While this time of year our minds are focused on the current calving season and the health and wellbeing of those calves and momma cows, it’s important not to forget an equally important part of the herd. The bull, maybe the most important part of the herd, and your operation as a cow calf producer.
While a cow is responsible for the growth and development of her one calf, the bull is responsible for ensuring that every cow in the herd has a calf to raise the following year. This means you are relying on him to ensure you are going to have a calf crop and income with the coming year. So the question is, have you given him everything he needs to do the job you will be entrusting him with?
We are just two months out from the coming breeding season and, believe it or not, your bull is currently growing the sperm cells which he will need to settle those open cows. That’s why this time of year can be very critical to next year’s success. It’s important to remember that he is about to go into the most stressful time of the year for him. Over the 60-90 day season, he will lose as much as 200 pounds of body weight in his search for receptive cows. You should make sure that he is in good condition going into the season; a body condition score of 6.0-6.5 is ideal for any over wintered bulls.
A good ration is also critical to cell production, so talk to your feed supplier about a ration that will best suite your circumstance. Exercise is also vitally important this time of year – he needs to be in shape before he ever steps foot in the pasture this spring. This can be accomplished by placing bulls in larger lots and making them work for their groceries. Place hay rings and minerals on opposite sides of the lot from where water sources are located. Making them travel for what they need is a good way of ensuring they are getting the exercise they need.
Last but not least, it’s important that you have a Breeding Soundness Exam done on your bull every year prior to the season. Never just assume that because he appears healthy that he will be able to get the job done. There can be a lot of things happen to him over the course of the past year, and it’s your job to ensure he is capable of doing his job. An exam consists of three parts: a physical appraisal, an internal exam and a semen evaluation. Exams are conducted by a licensed veterinarian, and bulls are given a pass or fail based on the three parts. As much as 20 percent of bulls will fail a BSE due to injury and issues that occurred over the past year, making it of the utmost importance to have one done.
To help you in this, the WVU Extension Service will have a BSE clinic on Thursday, Apr. 6. The cost will be $40, and exams will be conducted by Ironsides Animal Health. Contact Josh Peplowski, extension agent at the Greenbrier County Extension Office at 304-647-7408 for more details. Space is limited.