Creating the Future One Bull at a Time

Story by: Natalie Madson, second year Agricultural Science major

While old legacies met new frontiers, many new memories were made at the 56th annual Cal Poly Bull Test and Sale. About 100 buyers and consigners gathered at the Beef Center off of Hwy 1 on Sunday, October 7. The buyers bid on more than 120 bulls from small and large consigners throughout California, Nevada and Oregon.

In early May, Cal Poly received the bulls and began to track their performance.  Between 50-60 percent typically make the performance standards and are sold at the October sale. In order for the bulls to qualify for the sale, they must have a performance index of at least 95 percent. The index is calculated based on the adjusted yearling weight ratio and the average daily gain. Bulls must also have a scrotal circumference of at least 32 centimeters.

Between May and October, the students in the Bull Test enterprise run routine health checks, measurements and weigh days. This work gives students a taste of the industry and the hard work that comes with it. Good stewardship is a focus at all times and everyone involved works hard to keep the environment safe and the animals healthy and comfortable. Students and faculty work side-by-side.

The Cal Poly Bull Test was one of the earliest performance tests in the country when it began in 1956.  It was designed to be a proven source of range-ready bulls available for sale to commercial cattle producers.  The first year, the test was conducted at Cal Poly’s Peterson Ranch but is now held at the new Beef Center, designed especially for the test. The enterprise is a rewarding experience that gives the students an opportunity to learn about and participate in every aspect—including animal health, record keeping and marketing. It also gives students a chance to be a part of Cal Poly history.

The structure of the test has changed over the years, but the goal has always been the same. It was first managed by Lyman Bennion and Frank Fox, and it was strictly Hereford bulls. The bulls were received as yearlings in December and sold as two-year-olds in October. In 1974, 30 Angus bulls were added.  The testing and sale of the two-year-olds continued through 1978, when the program switched to testing yearlings. The process has since developed a way to track the most productive animals with renowned quality.

A little history was also shared before this year’s Bull Sale on October 6, at the Animal Science reunion. The reunion was in honor of Mike and Wendy Hall who are retiring.  The Halls have worked with the beef program and the Western Bonanza Junior Livestock Show. The reunion was open to Animal Science Department Alumni, past and current faculty, staff and friends of the university. Guests enjoyed a delicious dinner, live and silent auctions and photo albums of past Bull Tests and Animal Science classes. Much time was spent reminiscing with longtime friends.

The reunion demonstrated the support the Cal Poly community provides for both staff and students and how important relationships are in any sector of the agricultural industry. As a student it’s a blessing to be able to learn from the past and work with the present faculty and students to create my future.

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