Angus Australia


Purchasing Bulls

Bulls with unknown fertility may affect the function and profitability of your herd well into the next decade.4 When selecting a bull for your herd, you should consider a bull that will provide the best value for the financial outlay and match your herd’s breeding objectives.

When buying your bull, avoid common pitfalls of:[5]

  • paying too much for the apparent ‘super bull’ when the second best bull is better value
  • paying too much for the worst bull in a sale catalogue because he was less expensive

Use the following as a guide to determine your breeding objectives. It may be helpful to rank your selection criteria in priority order, to help you make a choice between bulls that will generally meet your selection criteria.[6]

  • Traits of economic importance
  • Customer market requirements
  • Herd production targets
  • Current herd performance
  • Breeding goals and selection criteria

Factors to Consider

Veterinary bull breeding soundness examination (VBBSE) – The VBBSE is a relatively quick and economic procedure for screening bulls prior to sale or use.[7] The correct application of VBBSE principles may result in overall improvements in herd fertility rates and can help reduce bull numbers to enhance profitability.[7]

Temperament – Inspect the bulls in the yards or paddock before sale and note any unusual behaviour e.g. those who continually push to the centre of a mob, run around, or are unreasonably nervous, aggressive or excited.[8]

Estimated breeding values (EBVs) – EBVs can provide a fairly accurate estimate of the genetic potential for a trait and can be used to help identify the best bulls for the breeding program depending on your breeding objectives.[5]

Vaccinations and health treatments – Only buy bulls that come with information about the vaccinations and health treatments they have received.

  • Obtain records of treatment programs, including date of treatment and batch number of vaccine used
  • Check if he has been vaccinated for Vibriosis? Leptospirosis? Three-day sickness? Pestivirus? Have two initial doses been given? When are booster doses due?


Relate the price you can ‘afford’ for a bull to the bull’s potential earning capacity. The most profitable bulls for your herd will be those with the greatest difference between predicted earning capacity and purchased price.[5]

Avoid successive bull purchases from a common parent. Inbreeding is a major impediment to the genetic progress of a herd.[5]

The accuracies of the EBV presented should be indicative of whether a  bull breeder is recording all important traits. As a guide, young bulls should have all EBVs displayed with accuracies between 50–60% for weight.[5]

Ensure your bull supplier is accurately recording all possible traits associated with traits that are economically important to your breeding program.[5]

If you intend to purchase insurance on the day of sale, check what pre-examinations may be required. Insurers frequently require a veterinary examination. Ask your veterinarian about appropriate risk prevention in your region prior to bull purchases.[9]