Developing Bulls

    Many purebred bulls are marketed between 12 and 24 months of age. The purchasers of these bulls indicate that they do not want them overly fat yet purchase price trends indicate that if the bulls are not carrying a little extra flesh then they will not bring top dollar.  The key issues that most producers are concerned with are the following:  adequate energy for proper development and some fleshiness, limit the possibility of founder/hoof problems, limit labor, and the system should not cost “an arm and a leg”.  I have outlined an example that might be used, obviously many variations of this overall plan exist.

Examples for Developing Bulls

Option 1
    Bull calves born October - December.  Weaned at 550 to 650 pounds.  Wean in a small, sturdy pen with excellent quality hay and 5 pounds of soybean hulls per bull per day for the first two weeks.  At this point move them to a larger pasture with free-choice hay and continual increasing of soyhulls until a feeding rate of 2% of body weight is attained (e.g., 700-pound bulls consuming 14 pounds per day).  Increase amount fed as bulls gain weight always aiming for the 2% of body weight level.  It is important to incorporate some type of bloat prevention program (best to mix an ionophore into the feed or next best is to feed a mineral containing the ionophore; e.g., Bovatec).  It also helps to make the bulls move around by placing the mineral supplement away from the feed bunk which are both away from the water soource.  Also, it is very important to provide free-choice access to long-stem fiber.  This should gain the bulls at a rate of 3 pounds/day until they could be sold as yearlings in November.  Obviously, some will gain much better that others depending on genetic potential.  An example of some production data involving crossbred steers, rather than purebred bulls, is shown below:

Results from Winfield, AL, Upper Coastal Plain Substation

Twenty steers weaned in July and backgrounded for 134 days prior to shipment.

Initial weight = 430 pounds
Final weight = 746 pounds
ADG = 2.36 pounds      individual animals ranged from 1.85 to 3.09

Kept on approximately 20 acres of bermudagrass and given free-choice soyhulls ($85/ton) and mineral ($13.00/bag).

Feed costs per pound of gain were $.29  =  $92.99/head for the 134-day period

Advantages:  Good growth, little labor, acceptable cost

Disadvantages:  Potential for bloat

Option 2
    Use of broiler litter.  For all of the particulars on feeding litter refer to the publication link below.  In general, bulls can be developed on a 50:50 mix of broiler litter and corn or the corn can be replaced with other energy-based feeds such as soyhulls.  In some cases, it may be desirable to use more energy feed and less litter to increase the rate of gain.  A 50:50 mix will probably grow the bulls at an average of 2.5 to 2.75 pounds per day.  Many bulls have been foundered by incorporating this much corn into the mix, so it is important to mix the feed thoroughly and practice good feed bunk management.  The following are some mixes containing 40% broiler litter.  All of these mixes should contain an ionophore (e.g., Bovatec or Rumensin) and be fed along with free-choice, long-stem roughage.  Do not exceed 20% whole cottonseed in the mix.

        40% litter, 60% cracked corn
        40% litter, 30% cracked corn, 30% soyhulls
        40% litter, 20% cracked corn, 20% soyhulls, 20% whole cottonseed
        40% litter, 60% soyhulls

Option 3
    Use of winter annuals.  An excellent way to devlop bulls is grazing them on winter annuals (rye, wheat, oats, ryegrass) if the grazing season coincides with the bull development time period.

Option 4
    Use of summer annuals.  Usually not very cost effective.  The amount of productivity versus the cost per acre make them a rather expensive choice.  This is further complicated by the erratic rainfall that is prevalent during that time of the year.

Option 5
    Use of commercially available "bull test feeds".  Many feed dealers market a feed that is promoted as a "bull test feed".  Obviously there is some variation but here is what I would look for in such a feed:

    1)  30% roughage - generally this is cottonseed hulls, this is a good roughage source. Roughage sources to avoid - rice hulls, pelleted peanut hulls, neither of these are good roughage sources.

    2)  some cracked corn in the diet along with some energy feeds that contain less starch (e.g., soyhulls, oats, citrus pulp).  The sum total of all energy feeds should be around 50% to 60% of the total.

    3)  about 8 to 10% soybean or cottonseed meal to get a protein content of approximately 13% in the diet.  This percentage can be decreased as the bulls get older and larger.

    4)  most will contain 5 to 7% molasses to stick it all together and increase palatability.

    5)  will need a mineral package added as well as incorporation of an ionophore.

    6)  look for a feed that is about 68 to 70% TDN.

Option 6
    Contract someone else to do it.