A cow is responsible for half the genetic material in only one calf each year, but each bull in your herd is responsible for half the genetic material in 20 to 50 calves. To protect your investment, keep bulls in the proper off-season condition.
After breeding season, bulls should be pulled from the herd to keep them in moderate condition, minimize chance of injuries and allow for growth of young bulls, says Jonathan Black, North Carolina State University Extension.
As bulls come out of the breeding season, they should first be body condition scored, he says, then sorted in one of three ways:
- Mature bulls in good condition that won’t require any special care
- Young bulls that are still growing and need higher quality feed or bulls that are extremely thin or need special care for other reasons
- Old or crippled bulls that have completed their productive years and need to go
All bulls should have access to a quality mineral mix. Phosphorous is an important mineral that is not found in adequate amounts in dry or harvested forage. Vitamin A is also important for reproduction and can be found in green, growing forage or high-quality hay. Mature bulls in good condition can do well on an all-roughage diet. A good rule of thumb to remember is feed 2% of body weight in dry feed per day.
Yearling bulls might need extra attention. They should be with the cowherd 60 days or less, Black adds, or their condition might drop off dramatically. These bulls are still developing rapidly, in addition to replacing the condition they lost in the breeding season. They should be placed on the best available forage, with supplemental feeding equal to a program for bred yearling heifers. Extra care given to bulls after the breeding season will result in a stronger mature bull in years to come.