Weather delays, but doesn’t dampen, Edisto Forage Bull Test
BLACKVILLE — Even the strongest Atlantic hurricane in nearly a decade couldn’t stop the bulls in Blackville. At its worst, all Hurricane Matthew could do was delay their sale.
The storm-delayed Edisto Forage Bull Test, held annually at Clemson University’s Edisto Research and Education Center, drew more than 100 buyers from three states as well as an Internet audience to compete for a chance to own one of the grass-fed bulls.
“A week before the sale, the wind was blowing 50 miles per hour sideways,” said Scott Sell, a Clemson Extension specialist who directs the bull test. “Given the conditions and the rescheduling and the state of the market now, this was absolutely a great sale.”
The Clemson Extension Service holds the test to help cattle producers identify superior genetics in bulls that will help improve the next generation of beef cattle for South Carolina farmers.
Unlike other bull tests, the Edisto test feeds the bulls only pasture grass — not more fattening grain — to measure the bulls’ ability to gain weight efficiently on the same diet their offspring will have.
“We’re looking for efficiency in how that animal gains weight so that the genetic traits of the bull will be passed along to its offspring,” Sell said. “It’s important that we manage this test on grass because that’s how Southeastern cow-calf operators manage their herds. Efficiency in feed conversion has a big impact on profit for the beef producer.”
The bulls were monitored throughout the test and graded on three scales: average daily weight gain during the test, weight per day of age at the end of the test and a closely-watched index that takes both those measures into account.
At the end of the test, the forage-fed bulls are auctioned to cattle producers looking to improve their breeding stock. Despite the weak-long weather delay, the Oct. 15 sale garnered an average of more than $2,400 per bull.
“This probably was the best set of bulls we’ve had in the past four years — not just the look of them, but their performance indices,” Sell said.
The top-performing bull, a Charolais cross from Tom Mayo of Stewart County, Georgia, posted an average daily weight gain of 3.58 pounds and a 6.4 index score.
A new crop of bulls for the 2017 test will enter the pastures of Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center in December.