Due to the current Covid-19 situation that is occurring, many basic production practices have had to be altered. Although agriculture is a highly essential function in country’s economy, even beef producers have been affected by the social distancing or quarantine restrictions. This is especially true when it comes to buying bulls for our upcoming breeding season.

Due to the social distancing mandates, many on site bull sales have been cancelled, or modified to be strictly internet based auctions. While this still allows us the ability to buy much needed new germplasm for our herds, it does limit the amount of on-site information that we may have traditionally gathered by attending the bull sale in person. While the current situation is not ideal, could you imagine having to go through this process even 20 years ago?

Currently, many breed associations collect a wide variety of information on their animals in order to provide enough genetic predictions that allow producers to select breeding animals that are more in line with their production needs. While pure internet auctions may not be the best way to do this, it does have some major advantages to just blindly buying a bull sight-unseen. For example, many of the auctions that I have seen that have gone strictly to an internet auction, are making a concerted effort to supply as much information about their bulls (EPD’s, and actual performance data) as possible prior and during the sale. Furthermore, many of these seedstock operations are physically running bulls into the ring during the livestreamed auction so that buyers at least get some real-time phenotypic evaluation of the bulls to see if they match their data, and verify appearance taken on the auction videos.

While the internet auctions are the best option during our current situation, they still have some limitations and may require additional research on the buyer’s part. For example, you are still essentially buying a bull based off of lowly accurate EPD’s, performance data and a video. While this is still good information, you are still buying a bull based off of paperwork. For this reason, it is essential that you reach out to the seedstock operators for any additional information that you may require to make the best purchase necessary. This phone call or email will essentially serve as your in person evaluation of that bull. Furthermore, when you reach out about the bulls you are interested in, the seller may be able to provide some information that solidifies your decision, changes how you had bulls ranked, or steers you in the direction of another bull.

While I know this process is not ideal, it still provides us the tools and information to continue to make genetic progress in our beef herds during these trying times.

For more information, please feel free to contact me at matthew.garcia@usu.edu.