IMG_0797PENDLETON — Dusty boots, tipped-back cowboy hats and high expectations ringed the red corral. Auction day had come to the annual Clemson University Bull Test.

To the mesmerizing chant of the auctioneer, each of 55 bulls strutted through the freshly saw-dusted corral. As one galloped out, another one trotted in, their black coats glistening under fluorescent lights.

Having completed 112 days in a feedlot test, the bulls garnered a record-setting $2,975 average price in the auction at Clemson’s T. Ed Garrison Livestock Arena.

IMG_0739“From top to bottom, I think this is one of the best sets of bulls we have had in several years,” said Matthew Burns, Clemson Extension beef specialist and test manager.

The Clemson Bull Test, conducted Jan. 31 at the university’s nearby Simpson research station, gives South Carolina cattle producers valuable insight into each how efficiently bulls gain weight. (See video from the 2014 Bull Sale.)

“An efficient bull is one who gains a lot of weight quickly on the least amount of feed,” Burns said, explaining that this trait is passed along to the bull’s offspring.

Feed is one of cattle producers’ largest expenses. The more weight cattle gain on a single pound of feed, the more profit they yield.

Burns uses an electronic monitoring system that tracks each bull’s feed intake during the test and then shares the data with national breed associations after the test. The Clemson test is one of only a few in the country to collect this kind of data, which is used to create feed-conversion standards for different breeds.

“At the sale, buyers base their selections on these numbers, which are all listed next to each bull in the sale catalog,” Burns said. “The test compares bulls in the same age group and breed, so we get a clear picture of what to expect.”

This data is especially important in a state like South Carolina, where most cattle herds are relatively small and cattle producers are focused on breeding calves rather than raising cattle for slaughter.

Small farms typically don’t have the resources to conduct such research making the Clemson data more valuable to Palmetto State producers looking to raise high-quality breeding stock.

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