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Maximizing herd success with bull fertility checks

Maximizing herd success with bull fertility checks

By Scout Nelson

In cow-calf operations, ensuring a bull's fertility is crucial for successful herd reproduction. North Dakota State University Extension specialists recommend that bulls undergo a breeding soundness exam prior to each breeding season to maintain this crucial aspect of livestock management.

"The role of bulls on cow-calf operations is to get cows pregnant," states Lacey Quail, an Extension livestock management specialist at the NDSU North Central Research Extension Center.

She highlights the importance of these exams, noting that most cows and heifers are bred using natural service, making bull fertility a key factor in the operation's success.

Breeding soundness exams are designed to assess a bull's ability to perform effectively during the breeding season. These exams evaluate physical soundness, scrotal circumference, and semen quality.

Bulls are then categorized as satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or deferred based on these evaluations. "A satisfactory breeder meets the minimum requirements in all categories and is free of physical problems," Quail explains.

When a bull fails its breeding soundness exam, several options are available. Bulls can be marketed if they do not meet the standards, which removes potentially ineffective breeders from the operation.

For bulls classified as deferred, a second chance may be appropriate. These bulls might recover from temporary issues such as injuries or infections, thus passing a subsequent exam.

Retesting a bull after treatment or time can improve results if conditions like foot abscesses or penile warts are present or if the bull hasn't reached sexual maturity.

This is especially important for yearling bulls, who may initially fail to produce satisfactory sperm cells. Nearly 50% of yearling bulls that fail an initial breeding soundness exam are later classified as satisfactory.

Bulls undergo continuous sperm production, taking approximately 60 days per cycle. A single breeding soundness exam provides a snapshot of a bull's fertility at a specific time, but it is the best tool to evaluate a bull's fertility potential and its ability to conceive cows, as stated by Quail.

By following these guidelines and ensuring all bulls are tested, producers can significantly enhance the reproductive efficiency of their herds, keeping their operations both productive and profitable.

Photo Credit -gettyimages-steveoehlenschlager

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Categories: North Dakota, Livestock, Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle

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