A successful breeding season won’t happen with a lame bull in the picture. Thus, bulls should be evaluated for breeding soundness and fertility every year before turnout, stresses Kansas State University beef production veterinarian Robert Larson.
In preparing bulls for the season, Larson offers these management factors to consider:
1) Health. Just as you do with your cowherd, bulls should be monitored for health, including regular vaccination for IBR, BVDV, Vibrio and Lepto immunizations. All bulls (purchased or raised) should be tested for BVD persistent infection (PI) status at some time prior to being used in your herd, Larson adds. In some regions of the country, testing bulls for Trichomoniasis may also be necessary.
2) Body Condition. Larson cautions that bulls should not be overly fat going into breeding season, but says a little extra condition can help keep them healthy.
3) Exercise & Exposure. Larson suggests bulls should be kept in a large enough pen or pasture prior to breeding season so they can get daily exercise. As well, if multiple bulls will be used in a single pasture, Larson recommends exposing these bulls to each other prior to turnout to minimize bull interactions once they join the cowherd.
4) Breeding Soundness Exam (BSE). Complete evaluations of your bulls should be conducted before each breeding season by a veterinarian. The physical exam should include eyes and feet, scrotal measurement, testicular palpation, accessory sex gland assessment, and motility and morphology of the semen sample. These routine exams can help detect fertility changes that may indicate a problem.
5) Observe Physical Ability. Finally, during the breeding season – especially the first couple weeks – monitor the libido and physical ability of your bulls to be certain they are actually breeding cows.
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