Maternal Matters: Choosing bulls for commercial heifers

When breeding replacement heifers, there are two things to think about. Firstly, which breeding females should you use to produce replacement heifers? Secondly, which bulls should you use on those replacement heifers for them to produce their first calf? This section considers the latter.

Calving ease is king

When it comes to maternal genetics, calving ease is King, as without a live calf, the progeny's genetics are wasted, and the dam is probably damaged by a difficult calving too. Even if the calf lives, difficult calvings add cost and stress to beef breeding businesses and have welfare implications. 

There are two types of calving ease EBV:

  1. Calving Ease Direct – how easily a bull's calves will be born
  2. Calving Ease Maternal/Daughters - how easily a bull's daughters will calve 

Calving ease direct EBV is vitally important when selecting a bull or AI sire for use on heifers. Heifers that have difficult calvings are likely to have a longer period of anoestrus post-calving, and struggle to get back in calf.

Calving ease maternal/daughters is important when choosing bulls and females for breeding replacement heifers. 

For Signet and Taurus breeds, you must consider both the Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Maternal EBVs when selecting bulls for breeding heifer replacements.

Page 16 of this manual Managing Replacement Heifers, puts a spotlight on calving ease (also available in hard copy). 

If buying in-calf heifers, check that they have been bred to a bull with good calving ease EBVs and will calve at the start of the breeding season. 

For more information on EBVs and indexes for the suckler herd jump to our EBVs and indexes for suckler herds page. 

For information on how to set breeding objectives for your herd, find and use EBVs and ensure any bull is fit to work, take a look at our manual Choosing Bulls (also available in hard copy). 

For information on managing replacement heifers to calve at two go to our managing heifers page.

To order hard copies of manuals, please contact or call 0247 799 0069 with the name of the publications you’d like to receive.