A low libido can’t be detected in a soundness exam

When it comes to a beef cattle producer’s breeding program, it is imperative that the bull does his job and does it well.

A poor performing bull has no place in a productive herd – here’s how to make sure your cow’s beau is holding up his end of the deal:

Get an exam

“Bull breeding soundness exams are key to minimizing low percent calf crops or strung out calf crops,” said Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. “The bull needs a breeding soundness exam before turnout each season, or at least annually.”

Performance testing, while it requires more forethought for the producer, can also be a good indicator of a future bull meeting all the requirements.

“Bulls being considered for sale as breeding animals or being incorporated into a breeding program are potential candidates for performance testing. Bulls should be evaluated at weaning for structural soundness and conformation,” said Brett Barham, associate professor of animal science with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Keep an Eye on the Activity

While breeding soundness exams are an excellent tool for determining bull performance, there is no substitute for keeping an eye on the proceedings.

“The breeding soundness exam will not evaluate libido or sex drive,” Cole said. “The cattle owner must be observant of the bull to see if he’s acting interested in females in heat and see if he actively mounts and actually breeds her.”

He went on to say that if time permits, you should see the bull every day early in the breeding season to make sure a health issue doesn’t create a problem for the breeding program.

Use Heat Detection Patches

Since a lot of breeding occurs at night and in the early morning, some producers like use heat detection patches on the cows as an aid to see if they were mounted. Twenty days later, if the cow comes back into heat, the producer will know the bull wasn’t as active as he should have been.


“If you use multiple bulls in a pasture, this can serve as an insurance policy in case one is lazy or injured, and not working,” suggested Cole.

Producers should use caution, however, when it comes to the age of bulls if they choose the teamwork route. Wes Lee, McClain County Extension director and agricultural educator with the Oklahoma State University Extension, noted that young bulls generally cannot compete well with older bulls.

“In some cases, ranchers have reported cases where young bulls have been severely whipped and are less aggressive breeders after the incident, thereby negatively affecting the producer’s investment in the young bull as breeding stock,” Lee said.


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