Vet’s Voice: Bull battery management | TSLN.com
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Vet’s Voice: Bull battery management

For the March 12, 2011 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

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Calving has finally started to get rolling. Hopefully we can catch some warm weather soon to help minimize our management problems. It seems weird, but now is the time to evaluate your bull battery, long before breeding season begins.

Most of your bulls have been “roughing it” in an obscure pasture several miles from your calving herd. It is crucial that these bulls are ready and able to successfully breed a high percentage of cows and heifer on first heat, ensuring consistent, early calves. This year, early bull sales are averaging about $1,000 more than last year; but many slaughter bulls at the sale barn are bringing $2,000. This may enable you to trade in some of your older or lower-end bulls for new genetics.

Take some time and examine your bulls closely. Older bulls should have maintained adequate body condition on a forage diet with very little supplementation. If corn stalks were used for winter pasture, these bulls should have regained any weight lost during the last breeding season. Observe them closely for lameness and other structural defects. Trim feet, if needed, and address any problems, now, long before breeding season.



Younger bulls may pose a more serious problem. These bulls also lost weight during the last breeding season, but are still growing. They need to gain about 2 pounds per day during the off-season to be at a body condition score (BCS) of 5.5-6.5 at breeding time. These thin bulls usually require about 5 pounds of a grain supplement per day with good quality forage for adequate condition.

We have had a lot of cold, windy weather this winter. If bulls did not have bedding or shelter, they may have incurred frostbite on their testicles. Examine the bulls carefully, but remember bulls will recover from mild frostbite (discoloration or scabbing at the scrotal tip). However, in severe cases, the tip of the scrotum may actually slough, rendering the bull infertile.



About 30-60 days before the breeding season, bulls should undergo a semen evaluation, or, breeding soundness exam (BSE). This requires rounding up the bulls and running them through the chute. This not only allows you to draw a semen sample, but also examine the penis and prepuce for injury. It’s also a great time to test bulls for trichomoniasis, commonly referred to as “Trich,” – if it is a problem in your area.

While evaluating bulls, also check for lumps, bumps, eyes, etc. It is also a great time to vaccinate bulls for viral breeding diseases, anthrax, pinkeye and foot rot. This allows immunity to develop before the breeding season, and ensures no live virus carry over at breeding.

After the bulls pass their BSE, sort them into groups by pasture. This allows dominance issues to be settled before turnout. The bulls also need to get into shape. Groups should be placed into two-acre paddocks to promote activity. Try to separate feeding areas from watering areas, forcing bulls to exercise.

Management of your bull battery in the off season is critical to the success of the next breeding season. Careful attention to last year’s breeding records, adequate nutrition, testing and vaccination and good pen and pasture management will increase the percentage of females bred on first heat – greatly increasing the profitability of your herd.

Calving has finally started to get rolling. Hopefully we can catch some warm weather soon to help minimize our management problems. It seems weird, but now is the time to evaluate your bull battery, long before breeding season begins.

Most of your bulls have been “roughing it” in an obscure pasture several miles from your calving herd. It is crucial that these bulls are ready and able to successfully breed a high percentage of cows and heifer on first heat, ensuring consistent, early calves. This year, early bull sales are averaging about $1,000 more than last year; but many slaughter bulls at the sale barn are bringing $2,000. This may enable you to trade in some of your older or lower-end bulls for new genetics.

Take some time and examine your bulls closely. Older bulls should have maintained adequate body condition on a forage diet with very little supplementation. If corn stalks were used for winter pasture, these bulls should have regained any weight lost during the last breeding season. Observe them closely for lameness and other structural defects. Trim feet, if needed, and address any problems, now, long before breeding season.

Younger bulls may pose a more serious problem. These bulls also lost weight during the last breeding season, but are still growing. They need to gain about 2 pounds per day during the off-season to be at a body condition score (BCS) of 5.5-6.5 at breeding time. These thin bulls usually require about 5 pounds of a grain supplement per day with good quality forage for adequate condition.

We have had a lot of cold, windy weather this winter. If bulls did not have bedding or shelter, they may have incurred frostbite on their testicles. Examine the bulls carefully, but remember bulls will recover from mild frostbite (discoloration or scabbing at the scrotal tip). However, in severe cases, the tip of the scrotum may actually slough, rendering the bull infertile.

About 30-60 days before the breeding season, bulls should undergo a semen evaluation, or, breeding soundness exam (BSE). This requires rounding up the bulls and running them through the chute. This not only allows you to draw a semen sample, but also examine the penis and prepuce for injury. It’s also a great time to test bulls for trichomoniasis, commonly referred to as “Trich,” – if it is a problem in your area.

While evaluating bulls, also check for lumps, bumps, eyes, etc. It is also a great time to vaccinate bulls for viral breeding diseases, anthrax, pinkeye and foot rot. This allows immunity to develop before the breeding season, and ensures no live virus carry over at breeding.

After the bulls pass their BSE, sort them into groups by pasture. This allows dominance issues to be settled before turnout. The bulls also need to get into shape. Groups should be placed into two-acre paddocks to promote activity. Try to separate feeding areas from watering areas, forcing bulls to exercise.

Management of your bull battery in the off season is critical to the success of the next breeding season. Careful attention to last year’s breeding records, adequate nutrition, testing and vaccination and good pen and pasture management will increase the percentage of females bred on first heat – greatly increasing the profitability of your herd.


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