 miles of the testing site, and locals have been clamoring for the BCIA to bring back this test because they see the value in these [comparatively] older bulls. Most bull tests are done on feed rather than forage and they sell the bulls as yearlings, which means they need another year of feeding before they are ready to go to work. When these bulls leave the sale this October, they’ll be ready to breed and acclimated to a grass-feeding system," Hudson explained.
Bulls nominated for the test were born between October 15, 2009, and January 31, 2010, registered with their specific breed organization and met other extensive BCIA criteria for health, size and soundness. Since their arrival last fall at the Advance Genetic Resource facility near Elba, the bulls have been on forage only, and the data collected on their rates of gain has impressed both Reeves and Bozeman.
"The grazing test itself lasted 147 days on winter grazing, and some of these bulls gained an average of four-and-a-half pounds a day," Bozeman said, adding he and Reeves hope to keep the bulls on forage-only right up until the sale date.
"With the weather being what it has this year, we’re hoping for enough rain that the pastures will continue to support the bulls. Most people are going to graze their cattle, not feed them, so we hope to give the buyers an accurate look at the bulls on grazing at sale time in addition to the data collected thus far," Reeves explained, adding average daily gain is only one piece of information available to prospective buyers.
"These bulls all had to meet the same vaccination criteria before entering the test, each bull will be given a breeding soundness exam and ultrasound carcass data will be collected. These bulls will have the data for producers to see what each bull’s progeny can do. And, because this is the only grazing test in Alabama, buyers can feel confident these bulls can withstand normal stresses since they’ve been raised in the same real-world conditions they’ll be expected to live and work in," Reeves continued.
And Hudson reiterates the idea that these aren’t simply big bulls, but quality animals that can mean big value to calf crops.
"I’ve been involved in these bull tests for more than 20 years and, from top-to-bottom, I think this is the finest group of bulls yet," he said.
In addition to the more than 40 coming two-year-old bulls offered for sale, Bozeman and Reeves also have a large group of bred heifers they will sort and sell in lots.
"These are nice commercial heifers bred to calving-ease Angus bulls due to calve November to January. We’ll likely sort them to sell in pens of three to five after the bulls have sold. We originally hoped this would offer something extra to prospective buyers, but now we’re hoping to help keep the cow business in our area going," Bozeman said, referring to this year’s drought conditions forcing so many Alabama producers to liquidate their herds for lack of pasture.
"In this part of the state, cows used to be a sideline for that piece of farm property not suitable for row crops, but people have started to realize spending a little more on improving their cattle operation can help make a lot more profit on them," Bozeman continued.
With the sale date approaching, Reeves and Bozeman still have details to work out and work to do in preparation for the sale.
"We’ve still got a lot of holes to dig and panels to put up, but this has already been a great learning experience for both of us, and we’re both enjoying the day-to-day work of it all. Since the bulls arrived last fall, we’ve been with them at least twice a day every day, and Max and I often meet at the gate as one of us is leaving and the other is coming," Reeves said.
Both Reeves and Bozeman also emphasize how important their local Quality Co-ops have been to their efforts.
"Fencing supplies, seed, fertilizer, you name it. We’ve gotten tons of materials from the Co-ops making it possible for us to hold the grazing test here," Bozeman said.
"And they’re run by people who want to help their customers. Ricky Wilkes in Enterprise, Ben Courson in Opp and Jon Courson in Elba have all been really good to help us find and get what we need," Reeves added.
As the sale approaches, buyers can find more information at www.albcia.com or by calling Wiregrass Extension Agent Rickey Hudson at (334) 693-2010.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.