Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Don't forget the herd bulls!

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

With calving picking up every day at our place, pastures near the house are in high demand. So, as I moved the herdbulls from their winter pasture to another pasture where they would be ‘out of the way,’ I started thinking about how the bulls often get put on the back burner during this time of year.  However, there’s a lot of money tied up in those herdbulls, and we need to make sure they will be ready to breed cows in a couple months. 

Cold winter weather can affect a bull’s ability to service cows comes come spring.  Frostbite effects that bulls may have suffered this winter can require from two to twelve months of recovery, and severe frostbite can leave a bull infertile.   By providing windbreaks and straw for bedding, we can reduce the cold weather impacts on a bull’s fertility.

A Breeding Soundness Exam, or BSE, is essential in knowing if your bull is fertile and worth turning out this spring.  In addition, having Breeding Soundness Exams done now, helps you to know how many bulls you may need to purchase this spring. 

A Breeding Soundness Exam, done by your local veterinarian, needs to be done 6-8 weeks prior to bull turnout and determines if that bull is suitable for breeding demands.  In the event that a bull fails his exam, this will allow time for a re-test or to replace that bull.   In addition to a BSE, evaluate your bulls for a proper body condition score of a 5 to 6, and feet and leg condition. 

When determining your bull needs for this coming season, review your bull-to-cow ratio as well.  Pasture size, number of water holes, bull age, bulls/pasture, and if synchronization was used, all affect the service capability of bulls.  For young bulls, a standard is that the number of cows a bull can serve matches his age in months (15 cows for a 15 month old bull, for example), and older bulls are often figured for 25-30 cows. 

Even with calving is full swing for many producers, don’t forget about your herdbulls.  Make sure that young, growing bulls are receiving adequate protein, energy, and minerals, and that Breeding Soundness Exams are completed on all bulls you plan to use this coming season.
Calving is a busy time for many ranchers, but don't forget the herd bulls!  Ranchers should prioritize a Breeding Soundness Exam for each bull in their battery prior to spring turnout (and before heading to the bull sale!)

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