Breeding soundness exams should be part of your bull management plan

With cattle markets looking to stay high, calf producers should make certain their whole management system is opertaing efficently.

Cattle markets are hot and look to stay high for the several years. For the cow-calf producers, it’s time to make certain all parts of your system are operating efficiently. Your bulls should be high on the list to make certain they are operating at peak performance when turn-out day arrives.

Bull management can be broken down into seven key areas.

  1. Nutritional requirement – balance rations based on bulls’ needs
  2. Body condition – body condition range of five to six is desirable
  3. Bull age – critical especially for younger and older bulls
  4. Time of year
  5. Exercise – adequate exercise keeps bulls athletic
  6. Previous management – find out when purchasing a bull
  7. Breeding Soundness Exam

Nutrition is vital to making certain bulls have the energy and ability to settle cows. Rations should be balanced to meet bulls’ requirements based on age, current body condition and projected breeding season. The calendar can be broken into three distinct feeding periods:

  • Pre-breeding (60-90 days) ramp-up should be gaining 2- 2.5 pounds/hd/day
  • Breeding (60-90 days) 100-200 pound weight loss
  • Post Breeding (120-240 days) rebuilding and maintain body condition

Management considerations should include the following:

  • Observe bulls closely during the breeding season to ensure that mounting and breeding is taking place. Bulls are prone to back, feet and leg injuries as well as cuts and breaks to the penis.
  • Have a back-up plan for situations when a bull is no longer capable of servicing cows.
  • Annual booster vaccinations – consult your veterinarian for specific protocol based on risk.

Bull to Female Ratio
Rule of thumb, number of females equivalent to the bull’s age in months (up to 40)

  • Yearling 15 months - turn out with 15 females
  • Two year old – turn out with 25-27 females
  • Three to five year old – turn out with 35-39 females

Having annual breeding soundness exams (BSE) done on each bull is highly recommended and will include the following:

  • Scrotum palpation and measurement
  • Seminal Vesicles & Prostate (rectal palpation)
  • Electro- ejaculation
  • Semen Collection
  • Semen Quality Evaluation

Spermatozoa present/live

    Motility and morphology

      Results Pass, Fail or Retest

      Bull Management is critical for successful breeding programs. Having an annual management program including a breeding soundness exam is like buying inexpensive insurance. BSE cost is generally very low and will run 1-2% of the cost you will incur if the cows are open at pregnancy check time. From March to May 2012 more information about BSE clinics will be available at the MSU Beef Team website.

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