Although spring seems to be taking a long time getting here, once it does, time will fly. In the rush, don't forget to keep an eye on the bulls.
Every time a bull fails to settle a cow in heat, the result is more than 50 pounds of unsaleable beef, which is beef that never will reach the pocketbook.
The typical benchmark average gain for calf growth is 2.5 pounds per day, according to producers who are enrolled in the CHAPS program through the NDSU Extension Service.
Missed breeding opportunities are expensive because the next opportunity only comes around again in three weeks. Bulls need to have structural soundness and physical stamina to breed and conceive calves on a daily basis throughout the breeding season. No excuses need be made for questionable bulls.
Bulls that are getting older or stiffer, or don't move as well probably are ready for the market. The Dickinson Research Extension Center marketed bulls at more than $1 per pound, which gave the center some opportunity to buy some younger bulls.
Bulls can breed a lot of cows, but there are those that just don't get the job done. What's the difference? Not easy to tell because breeding soundness exams generally only determine adequate reproductive function and the ability to produce sperm. The ability to breed can be somewhat observed by evaluation of structure, but that still leaves stamina and desire unevaluated.
Bulls do differ in their willingness to breed. Underconditioned or overconditioned bulls or underweight, lackluster bulls need to be dealt with now. Don't wait because the penalty is low fertility, which means open cows.
Although there are no quick fixes, bull fitness is a function of total body condition and perhaps is best gauged simply by monitoring the bull. Bull conditioning needs to be a fine line between improving body condition but not adding fat. Some would call that getting physically fit. Keep in mind that the balance between bull activity and nutrition is important.
The challenge is that bulls go from a relatively docile but frisky life and sitting in a pen eating to the expectation of breeding several cows that are in heat with no warmup period. Giving bulls some room and getting them accustomed to grass certainly is beneficial for keeping bulls in shape.
Again, there is no quick fix to poor bull fertility, so don't create the problem. Spermatogenesis is roughly a two-month process from start to finish.
Viable, aggressive sperm cells are not produced overnight. If bulls are stressed, underfed or sick, spermatogenesis can be disrupted or may cease, resulting in low-fertility bulls later in the breeding season.