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Midland Bull Test is the granddaddy of performance testing

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Columbus, Mont. – The Midland Bull Test was started in 1962 by Leo McDonnell, Sr. with a small group of purebred breeders. This year, the program tested roughly 800-plus bulls from over 110 consignors representing 24 states. Each year, the test develops more than 2,000 bulls.  

The bulls are consigned in the fall to a 112-day performance test, and the top 80 percent are sold in the Final Sort Sale. 

The test is home to the largest feed efficiency testing program in North America. The Williams and McDonnell families say producers come back year after year because they trust the test results. 

“Midland Bull Test has consistently topped sales across the U.S. and is proud of its elite list of graduates,” they note on their webpage. “We boast a large number of repeat sale buyers who assert their loyalty to proven results year after year. We are a family operation dedicated to the improvement of the beef cattle industry as we identify superior performing individuals and bloodlines within breeds.”  


The concept of Midland Bull Test was to weigh and measure cattle and publish results for birth and weaning weights, dam’s production and yearling weights. Although, it wasn’t met favorably by most of the purebred industry at first, it went on to become a trusted testing program and seedstock source for cattle producers.  

At the time, the ranching industry dominated much of the West, and cattlemen made their living from open rangeland and pastures. The primary reason for beef cattle was to convert forages from these rangelands into marketable beef for consumers. Additionally, there was not a way to truly identify efficient cattle. 

McDonnell, Sr. and the Montana Beef Performance Group developed the Midland Bull Test based on sharing information and identifying animals with improved performance.

Throughout the 1960s-70s, Midland Bull Test continued to define, refine and promote performance as a primary tool to manage the profitability of a cow herd. 

Midland today 

The McDonnell and Williams families mention Midland Bull Test continues to place an emphasis on balanced performance. The test observes and records average daily gain, weight per day of age, feed efficiency and breeding soundness, along with conducting ultrasounds. 

“Such a special bull comes out of Midland Bull Test because of all of the selection pressure,” shares Leo McDonnell, Jr. in an AngusTV YouTube video, celebrating 50 years of performance testing. “There is nowhere else in the world where producers can find bulls through such a strict criteria process.” 


Midland Bull Test utilizes the GrowSafe System to measure feed efficiency of each individual bull. Electronic identification tags are able to track consumption to determine pounds of gain compared to pounds of intake. 

Feed efficiency is a highly heritable trait, and producers can make rapid improvement in the efficiency of their herds by using highly-efficient bulls identified through the Midland Bull Test program.  

“The Midland Bull Test Efficiency Test is a 49-day test, done within the 120-day performance testing period for bulls,” the Williams and McDonnell families say. “All bulls on test at Midland Bull Test are efficiency tested.” 

GrowSafe data is used to determine the Residual Feed Intake (RFI) – correlating pounds of gain to pounds of intake to determine the cost of gain. 

The McDonnell and Williams families say efficiency is one of the top ways for ranchers to maximize profits. 

“Ranchers have the potential to maintain the same production by reducing input costs,” notes McConnell, Jr. “A lot of times it doesn’t work this way. Many times, one has to lower their production in order to lower their input costs.”

He adds, “There’s tremendous opportunity in identifying these kind of efficiencies.”  

Sale day 

This year, Midland Bull Test has nearly 850 top-end bulls featured in the Final Sort Sale held in Columbus, Mont. on April 6-7, beginning at 11 a.m. both days. 

Salers, Simmental, Gelbvieh, Charolais, South Devon, Hereford, Red Angus, Chiangus and LimFlex bulls will be sold on April 6. Angus bulls will sell on April 7. 

Performance award presentations will be held prior to the sale of each breed. The sale order is determined by the Midland Bull Test Index and estimated sale value, and sale order will be posted online and available sale day. 

Each animal will be sold to the highest bidder with the auctioneer settling any differences. Cattle will sell according to health regulations of the state of Montana. A transferred certificate of registry will be furnished to the buyer for each animal after settlement has been made. 

Bulls sold into states requiring trichomoniasis testing will be tested after the sale, and trucking arrangements will be made in short order. 

Cattle will be delivered to central locations, such as stockyards, in the lower 48 states. More information on delivery is available in the Midland Bull Test Final Sort Sale catalog. 

The sale will be broadcasted live via CCI Live at Buyers may bid online or use telephone bid lines at 406-322-9911 or 406-322-9044. All buyers must register prior to the sale, and new buyers must provide bank references. 

Joe Goggins and Greg Goggins will serve as auctioneers for the sale. Breed field representatives and livestock publication representatives will also be available. 

A sale catalog is available at On sale day, other information will be available online or by calling 406-322-5597, 406-322-9911 or 406-322-9044. 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Information in this article was compiled from the Midland Bull Test reports, catalog and website. Send comments on this article to

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