UW Launches High-Altitude Bull Test and Sale

by Brett McRae

By Shelby Rosasco, UW extension Beef Specialist and assistant professor

Managing cattle at high altitude is common for many cattle producers across Wyoming and the Mountain West. Cattle grazing at an increased altitude (above 5,000 feet), where oxygen levels are decreased, are at an increased risk for brisket disease, decreased performance, and increased morbidity.

five cows in a barn, three with their heads down eating feed from a gutter and two with black and white faces looking at the camera
Photo credit: Chase Markel and Bryson Mills.

Brisket disease is complex, with multiple factors including breed, body condition, genetics, altitude, etc., contributing to the variability in disease presentation. High-risk cattle are more susceptible to developing right heart failure secondary to pulmonary hypertension, a condition commonly referred to as brisket disease, high altitude disease, or high mountain disease. Selecting cattle suited to their production environment and adapted to perform at higher altitude is an important consideration for producers grazing and managing cattle at higher altitude.

Opportunities for producers and students

In an effort to strengthen the relationship between Wyoming cattle producers and students, the University of Wyoming Department of Animal Science and Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC) are excited to announce the development of a high-altitude bull test and private treaty sale.

The goal of the high-altitude bull test and sale is to evaluate potential sires on their ability to serve producers at high altitude, increase applied production agriculture experience available for students, and engage producers in research and education related to brisket disease and bull development. A high-altitude bull test will provide producers and breeders an opportunity to assess bulls for risk of pulmonary hypertension (brisket disease) and suitability of bulls to serve producers at high altitude.

A key component of the bull test and sale is the development of curriculum and educational opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students in the UW College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources. The bull test will be a student-organized and run venture where bull development, management, and marketing will serve as the core curriculum. The bull test and sale are an opportunity to provide students with hands-on experience in animal health, nutrition and reproduction, and career development directly related to the beef industry.

Test, sale, and field day

The first annual UW Altitude Elite Bull Test and Sale will take place this winter and will focus on providing assessment of bulls for pulmonary hypertension through management of bulls at LREC. Since LREC is located at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet, bulls will be acclimated for 45 days before pulmonary arterial pressure (PAP) testing is completed.

Bulls will be on test from mid-January through the end of March 2023. Toward the end of the test, bulls will also undergo ultrasounding to evaluate ribeye area and fat thickness, as well as a complete breeding soundness exam. Students will utilize the data to create marketing and advertising materials for each bull and for the sale.

The UW Altitude Elite Bull Test and Sale will culminate in an educational field day kicking off the viewing of bulls participating in the test. Bulls will be offered for sale through private treaty following the field day. Participation of bulls in the private treaty bull sale is optional this year but is encouraged.


The field day will cover topics such as high-altitude disease and bull selection along with presentations on current beef cattle research at UW. The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.

Partnership opportunities and future plans

UW is looking for consigners interested in consigning bulls to the high-altitude bull test and private treaty sale. To launch the program, UW is limiting the consignment to 60 bulls total this year, with a 10 head per consigner limit. The consignment deadline is Dec. 2.

Additional information about the UW Altitude Elite Bull Test and Sale, including entry forms, schedule, cattle requirements, pricing, and details regarding management of bulls, can be found on the UW Beef Extension webpage and social media platforms.

The long-term goal is to develop the program into a comprehensive test, including performance testing and a live auction sale intended to develop into a value-added program for both consigners and customers. In the future, the bull test and sale will shift toward a longer feeding period to allow for feed efficiency testing through use of an individual feed intake system.

As a component of the research program investigating brisket disease at UW, there is an ongoing, anonymous survey for cow/calf and feedlot producers on the characterization of brisket disease and its complex risk factors. If interested in participating in this anonymous survey, visit bit.ly/brisket-disease-survey.

UW appreciates the support of its programs and hopes producers consign bulls to the test, purchase bulls this spring, or just enjoy the field day.

Shelby Rosasco is the University of Wyoming (UW) Extension beef specialist and an assistant professor in the UW Department of Animal Science. She can be reached at srosasco@uwyo.edu or 307-766-2329.

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Shelby Rosasco, UW Extension

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