Clemson bull test sale

An Angus bull enters the sales ring before prospective buyers at the 42nd annual Clemson Bull Test.
Image Credit: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

CLEMSON — It’s among the few college tests in which those who pass are immediately hired as sires.

The Clemson University Bull Test graduated its 42nd annual class of bovines in an auction attended by nearly 300 people Feb. 3 at the T. Ed Garrison cattle complex.

More than 50 bulls were sold for a total of $169,850 and immediately went to work improving the genetics of South Carolina cattle herds.

“This is the best group of bulls we’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot,” said Steve Meadows, who directs the test and annual sale. “It speaks to the determination among cattle producers to improve the quality of breeding stock.”

The Clemson Extension Service holds the test to help cattle producers identify superior genetics in bulls that will help improve the next generation of cattle — and profits — in the South Carolina’s beef business.

Bull test

Prospective buyers study data from the Clemson Bull Test showing shows how efficiently each bull coverts feed into meat before entering the annual auction.
Image Credit: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

The bulls, which were consigned by cattle producers from across the Carolinas and Georgia, typically gain roughly 500 pounds in the test. Some average as much as five pounds per day.

“The purpose is to help beef producers make better profits by reducing feed costs,” Meadows said. “The more efficiently bulls in the test gain weight, the more likely they are to pass that trait on to their offspring.”

The bulls began the test in September at the Clemson beef cattle farm at the Simpson Experiment Station near Pendleton. Only 51 of the 76 bulls that entered the test made the grade to be auctioned to cattle producers.

Another 35 open heifers, bred and raised at the university, also were auctioned at the sale, drawing $41,400.

Cattle buyers received a complete record of each animal’s feed intake and weight gain. The report also shows how efficiently the bulls turn feed into meat, a process scientists call “residual feed intake” or RFI.

Steve Meadows and Dale Stith

Clemson’s Steve Meadows (foreground), director of the Bull Test, and auctioneer Dale Stith of Mayslick, Kentucky, preside over the 42nd annual sale.
Image Credit: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

“That’s important because it tells the cattle producer more than just growth rate alone,” Meadows said. “It looks at efficiency in feed conversion.”

A small difference in efficiency could mean well over $100 in the cost of feeding an animal — perhaps the difference between a cattle producer making a profit or losing money.

“The test compares bulls in the same breed and age group, so cattle producers can get a better idea of what kind of performance to expect,” Meadows said. “It all boils down to providing the best genetics possible for the South Carolina cattle industry. We want to give cattle producers every possible competitive advantage.”