Fertility test bulls now for summer breeding season

Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

100_0040PINE BLUFF, Ark. – A $100 investment in a bull can provide a big return now that October futures for 650-pound calves are hovering around $216 per hundredweight, said

Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Each calf born will be worth $1,404.

A breeding soundness exam (BSE) and a trich, pronounced trick, test usually cost around $50 each.

Conduct breeding soundness exams on all bulls every year, Dr. Fernandez advises. It is not uncommon for a bull to test satisfactory after falling short of satisfactory earlier in the year. Remember, the breeding season for heifers begins in May and not June, he says. Young bulls under 18 months of age frequently fail a BSE yet mature into a sound breeder as they progress through puberty. Older bulls may fail a BSE because of injury or disease.

A veterinarian will examine your bull’s feet and legs, eyes, mouth and teeth, and body condition. He will also examine the bull for any injuries that may make him unable to mate.

Generally, between 10 to 20 percent of bulls fail a BSE in a given year. Do not sell a bull that has failed a BSE to another farmer for breeding. “At one BSE clinic, four out of five bulls brought in by one producer failed; the one that passed was the youngest and least likely to breed cows. Imagine what a poor calf crop would have resulted if the bulls that failed had not been culled,” said Dr. Fernandez.

After the general exam, the veterinarian will measure the bull’s scrotal circumference. Bulls with larger scrotal circumferences are more fertile and have daughters that are more fertile and mature earlier. The vet will also collect a semen sample and determine the percents of motile sperm and normal sperm.

A bull must have at least 30 percent motile sperm with at least 70 percent normal sperm with a minimum scrotal circumference to be classified as a sound breeder. If your bull does not meet these criteria, have him tested again in 30 days, said Dr. Fernandez.

If you purchase a new bull, be sure he has passed a breeding soundness exam this year. The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission requires that all bulls be tested for trichomoniasis 30 days before movement. Trichomoniasis can cause very low fertility, low pregnancy rates, extended breeding seasons and low calf crops. The test takes several weeks so be sure to line up your new bull early enough for him to be tested, advises Dr. Fernandez.

Be sure you are not purchasing a problem bull from someone else, or that the bull you have now will get the job done for you this breeding season.

For more information on this or other livestock questions, contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-7214 or email him at fernandezd@uapb.edu.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Program offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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