Overview of the IBEP Bull Test

This is meant to give an overview of the IBEP bull test program, and try to answer some frequent questions. Details about the test are available in the Rules for a recent test, for example the Rules for the 2022 Summer Test.

The station is located at the Feldun-Purdue Ag Center, 1117 State Road 458, Bedford, IN 47421. Brad Shelton (sheltonb@purdue.edu) is superintendent of the Ag Center, and Nick Minton (nminton@purdue.edu) is manager of the bull test station.

Photos of FPAC and the IBEP test station are on the Test Station page.

There are a total of eight pens, each with a capacity of about 25 head. Bulls are penned by breed and age or weight. Each pen has a dirt/sand exercise lot of about one-half acre and an open front shed. Feed is delivered as a TMR into fenceline feedbunks. The ration is forage-based with a moderate energy level, which allows bulls to express genetic differences for growth without putting on excess condition. Two TMR (Phase 1 and 2) are fed during the test. This is done to meet nutrient requirements in relation to change in composition of gain as bulls develop and mature over the course of the test. Diets for each test are formulated from the base nutrient composition of the silage, hay, or baleage.

Two tests are conducted each year. After a 21-day pretest period, the test lasts 125 days.

  • Winter Test - for bulls born October 1 of the previous year to March 31 of the current year (for the 2021 Winter Test, bulls were born October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021). Entries are due in September, and bulls are delivered in late October or early November. The test ends in March, and the sale is held in April.
  • Summer Test - for bulls born April 1 to September 30 of the previous year (for the 2022 Summer Test, bulls were born April 1 to September 30, 2021). Entries are due in early April, and bulls are delivered in late April or early May. The test ends in September, and the sale is held in October.
  • Minimum weight of 450 lbs at delivery. Minimum weight per day of age (including birth weight) of 2.45 lbs (Winter Test) or 2.25 lbs (Summer Test) at delivery.
  • Must be polled or dehorned.
  • Bulls that are suspected to be carriers of a lethal allele (as defined by their breed association) for which a DNA test is available, must be DNA tested and verified free of the lethal allele prior to entry in a test. Consult with your breed association for a complete list of known lethal alleles and DNA testing procedures. See the "Genetic Defects" section of this overview for more details about the traits.
  • Health requirements must be met. See the "Rules" from a recent test for the latest requirements for vaccinations and Johne's Disease testing. Meeting the health requirements is critical.
  • Bulls must be free of active ringworm lesions and warts.
  • Bulls will be inspected at delivery and will not be accepted if sick, wild, or have a physical defect which may impair future reproductive performance.
  • Bulls which exhibit aggressive, nervous, or flight behavior at delivery will not be accepted.
  • Bulls will be tested at delivery for persistent Bovine Virus Diarrhea infection (PIBVD). Bulls which test positive will need to removed immediately by the owner.

Bull owners must be participating in their breed association's official herd performance program, with birth and weaning data reported to and processed by their breed association.

Note that in order for bulls to be eligible for IBEP auctions, they must:

  • be registered
  • be parentage verified to both the sire and the dam
  • have genomic-enhanced EPDs

The status of bulls for defects is checked on the breed association web sites. The traits fall into three categories, which are handled differently by IBEP. Below are the traits, with their letter abbreviations and the breeds where they are found.

Lethal Defects - Bulls which are potential carriers must be tested free of the defect to be sale eligible (for some breeds, they need to be tested free to be registered). These traits include:

  • AM = Arthrogryposis Multiplex, formerly called Curly Calf (Angus)
  • CA = Contractural Arachnodactyly, formerly called Fawn Calf (Angus)
  • MA = Alpha Mannosidosis (Red Angus)
  • MD = Mandibulofacial Dysostosis (Hereford)
  • MSUD = Maple Syrup Urine Disease (Hereford)
  • NH = Neuropathic Hydrocephalus (Angus)
  • OS = Osteopetrosis (Angus and Red Angus)
  • PHA = Pulmonary Hypoplasia with Anasarca (Shorthorn and others)
  • TH = Tibia Hemimelia (Shorthorn and others)

Non-Lethal Defects - Bulls which are potential carriers must be tested, but carriers are sale eligible. These traits include:

  • DD = Developmental Duplication (Angus)
  • D2 = PRKG2 Mutation for Dwarfism (Angus)
  • HY = Hypotrichosis (Hereford)
  • IE = Ideopathic Epilepsy (Hereford)
  • M1 = Myostatin nt821 Gene Deletion, also known as Double Muscling (Angus)

Color Defects or Information - IBEP does not track these, but if a bull is tested free, that information will show in the sale catalog. These traits include:

  • CC = Coat Color - Red (Simmental)
  • CCA = Coat Color - Wild Type (Simmental)
  • DL = Dilutor (Hereford and Simmental)
  • HPS = Horns (Simmental)
  • OH = Oculotaneous Hypo-pigmentation (Angus)
  • RD = Red Allele (Angus)
The bull's information for these will be shown in the sale catalog. An "F" after the defect abbreviation means that the bull was tested free; for example, "NHF" means the bull was tested free of NH. A "C" after the defect abbreviation means that the bull was tested and is a carrier. If there is no notation for a defect, the bull is not a potential carrier based on his pedigree.

