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Midland Bull Test highlights efficiency, develops new index in 52nd year

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Midland Bull Test recently concluded the 52nd year of performance testing bulls. 

Many of the nation’s top producers consigned bulls to the Test to see how their best compete against the best from across the country. 

Efficiency focus

The greatest potential for improving profitability in beef production is to improve feed efficiency. 

Midland Bull Test began using GrowSafe Feed Intake equipment several years ago for this purpose. By measuring feed intake of each bull on test, genetics of the bulls can be compared for feed efficiency just as they are compared for growth, carcass and other traits. 

Two of the most important traits influencing feed efficiency are gain and energy metabolism. 

Gain is important because the rate of gain for a calf typically correlates to its feed efficiency. Higher rates of gain tend to mean more efficient animals, which equate to fewer days on feed and lower yardage costs. 

Efficiency of energy use, however, has more impact on efficiency and profitability than rate of gain. 


Residual feed intake (RFI) is one measure of efficiency and is different from feed to gain because RFI measures how efficiently the animal uses energy for metabolic functions independent of growth. 

Feed to gain doesn’t separate if the calf is more efficient because it grew faster or was more efficient in using energy for maintenance and growth. 

Midland allows bulls to be selected that are superior for efficient use of energy, using residual feed intake (RFI) and superior growth. 

Efficiency ratio

In addition, Midland Bull Test and veterinarian Monty Kerley developed an index, the efficiency ratio, which uses this information to assign a ranking for each animal. 

The index uses average daily gain and intake, with intake measured as calories required for maintenance and growth and intake of the calf compared to its test group. 

Because gain has less effect on efficiency and profitability than energetic efficiency, gain is weighted at 40 percent and intake is weighted at 60 percent. Intake is evenly divided into energy required for maintenance and growth and intake of each calf compared to the average of the group. 

The reason Midland developed this index is to provide producers a single number that could be used in comparing bulls. 

Typically the most difficult factor in assessing bulls is to determine value of gain and efficiency. 

If the top gaining bull has poor RFI and the top RFI bull has the worst gain, it becomes easy to discount both bulls for use in a breeding program. But how do you evaluate a bull with great gain but average RFI against a bull with average gain but superior RFI?

This index attempts to answer that question and identify the value of two such bulls for any program. 

Sale information

This year’s Midland Bull Test sale will be held at Midland Bull Test in Columbus, Mont. on April 2-4. 

The Salers, Gelbvieh and Simmental will sell on April 2 beginning at 12 noon. Red Angus, South Devon, Hereford and Murray Grey will sell on April 3 at 12 noon, and the Black Angus will sell on April 4 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, on April 4, Kerley will speak about efficiency beginning at 10 a.m. 

Awards and presentations will begin at 10:30 a.m., immediately prior to the sale. 

Joe Goggins, Roger Jacobs and Jim Birdwell will serve as auctioneers for the event. 

All sales will be broadcast live at Bids can be placed over the phone via telephone bidlines or online. However, all buyers must register prior to the sale to obtain a bidder number and password.

Those parties interested in bidding over the phone are encouraged to register early.

A sale order, as well as an online catalog with videos, will be available on the site as well. 

Complimentary dinner and entertainment are available the evening prior to each sale beginning at 6 p.m.

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