Know your bull is ready for the breeding season

To ensure adequate fertility levels and maximum efficiency, all breeding age bulls should receive an annual breeding soundness exam.

In an industry where the major product sold is a live calf, all breeding bulls should receive an annual breeding soundness exam. Fertility testing the breeding bull is a minor production cost that can help prevent reproductive failure. Using a bull that is infertile or that has structural problems will frequently result in a higher percentage of open cows. Increasing costs of production due to higher feed costs, make keeping an open cow cost prohibitive. Beef calf prices remain at historic levels, losing the opportunity to sell calves due to open cows can have a significant negative financial impact on a beef cow-calf operation.

Breeding bulls can remain fertile with high quality semen for ten plus years. However, breeding bulls may exhibit infertility at any age. Low fertility can be caused by a number of factors including, frost damaged testicles, testicular infection, poor nutrition, physical injury and genetic predisposition. Younger bulls may exhibit breeding problems for the same reasons, however infertility may also be due to their young age. Yearling bulls mature rapidly between 11 and 15 months of age and evaluations done at an early age may not accurately reflect their breeding potential several months into the future.

Bulls can be tested for fertility using a breeding soundness exam. During the exam, they are inspected for anatomical correctness and abnormalities such as, penile warts, testicular infection, scrotal circumference and semen quality. Semen quality is determined by collecting a semen sample to determine sperm cell motility, concentration and morphology.

A breeding soundness exam on breeding bulls is an important first step to ensure the breeding season’s success. The Michigan State University Extension Beef Team will once again be organizing regional bull breeding soundness exam clinics. Cost is $55 per bull when done at one of the Michigan State University Extension clinics. To schedule an appointment at one of these breeding soundness exam clinics, please visit the MSU Extension Events page and call the appropriate contact person as soon as possible. In addition, the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine regularly schedules in house appointments for breeding soundness exams. To schedule an appointment contact the MSU CVM Large Animal Clinic at 517-353-2964.

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