Ohio Bull Test comes to an end

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SALEM, Ohio – After nearly four decades, the Ohio Bull Test program will end this spring. The 37th and final sale will be April 15 at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station in Belle Valley.
The program is being cut, in part, due to Ohio State University budget constraints, biosecurity concerns and advancements in technology, according to Francis Fluharty, a nutritionist for the bull test and a research scientist in the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Program coordinators are also looking to have a larger impact on beef producers by funding other types of programs.
The Ohio Bull Test is a 112-day performance test that analyzes growth potential by measuring traits like average daily gain and weight per day of age. It is a program of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, in cooperation with OSU extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Review committee. Last summer, representatives from the cattlemen’s association and OSU formed a committee to review joint programming. The committee determined funds spent on the Ohio Bull Test would benefit more producers if spent in other ways, such as outreach and on-farm work.
Fluharty said funding a heifer development program instead of the bull test program would have a much greater impact on producers.
“The money is actually better spent working on broader educational programs,” Fluharty said.
A beef program specialist would teach farmers to do on-farm testing and assist them with health, feed and breeding programs.
Heifers in the program would most likely stay on-farm and they would likely be sold as bred heifers at a sale, although plans are tentative.
“We thought it might be more of a service to our membership to have something like that,” said Ohio Cattlemen’s Association President Bill Sexten. “You use a lot more heifers than you do bulls.”
Jim Kinder, chair of the animal sciences department at Ohio State University, said other states have had successful heifer development programs.
Advances. Fluharty said technology has evolved since the Ohio Bull Test began, giving modern beef producers more accurate ways to predict bull performance. The volume of bull test program participants has also dropped, he added.
Sexten agreed technology has changed the way beef producers operate.
“With the advances of new testing procedures and tools available to us, we thought this (the alternative programming) would be a better deal,” he said.
It is important to emphasize the areas most beneficial to Ohio cattle producers, Kinder added.
Kinder also said the use of the bull test for genetic assessment has become antiquated.
“Over time, bull test stations have become outdated with making valid genetic comparisons to improve beef cattle,” he said.
The facility used to house bulls in the program will be used for research once the program ends.
“It’s just time to move on,” Fluharty said.
The committee is considering beginning a seedstock sale in eastern Ohio, similar to the one in Hillsboro, so producers in the eastern portion of the state would have a place to buy and sell bulls. It is looking at the possibility of conducting a privately managed bull test, as well.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at jskrinjar@farmanddairy.com.)

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