By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
The breeding season has started for many producers, although some have not yet turned their bulls out into the breeding pasture.
What can be done to achieve maximum breeding performance for the least cost?
When the herd sire was selected, it likely meant a significant investment of time and money. But in the rush of spring activity, those bulls sometimes neglected until they get turned out with the cows.
Attention to some details can ensure better returns on your investment.
Herd bulls should have access to an exercise area prior to turnout so that the first few days of breeding are not a shock to the system, or result in injury.
They also should be carrying some extra condition, but not too much, to ensure they have the energy that active breeding requires.
This is especially important for the younger yearling and two-year-old bulls that still are growing.
It makes sense for the bull to receive a rising plane of nutrition prior to breeding like the cow herd gets. If cows require Vitamin E, selenium, and trace mineral supplementation, so does the bull.
Anything that may have compromised the bull’s health during the winter, including nutritional deficiency, could lead to reduced fertility.
Hoof strength and integrity also can be compromised by poor winter nutrition.
Trimming a bull to correct a foot problems just days before turnout is not a good idea. Any bull requiring corrective trimming should be attended to weeks in advance of turnout.
Putting a yearling bull in with the old guy won’t necessarily keep the older bull on his toes. More likely the young bull will be kept from doing much, if any, breeding, placing a higher workload on the older bull.
There also is a greatly increased risk of injury to the younger animal from being hit while breeding, as well as fighting injuries.
Whenever possible, keep yearlings, two-year-olds, and mature bulls in separate pastures.
Time spent observing breeding, especially early in the season, is time well-spent. It may be your only opportunity to assess libido and mating ability.
Early morning and dusk are the best times to observe breeding behaviour.
Watching closely can help you detect a problem and possibly make adjustments (i.e., get another bull) early in the breeding season.