Calves = Very Valuable; Bulls Deemed "Satisfactory Potential Breeders" = Priceless!
Yes, you likely do recognize that same title from previous years in this publication but, I think it deserves repeating. Sounds simple enough - purchase bull; put bull with cows; calves appear in ~ 283 days; collect calves 205 days later; sell calves for good prices! Well maybe it should be that simple, but . . . I think most Ohio cattlemen will agree it isn't!
When considering all of the traits of importance to today's cattleman and current market prices for all classes of beef cattle, the primary focus of any cow-calf producer should be fertility. While both the male and female contribute to herd's level of fertility and its ultimate productivity, the herd sire is the more important component. An individual cow with poor fertility will certainly impact one potential calf a year. However, the bull impacts every potential calf in a given herd or breeding pasture.
A Breeding Soundness Examination (BSE) performed by an accredited veterinarian is a necessary management tool for improving herd fertility levels. Through a BSE, a bull is given a physical and semen evaluation to determine his status as a satisfactory potential breeder on the test date. The physical examination portion of the test can include the evaluation of body condition, feet and legs, eyes, and the organs of the reproductive system. The semen evaluation looks at characteristics such as sperm motility, % normal cells, and % primary and secondary abnormalities. The typical cost for a BSE falls in the $50-$60 range.
In spite of the obvious benefits of a BSE, a minority of producers actually semen check their bulls prior to use. Results from the U.S.D.A.'s 2007-08 National Animal Health Monitoring System study indicated that semen tests were used by 44.1% of all operations surveyed. The results varied greatly depending on herd size as 21.1% of the herds with 1-49 cows used a semen check. The percentage using a semen check increased steadily as cow numbers increased and the final group (200 cows or more) used the check in 62.3% of the herds. For the operations that did not use a semen check, the top two reasons for not using this technology were Labor/Time at 34.4% and Cost at 25.2%. These reasons are questionable at best.
One requirement of bulls which are offered annually at the Ohio Cattlemen's Association's Seedstock Improvement Sales (SIS) is that they be examined for breeding soundness and meet the requirements to be deemed "Satisfactory Potential Breeders." During preparations for the recent 2012 SIS in Hillsboro, 10 bulls consigned were checked at the sale site on Friday prior to the sale. Out of these 10 bulls, two failed their Breeding Soundness Examination (BSE.) The 41 bulls that sold through the sale had all passed a BSE.