  • Weights at delivery, on-test, 28-day, 63-day, 91-day, and 125-day off-test.
  • Performance Index at each weight is calculated from Average Daily Gain (ADG) and Weight per Day of Age (WPDA). It is calculated as .60(ADG Ratio) + .40(WPDA Ratio).
  • Ultrasound scan data: rib eye area, rib fat, and % intramuscular fat, measured by a certified CUP technician.
  • Scrotal circumference at delivery and at the time the bull has his ultrasound scan.
  • Hip height at on-test and at the time the bull has his ultrasound scan. This is used to calculate Frame Score according to BIF guidelines.
  • Breeding Soundness Examinations of all sale-eligible bulls, plus any non-sale bulls at the owner's request. The exam is conducted by a Ph.D. Reproductive Physiologist and a DVM. It includes a physical examination and a semen evaluation, with observations rated as either acceptable or unacceptable according to guidelines established by the Society for Theriogenology. (Note that if a bull does not meet the minimum adjusted scrotal circumference requirement, he will not have a further physical examination or semen evaluation.)
Reports are sent to bull owners after each weigh day and after ultrasound data is returned by the breed associations. Weigh day reports are also posted online.

  • Data provided with the entry form includes: farm tag, tattoo, birth date and weight, birth code (single, twin, ET), birth calving ease, breed, whether the bull is polled or dehorned, bull's registration number, sire's name and registration number, dam's registration number.
  • Bull's registration number can be sent later if it is not available at the time the entry form is sent in.
  • Weaning data:
    • Actual weaning weight and date
    • Adjusted 205-day weight, ratio, and number of contemporaries - these are provided by your breed association
Bulls need to be registered or on file with the appropriate breed association. Weaning data must be sent to the breed association by the owner - this will provide you with 205-day adjusted weaning data, and is required for ultrasound data to be processed by some breed associations.

We obtain the EPDs from the breed association's web site. For most breeds, this requires the bull to be registered.

Genomic testing, resulting in genomic-enhanced EPDs, is required for sale eligibility.

  • Bull must have a Performance Index in the top 2/3 to 3/4 of his breed group of 6 or more bulls. If the breed has fewer than 6 bulls, the Performance Index must be in the top 2/3 to 3/4 of all bulls on test or the Performance Index must be greater than 100.
  • Bulls will be examined by a committee for breeding soundness, structural soundness (feet and legs), and disposition. Bulls must pass these inspections.
  • Bull must be healthy.
  • Bull must have 205-day adjusted weaning data from the breed association.
  • Bull must be parentage verified to both the sire and the dam.
  • Bull must have genomic-enhanced EPDs.
Bulls which are not sale eligible can be taken home by the owner, or marketed for slaughter (handled by IBEP). Owners can withdraw their sale-eligible bulls from the sale, provided we are notified at least 3 weeks prior to the sale.

Each bull is given a within-breed percentile ranking (in *'s) for many traits, including performance during the test, EPDs, and $ Indexes. These are in deciles (10% groups). Each trait is given 1 to 10 stars, with 10 being the best: *10* (10 stars) means the bull is in the top 1-10%, *9* (9 stars) is 11-20%, and so on, with *1* (1 star) being 91-100% or the bottom 100%.

For traits measured during the test, the bulls in the test are ranked within breed; if there are fewer than 6 bulls in the breed, the bulls are ranked among all bulls in the test. For EPDs and $ Indexes, the bulls are compared to the non-parent EPDs from their breed association.

Beginning with the 2016 Winter Test, Sale Index is calculated as the weighted sum of the number of *'s for six of the traits: 30% ADG, 20% WPDA, 7.5% IMF, 7.5% REA/cwt, 20% Direct Calving Ease EPD, and 15% Weaning Weight EPD (the Birth Weight EPD will be used if the bull does not have an EPD for Direct Calving Ease). The maximum Sale Index is 100.

  • Sales are held at Springville Feeder Auction, Springville, IN. Sales will be broadcast on CattleUSA.com.
  • Sale order is determined by the Sale Index. In case of ties, Performance Index will determine sale order among bulls with identical Sale Indexes.
  • The minimum bid (floor price) for a sale is established by the Board of Directors prior to the sale; slaughter bull price will be taken into consideration. For the 2021 Winter Test sale (April 2022), the minimum bid was $2,500.
  • If a bull does not sell, the owner can take the bull home or have it marketed for slaughter.
  • From the 2021 Winter Test sale, held April 16, 2022:

  • Entry fee is $300/bull for Indiana owners, $350/bull for out-of-state owners, and is due on the entry deadline date.
  • Delivery fee is $250/bull, and is due when the bull is delivered to the test station.
  • An additional fee of $250/bull is due on the date of the 63-day weighing.
  • Thus, the testing fee is $800/bull for Indiana owners, $850/bull for out-of-state owners. This fee is pre-paying for testing expenses.
  • At the end of the test, costs are determined for each bull:
    • Medication costs will be charged to the owners of treated bulls.
    • Feed amount and costs are allocated among bulls in each pen, according to body weight and gain for each bull.
    • Cost of the breeding soundness exam is charged to bulls which had the exam.
    • Sale expenses are divided among bulls in the sale; each bull in the sale is charged the same amount.
    • Other costs - such as yardage, overhead, ultrasound, and routine health checks - are on a per-head basis. 
  • If the bull was marketed for slaughter, the price received minus a trucking and selling charge will be credited to the owner.
  • Final income for each bull is testing fees plus sale price (or slaughter price). Testing cost for each bull will be subtracted from the income. The difference will be sent to the owner, or charged to the owner if costs were greater than income. Generally, costs are less than the income unless the bull got sick or was in the sale and did not sell.
  • Owners of bulls remaining at the test station or Springville auction site beyond pickup deadlines will be charged a $50 per head per day feed and yardage fee.