Winter and cold weather is already here.  After Thanksgiving we are normally turning the bulls back out with the cows to breed the fall calving cows.  Now we ask the all important question, “Will the bull get the job done?”
By watching the cows for the first cycle (21 days) we will probably see 20-30 cows get bred.  Then by waiting and watching for another 21 days or (one cycle) we see that the same cows are getting bred again.  Now we see there is a problem.  Is the breeding problem the cows or the bulls?  Most likely it will be the bulls.  And that is the quickest to check.  
Bring the bull in for a breeding soundness exam.  The result is that he fails to be reproductively sound.  Or in plain language he is shooting blanks and has been on paid vacation.  This type of examination only takes around 5-15 minutes and will cost between $30 and $50.  This examination could also be done prior to turning the bull out with the cows.  If you did test or have the bull examined prior to turn out, it could save you a lot in peace of mind and money if this happened.
The amount of money lost in this example is around $1000.  Now if you did not notice the problem and waited until the cows were supposed to calve it would be around $12,500 lost.
The way we arrive at these figures is very simple.  If you miss a calf crop and the calves are worth $500 each and the bull was supposed to breed 25 cows, then you just multiply 25 by $500 which equals $12,500.  If you catch the problem after just one cycle (21 days), then 25 calves should be gaining one pound a day and at a selling price of $1 per pound and two cycles is 40 days, that is 40 pounds which is $40 per calf.  Now with the bull supposed to breed 25 cows, then 25 times $40 equals $1000.
The other side benefit to bringing your bull in for a breeding soundness examination is that you could have him vaccinated and de-wormed at the same time.  Also, by not running your bull through your chute at home you do not risk getting hurt or tearing up your own facilities.
Just to re-emphasize, I think it is a no-brainer to spend $30 to $50 each time you turn out the bull as to taking a chance on loosing $1000 to $12,500.
My little motto about this is “If your bull is shooting blanks, He’s on paid vacation!”
Tim O'Neill owns and operates Country Veterinarian Service in Farmington, Ark.


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