bull at auction

A record crowd and record prices welcomed the 43 bulls and 19 heifers in the 2015 Clemson University Bull Test at the T. Ed Garrison Livestock Arena.
Image Credit: Clemson University

CLEMSON — In the most closely watched test so far this semester, all the students passed with flying colors. Then they were sold.

The 2015 Clemson University Bull Test saw 43 bulls and 19 heifers graduate Feb. 7 at the T. Ed Garrison Livestock Arena, drawing nearly 400 South Carolina cattle producers and record prices at auction.

The test — which measures the amount of weight the animals gain — is designed to identify strong genetic potential the animals can pass along to their offspring.

“With cattle herds at historic modern lows, good genetics has never been so important,” said Matthew Burns, a Clemson Extension animal scientist and coordinator of the bull test. “Cattle producers today rely on efficiency, and efficient weight gain will help them reduce feed costs and improve profits.”

cattle producers

Cattle producers from across South Carolina come to the Clemson Bull Test to identify animals with the genetic potential to increase the efficiency of their herds.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Proof of the concept came in the prices the animals received at auction: Heifers in the test averaged nearly $2,000, the bulls more than $4,600. Both marks shattered previous records.

“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,” Burns 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.”

Cattle breeders from across the state and region enter their bulls in the annual test, which concludes with a sale at auction. The bulls began the test in September at the Clemson Beef Cattle Farm on the Simpson Experiment Station near Pendleton.

The bulls and heifers drew more than $230,000 at auction. In 34 Clemson sales since 1981, 1,582 bulls have been sold for more than $3 million.

bulls in barn

Before the auction, cattle producers tour the barn at the Garrison Arena to get a close-up view of the bulls in the annual test. Statistics are made available that show how much weight each animal gained and the amount of feed it consumed during the length of the test.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Burns uses an electronic monitoring system that tracks each bull’s feed intake during the test. Those numbers are published in the sale catalog for buyers. The data is also used to create feed-conversion standards for different breeds.

The performance record also reports “residual feed intake,” or RFI, a statistic that helps indicate each animal’s feed conversion efficiency.

“The RFI tells the cattle producer more than just growth rate alone,” Burns said. “It measures efficiency in feed conversion, which is especially important because feed is among the largest expenses in a cattle operation.”