As calving season ramps up across the country, it’s time to start planning ahead for spring breeding.
“Right now we’re at the prime time to make sure our bulls are able to perform at their best and get the job done,” Kansas State University Beef Veterinarian Dr. Larry Hollis says in an interview with K-State Radio Network and Agriculture Today.
According to Hollis, there are several key steps to making sure your bulls are in “fighting shape” before being sent to work.
First up is nutrition.
“These bulls have had a hard time getting through winter,” Hollis says. “They won’t perform in their peak unless they are in the proper body condition, and we can do some things about that now.”
Hollis says an optimum body condition score on a scale from one to nine is a six. Too fleshy and they’ll have trouble breeding. Too thin and they’ll spend all their time searching for food instead of servicing cows.
“For bulls, this is an athletic event,” he says. “We really have to take them into the breeding season in the shape we want them in.”
Hollis also reminds producers to evaluate their feeding programs to make sure bulls are receiving proper supplementation of vitamins and minerals – particularly vitamin A. According to him, vitamin A is crucial to spermatogenesis, the building of sperm cells.
This makes it essential for producers to have their bulls in good condition and vaccinated within 61 days of turn out, since that is how long it takes sperm cells to build from start to finish.
“We need to be thinking ahead to when we’re going to vaccinate, and keep them in line with the rest of our herd,” Hollis says, suggesting producers look at diseases that will not only affect the bull, but the cows’ reproductive status. These include Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, Bovine Viral Diarrhea and Blackleg.
“Every year we see Blackleg death losses because somebody failed to booster for a year or two,” he says.
Bulls also need to be put through a breeding soundness evaluation.
“We’re going to look at feet and legs because that’s crucial for him to be able to cover the country and cover the cow,” Hollis says. “We also want to make sure both his eyes are clear.”
While bulls primarily use scent for close proximity activity, Hollis says they rely heavily on their eyes for things that happen in the distance. This can include cows in heat being ridden by others.