Life on the Farm: Better steaks start with better genetics on the farm

Circle A Angus bull sale draws hundreds to find a premium bull to improve genetics in their herd.

You might expect to spend $15,000 on a car or a down payment for a house, but one farmer spent that much to get a good breeding bull.

KRCG's Teresa Snow takes you to a cattle auction in Miller county that drew ranchers from across the country. The attached video shows you the bulls that are bringing thousands and the auction where they are showcased.

Jeff Gatlin came from Mississippi to the auction in late October. Last year he bought the top selling bull for $15,000. This year he can laugh about it. He's optimistic he's already getting his money's worth.

"We're real proud of our purchase," says Gatlin. "He was worth the $15,000."

Gatlin can collect semen from his prized bulls and breed hundreds of cows, and sell the semen as well.

Of the 106 bulls sold by Circle A Angus, the average price for an 18 month old bull was $4660. Gatlin bought the highest priced bull again this year spending $8500.

So what make a bull worth all that?

"Genetics are what make them more money," says Nick Hammett, marketing manager for Circle A Angus.

Each animal is rated with a series of scores based on their family tree.

"We have their individual data that goes into the analysis," explains Hammett. "We also have the data from their sire their damn, their cousins, their half brothers... every animal their related to goes into that analysis to come up with a genetic prediction for these different traits."

Traits these ranchers look for are bulls that produce small calves, allowing them to give birth more easily, and calves that gain weight quickly, requiring less grain per pound of gain. A detailed sale catalog helps producers to follow the numbers called EPD's or Expected Progeny Differences. "We collect a lot of data," says Hammett. "We measure their weight at birth, at weaning, at yearling. We do ultrasound on their carcasses so we can measure how much back fat, how much ribeye how much marbling those cattle have. We submit all that data to our Angus Association who calculates breeding values for us, so every animal in our pastures has a breeding value for about 15 different traits."

Ranchers who buy these premium bulls can earn more money per head if they sell their calves back to Circle A at weaning, or for those who keep their cattle until slaughter, they can more money if the meat gets a high grade for quality. Hammett says on an average animal, that equates to $160 more if the meat rates Choice, $200 more for Prime.

Andy Curtis of Ashland bought a bull at the sale. He's convinced good genetics do matter.

"We feel like that the bull is half of your herd," says Curtis. "It's a really big deal for us to get a decent bull to breed to our calves, because we think we're going to throw better calves."

Circle A Ranch is rated by the National Beef Cattleman's Association to be one of the top 25 cow- calf operations in the nation. Sydenstricker in Mexico ranks in the top 25 of seed stock producers. Their annual sale is November 23rd in Mexico. ã??ã??

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