When it comes to choosing bulls or breeders, there is plenty for producers to keep in mind. What are they joining? Where are they joining or fattening? What markets am I aiming for? Looking at both the estimated breeding values (EBVs) and at the animals themselves are important tools for producers to get a gauge on the right animal for their production. But most importantly, the end product producers are aiming for should dictate what traits they should focus on. For Kevin Graham, the quality of the country plays a big part in what traits producers need to focus on. Mr Graham, who runs Kevin Graham Consulting, is based in Brisbane, but services clients in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. He has run his business for 16 years, buying and selling 800 bulls for clients each year. And after previously working for Landmark and travelling most of the country, he has seen plenty of country and cattle. He has found most of his clients have been introducing Angus cattle into their herds. "You can boost your calving percentage by up to 15 per cent by choosing the right bulls and using Angus cattle," he said. He said some producers were reducing their joining age. "Many clients are now joining Bos Indicus-cross heifers as yearlings. That is a profit driver," he said. When choosing bulls for a client, he spends five days going through the catalogue of the large Angus studs looking at the EBVs of the bulls. "I want to see good fertility, strong negative days to calving (DTC), scrotal density and 400- and 600-day growth," he said. Many of his clients want to breed good quality steers destined for feedlots. Intramuscular fat (IMF) and eye muscle area (EMA) were also a priority for many breeders. "People are looking to produce good quality steaks and roasts," he said. "There is not a lot of point in just producing grinding meat. That's what we did 30 years ago." He said clients breeding Bos Indicus cattle would often focus on fertility traits, while those with Angus often looked for calving ease. "Breeders are keeping calving ease at the front of their minds. But I don't like to go too low with birthweights, because then it can affect growth," he said. Mr Graham said if a bull's indexes ticked all the boxes, he would take a look at the bull. "Data is one of my critical issues," he said. "But if a bull is structurally unsound, you scratch that one." He said country was a very important part of selecting bulls. "The quality of the country they are breeding on is a major factor," he said. "On some country, you can't run big animals." He said some clients were buying more weaner bulls and then allowing them to acclimatise for six to nine months before using them. "It gives them time to get used to the dry and the heat," he said. Dick Whale is a huge believer in breeding cattle with excellent structure and feed efficiency. Mr Whale, Independent Breeding and Marketing Service, based in Wangaratta, Victoria, has clients spread across the eastern states of the country. A majority of Mr Whale's clients are seedstock and commercial herds running British breeds, including a large number of Angus herds. Before running his business for two decades, he worked for Elders as well as livestock manager at ICM's Peechelba feedlot, and with all of this experience, he is a big advocate of focusing on longevity. When he is looking at bulls for clients, he first inspects the animals, then looks at the EBVs. But he feels that some producers are focusing too much on individual traits, not the balance of all traits. "People are focusing on the 'low-hanging fruit' - growth and carcase traits," he said. "But I feel they should be looking at the high-hanging fruit, like longevity. This is the ability of a sire to produce females that last at least six years old in the herd and still be producing an acceptable calf." Mr Whale said some breed associations in the US have been recording and reporting longevity (stayability) for the past 20 years. "If a cow has a poor udder, didn't get in calf or had a dead calf, or had poor conformation, it is noted," he said. "These recordings put a black mark against that sire line. These females do not survive on herd inventories." He said it was crucial to be producing breeders that had longevity and structural soundness. "It costs at least $2000 to grow a heifer out to breeding age," he said. "Some people don't consider the cost. Soundness and fertility are the key to profitable beef production." He said in some circumstances too much emphasis was put on growth. "In some environments, how much growth is too much? How much feed did you have to put down a cow's throat to get her to reproduce efficiently?" He said feed efficiency was another high-hanging fruit. "High feed efficiency cattle emit less methane," he said. He said Angus cattle were good for calving ease and carcase traits. He said the quality of the end product was paramount - the price of beef had increased by 2.5 times in the past 20 years, while chicken had only gone up 10 per cent in Australia. "If we don't give the consumer what they want, they will go elsewhere and buy an alternative or cheaper source of protein."