Bulls by the Number


Come freezing temps, mud, rain or sunshine…it’s bull sale season in the Midwest.  If your ranch is anything like ours, this time of year we spend our nights shuffling through sale catalogs, discussing EPDs and reaching out the sellers.

Each year brings a new set of offerings that could bring your herd to the next level, but before you even set foot on the place to purchase a new herd bull, you have some factors to sort through.

Logan Hoffmann with DVAuction says it’s important to first narrow down what your goal is for your herd. This will help highlight key areas of where your herd needs improvement “whether that be in calving ease, low birth weights, performance, carcass weights or maternal”.

EPDs Defined

According to the Beef Cattle Research Council, Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) are estimates of an animal’s genetic merit as a parent. EPDs are the difference between the predicted average performance of an animal’s future progeny and the average progeny performance of another animal whose EPD is zero, assuming that the bulls are mated to similar cows, or vice versa. For example, if Bull A has a birthweight EPD of +9.0 lbs and Bull B has a birthweight EPD of +3.0 lbs, this means that Bull A’s calves will have birthweights that are 6 lbs heavier than whatever the birthweight of Bull B’s calves are, on average.

Meant for Comparison

That being said EPDs are meant for comparison among the breed.  There really are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ EPDs, rather a range and if viewed in the proper context. “When you’re studying performance, you want to compare them to their contemporary.” says Hoffmann.

Breed associations publish percentile breakdowns or that ‘range’ to show how individual bulls compare to the rest of the breed in each EPD category. These are updated yearly to keep up with the improvements of breed genetics. You can find the links to common Midwest breed percentile breakdowns at the bottom of this article.

Understanding your herd and where improvements need to be made is a great start to purchasing a bull that is right for you. Using EPDs effectively and understanding the values in the proper context will help bring your herd to the next level.


EPD Percentiles – Red Angus

Read the Results (angus.org)

Purebred Simmental Percentiles (herdbook.org)

JAN2021_BreedAverages.pdf (charolaisusa.com)