Corder's Corner

An Experience to Remember: No Bull About It

A bull sale is an exhilarating time for ranchers. The auctioneer can be heard chanting dollar amounts while a bull displays his quality attributes in an auction ring. The energy of the air permeates a breeder’s anticipation of a once-a-year payday and pride in showing their best bulls. Cattle producers anxiously await the opportunity to bid on their picks of sires for their herds. Locals and out-of-town ranchers share the same sentiments and traditions of building a quality cattle program on their ranch operations.

Like with many important purchases, education and preparation are key to obtaining a bull for buyers with traits that are their top priorities. Clearly define a budget before the sale starts. Closely look over the bull sale catalog and plan to look at the animals before they hit the auction ring. Review the EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences) to see what bulls match what you’re looking for in your program. Programs differ in that one ranch may be focused on breeding cattle whereas another may be looking to sell off calves to the feedlot.

There are a wide variety of EPDs but the most typical metrics in a sale catalog include birth and weaning weights, physical appearance, and performance of the animal and its relatives. You can consider the table below for other commonly used EPDs. (Table courtesy of the University of Montana)


Commonly used EPDs:

EPD EPD Abbr. Unit of Measurement Usefulness of EPD
Calving Ease Direct CED Difference in percentage of unassisted births when bred to first-calf A higher CED value indicates greater calving ease when bred to first-calf heifers.
Birth Weight BW Pounds Indicates a sire’s ability to transmit birth weight to his progeny, a lower value indicates calves that will be lighter at birth.
Weaning Weight WW Pounds Indicates a sire’s ability to transmit weaning growth to his progeny, a higher value indicates calves that will be heavier at weaning.
Milk Milk Pounds Indicates the additional pounds of calf weaned by a bull’s daughters due to milk production. As milk increases, so does a cow’s nutritional requirements.
Yearling Weight YW Pounds Indicates a sire’s ability to transmit yearling weight to his progeny. As yearling weight increases so does mature cow weight.
Ribeye REA Square inches Predicts the difference in ribeye size of a sire’s progeny compared to progeny of other sires.
Marbling Marb Fraction of the difference in USDA marbling score Indicates a sire’s ability to transmit marbling ability to his progeny. A greater value indicates greater marbling potential in offspring.
Scrotal SC Centimeters Predicts the difference in transmitting scrotal size compared to other sires. A larger scrotal size is positively correlated with the fertility of the bull’s offspring.


The EPDs are usually included in the sale catalog. Should a buyer have any questions, they can always contact a breeder before the sale.

The bull sale is an experience to be had. If you’ve never been to one, make sure to put it on your list! It’s also a great chance to see some of the best bulls in the country! It’s not guaranteed that you’ll be the bidder with the highest offer, so be sure to have backup selections. If you’re looking for a Montana farm or ranch, Corder and Associates has a great variety of diverse listings that we’d be happy to give you details on. Our team also includes agents that ranch and can answer any questions you may have.

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