Keeping bulls in good condition
Developing bulls to an ideal condition and keeping them in that good shape throughout breeding season takes a bit of work and management strategy. But in the end, the time and energy required to properly develop and maintain bulls pays off in solid performance during breeding season.
When buying or developing bulls it is critical to thoroughly evaluate them for structural soundness. Bulls with solid feet and legs are better equipped to do their jobs during breeding season.
“Poorly structured bulls may perform poorly during the breeding season. Furthermore, if replacements are retained, these poor structure genetics are propagated through the herd,” Patrick Davis, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said.
Manage Body Condition
The importance of properly managing bulls’ body condition should not be overlooked. If a bull is in ideal body condition, he is more likely to have optimal breeding performance in the pasture.
“Body condition score, which is evaluated at the topline, tail head, hooks, pins, and brisket, is an indicator of energy status,” Davis explained. “The ideal body condition score for a bull during development and when he enters the breeding pasture is a six which is a smooth appearance of fat cover throughout.”
According to livestock specialists, bulls that have a body condition score higher than a 6 need to have their condition managed down to a score of a 6 prior to being turned out for breeding season. One way to keep bulls in proper condition is to ensure they are adapted to a high forage diet before they go back into the breeding pastures.
Additionally, it can take a physical toll on bulls if they have been fed a high concentrate diet during performance testing and then immediately turned out for breeding season. Allowing the bulls to adapt to a high roughage diet before breeding season reduces the stress of the dietary change.
“Using this strategy should also help bulls be in proper condition and plane of nutrition as they enter the breeding season which will help promote optimum breeding season performance,” Davis said.
Proper Bull to Cow Ratio
Producers looking to keep their bulls in good, consistent condition will want to make sure they are following a proper bull to cow ratio. Adhering to the general guidelines will help to ensure bulls have optimal breeding performance. According to livestock specialists, the rule of thumb in regard to young bulls is one cow per month of the bull’s age up to 2 years. For example, if the bull is 15 months old, he can optimally service up to 15 cows. Mature bulls can service herds at a ratio of one bull to 25 to 35 cows.
If producers are using multiple bulls in their breeding pastures, it’s best if the bulls are close in age and are acclimated to each other before being turned out.
“This will cut down on fighting and injury issues as the bulls enter the breeding pasture which means they are more likely to go breed cows,” Davis said.
Paying attention to a bull’s overall wellness will also help him maintain longevity in the herd and be productive in the breeding pasture. Keeping bulls recent on vaccinations and parasite control as well as having a veterinarian perform a breeding soundness exam (BSE) prior to breeding season will help bulls stay in good health.