Where Do The Bulls Go?
DCC Ranch e-News #134 - 3-20-26
by Darol Dickinson
Facebook is full of young Texas Longhorn bull photos with questions. Is my bull a herd sire prospect? Should I sell him as a steer? Everyone must learn to make these choices for the right reasons and for the most profit. Let's break down the percentages, the up-side, easy stuff and hard stuff.
After making several dozen calls to producers, gathering data, I am of the opinion this is a continuous dilemma. Also, it is a moving target. I hope this article will help producers make this a profitable decision. When a purebred Texas Longhorn bull calf is born their future is likely one of six directions.
- Herd sires. The findings of this projection is that 3.6% of the bulls sell from the original producer to other producers for herd sires. Take into consideration that one bull may serve a herd of 15 cows, but if he is retained for 6 years he will service 90 cows. If a bull is with 60 cows or more, like popular bulls are, they may breed for 13 years to sire 780 calves. TL bulls live longer, stay fertile, stay sound and do not need replaced like an angus or other beef breeds. Less replacement bulls are needed than other breeds.
If a producer wants to sell bulls it is good to have a herd that is well above average - have genetics that will lift other herds to a higher level. The higher your genetics will lift others the more they will sell for. Many are offering bulls below average and not having good success. To sell bulls both sire and dam should be well known. Data should be provided of measurements, weights, and proven performance among peers. A lot of profit can be made with a very good bull, perhaps the most of any animal in the breed.
- Riding Steers. Projected at .03%. There are only a few dozen riding steers in the nation. A riding steer should be wild pretty color, dog gentle with correct legs and good bone. Some riding steers have sold for up to $10,000. To pursue this market they should be halter trained at a young age and start under saddle at age two. There is an untapped business of selling trained riding steers. The more horn the better. Some training is required, but a good profit is possible.
- Exhibition and halter show steers. Projected at .05%. Raising and selling great exhibition steers like Bluegrass for $47,000 is fun - ask Joe Sedlacek. Many other really nice steers have sold for up around the $10,000 mark, but this is not a huge market. Many people love the pasture decoration of awesome steers, but the return is mostly for fun and personal enjoyment/decoration. Steers for this market should be bred to have over 100" horn T2T, be very gentle, nice conformation helps, great wild color really helps and proven horn growth is necessary for the big bucks. A high dollar steer should go over 6' during his third year and over 80" the forth. That will put him in the 100" range at maturity. Then, you have a valuable exhibition steer.
Many kids are showing steers. This is good, if the steer has the above qualifications, he will have good value after halter showing is over. Many steers are judged like generic fed steers and may have won awards, but unless they fit the above data they will not have more than hamburger value. It is still better for kids to show steers, as a sport, than wrestle around with young bulls. Seldom can a kid afford a young bull who will go on to make a high-dollar herd sire; name one? If a kid shows a young bull who is below average horn, he is most likely headed for a hamburger future. Steers are a lot easier and safer for kids to show than young bulls. Show steers will normally grow out and have more salvage value than a bull due to easy maintenance and attitude.
- Roping steers. Projected 13%. Good roping steers need to fit the sack. They need horns with large bases, wider than their ears and be small of stature, like 350 lbs. Ropers like a steer that the horns are strong, who will run a long time, be a little crazy and stay small so they don't jerk a horse around. A big thick steer isn't a roper. A lot of roping steers sell in Texas from $250 to $700. The ideal sire of a roping steer will have lots of horn and weigh about 1000 lbs. The dam of a good roper should weigh 600 to 800 lbs. A lot of steers are sold in the southern states for ropers. The northern cattle generally are larger and don't make the right kind to rope. If you have ton bulls and big cows weighing about 1200 lbs you will not have repeat roper buyers. They will be too big. In Texas as many as 25% will be ropers -- in the north and east more like 4% sell as ropers.
- Feeder Steers. Projected 11%. Good feeder steers need to be processed at live weight around 1150 to 1300 lbs at under 30 months of age. This means good profitable steers must come from good gaining genetics. If the weight of the sire and dam will total over 3000 lbs they will normally feed effeciently. That would be an 1800 lb bull and a 1200 lb cow. If the total of the sire and dam is around 2000 lbs that would be a 1200 bull and 800 cow, those will not have the growth genetics and they will break your heart feeding them with little gain and small profit. From Oklahoma north the number of TL steers that are sold asÂ feeders/freezer beef might be around 23%, but in the south more are ropers and probably less than 5% are fed out.
Good thick feeder steers with large frame and good bone will gain around 3 lbs per day and hang on the rail at 680 to 800 lbs. Many sell on hanging weight which would make an 800 steer fetch around $3200. We encourage every producer of TL cattle to use the thicker genetics and feed steers for the premium of freezer beef selling by the halves or quarters. For the most profit all sales should go direct to the retail consumer not stores or restaurants.
- Local Cattle Auction. Projected 71.6%. The rest of the bulls go to the local spit bucket cattle auction. This liquidation may yield $200 to $500 each depending on an always volital market and size. It gets rid of unwanted males that did not fit in the previous 5 categories, in quick order. This is normally a loss of money considering the cost of cow maintenance per year. Any of the 5 uses rather than the local sale are normally more profitable.
The feeder steer retail beef is a sweet deal if the steers are a body type that will gain. Well, that is where they go. Most underestimate the freezer beef high returns -- don't underestimate it.
Registered Texas Longhorns since 1967
DCCI~~~ Purveyor of “one owner” quality Cattle.