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NMSU hosts Tucumcari Performance Bull Test and Sale

New Mexico

For 50 years, cattle producers in the southern High Plains and Southwest have benefited from the New Mexico Beef Cattle Performance Association's performance testing center for bulls located at the New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari.

As one of the country's longest running programs, the testing center will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the annual Tucumcari Bull Sale March 18. Activities will begin March 17 with the annual Buyers Bull Session and Dinner at the Tucumcari Convention Center, 1500 W. Route 66 Blvd.

Since its creation in 1961, bulls from more than 25 different breeds have participated in the 16-week program that gathers objective performance data for improving the probability of beef cattle. Producers from throughout the United States have used the sale to improve the genetics and quality of their herds.

To operate a program continuously for 50 years is a significant milestone that has weathered numerous industry transitions, and bull buyers' preferences.

The original test period consisted of 140 days, but was transitioned to 112 days according to Larry Foster, retired NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist, who managed the test previously.

"When I first started, very few bulls made 1,000 pounds at 365 days weight, but by the end of my time, most bulls were getting over 1,000 pounds," Foster said. Selection of superior genetics has taken the 365-day weight of bulls participating in today's test to more than 1,200 pounds.

Foster said across the country there has also been a tremendous increase in the weaning weight when comparing 1965 data to now.

"It's a phenomenal increase. I think a lot of it is due to performance testing bulls and selecting bulls with superior growth potential," he said.

While the present day test continues to evaluate the bull's genetic potential for growth and efficiency, NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist Manny Encinias and cooperating producers place a significant amount of attention to producing and selling quality, performance-tested bulls.

"Two common observations prospective buyers bring to our attention when visiting the facility today is the large amount of hay we feed the bulls and that the bulls are not roly-poly fat," Encinias said. "Providing these young, growing bulls all the hay they can consume, promotes the development of a healthy rumen environment, which we believe is vital in minimizing body condition loss of these yearling bulls when they are turned out to service cows."

The bull-buying customer has always been an important part of the Tucumcari Bull Test and the business conducted by the New Mexico Beef Cattle Performance Association.

"The action of the association today ties into the original precepts that the group established 50 years ago," Encinias said.

In 2009, the association launched the New Mexico Gold Calf Marketing Program to assist commercial cattle producers in marketing value-added calves sired by member bulls and also developed a high altitude grazing performance test at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico.

Bobby Rankin, retired NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist and Animal and Range Sciences department head, said the program is important as a function of the Cooperative Extension Service's beef improvement program, because it allows the beef cattle specialist closer contact with the participating breeders and their neighbors which gives the Extension specialist an opportunity to share other programs that may be of service to their operations.

"It's a way for distributing knowledge and working cooperatively, and that's what the Extension Service is all about, being cooperative with the producers to try to improve their product and profitability," Rankin said.

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