Leasing a bull has advantages and disadvantages

To lease or not to lease? That’s a question some cattle producers in the Ozarks often ask.

This area is home to many smaller cattle operations, and sometimes leasing a bull as opposed to buying one is a good option. However, before running over to the neighbor’s farm and asking to borrow their bull, take the time to line out herd goals, put in the research and ask the right questions.

Before deciding to lease, it helps to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of this practice. Most folk’s thought turn to the financial side first.

“The primary advantage to a lease agreement is a reduction in expense,” Andy McCorkill, field specialist in livestock with the Universiy of Missouri Extension, explained. “To buy a good bull that will improve your herd’s potential can be an expense of several thousand dollars. A lease agreement, on the other hand, can spread that expense out over a few years for a multi-year lease. In a shorter-term lease, such as one for a 60- to 90-day breeding season, you can potentially save money, or more importantly feed, which also equates to money, through costs savings.”

A disadvantage to leasing McCorkill pointed out is not personally knowing the bull. He recommends seeking out a “stud service” or a reputable breeder who is familiar with their bulls and can help place them successfully.

Another potential disadvantage is bio-security.

“Disease can be an issue; make sure a good vaccination program has been followed, that the bull comes with a satisfactory breeding soundness exam and a negative trichomonisis test result. With any lease, the convenience of spreading payment out and/or not having to feed a bull year-round must be weighed against the up-front expense of ownership and the potential for additional disease associated risks,” McCorkill advised.

If a producer has decided to move forward in leasing a bull, it is important to select one that will move the operation in the right direction of the desired breeding goals, and to request the right documentation to ensure that the partnership between the bull owner and the bull leaser is successful.

“You want to ensure the bull is a sound breeder prior to any agreement, so a current passing Bull Breeding Soundness Exam and a negative Trichomoniasis test should be requested,” McCorkill said. “Like any good lease agreement, a written document that outlines the expectations of both parties in the event of death injury or other possible scenarios would be advisable.”

Working with a mentor or someone who is familiar with the operation and the breeding program can provide guidance in selecting the right bull to lease.

“Treat it much the same as buying a bull and get one to fit your needs – not just a random bull. EPDs and perhaps genomic testing should also be discussed,” McCorkill suggested.

Leasing a bull can save smaller producers money long term and help spring their herd genetics forward, but like most things in agriculture, it takes work.

“You must do your due diligence to protect you and your herd before jumping into anything,” McCorkill said.


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