Time to check bulls before the breeding season

  • Published: Thursday, March 25, 2021

Angus Bull

“Make sure bulls are physically and reproductive sound prior to the breeding season,” says MU Extension Regional Livestock Field Specialist Patrick Davis.  Using unsound bulls can negatively impact a cattle operation’s production and profitability.  

Doing a bull breeding soundness exam (BSE) prior to the breeding season ensures bulls are fertile and physically sound at turnout.  Using bulls with unacceptable fertility and physical soundness can result in poor cow herd conception rates which negatively impacts cattle operation performance and profitability.  Since the extreme cold winter could have damaged the bull’s reproductive tract, cattle producers should contact their veterinarian to schedule a BSE prior to the breeding season.

Bulls need to be in proper energy status during the breeding season.  Energy status is evaluated by body condition score (BCS), which ranks cattle fat cover on a 1-9 scale with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese.  Low energy status can affect the bull’s fertility and ability to breed females.  Bulls need to have a 6 BCS, which is a smooth appearance of fat cover prior to turnout for optimum pregnancy rates.

Structural soundness is key to a bull being successful during the breeding season.  One measurement that is used to assess bull structural soundness is foot scoring.  Two components of foot scoring are the claw set and foot angle.  The two components are ranked on a 1 to 9 scale with 5 being ideal.  Bulls that range from 3 to 7 on the two components have adequate soundness.  Bulls can travel a great distance during the breeding season.  Cattle producers are urged to evaluate bulls for adequate claw set and foot angle soundness prior to the breeding season. 

During the BSE, remember to vaccinate bulls and treat them for internal and external parasites.  This ensures that bulls are healthy and do not pass any disease or parasite issues onto the rest of the cow herd. Cattle producers should consult thier veterinarian and develop a bull vaccination plan that can be implemented during the BSE to promote good bull health.     

Work with your local veterinarian, get your bulls tested, and evaluate your bulls based on what has been discussed.  Identify low fertility, poor foot structured bulls and replace them to help the productivity and profitability of your cattle herd.  If necessary, increase supplementation now to ensure bulls have adequate body condition for the upcoming breeding season.  For more information contact your local MU Extension livestock field specialist. 

Writer: Patrick Davis

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