Ask the Vet
Mon Nov 17, 2014 01:22 PM CST
A bad bull can be a train wreck. Breeding soundness exams are a necessity every breeding season. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)


I bought a bull that was supposed to have been semen checked. I put him on a group of 30 cows away from my main herd, where I wasn't able to check as often as I should have. I noticed he had gained weight during the breeding season. When those 30 cows were preg checked every one was open. I checked back with the breeder and found out all they did was measure the bull's scrotum and check a drop of semen. I had a complete breeding soundness exam done on him after all the cows came up open, and the bull cannot extend his penis. I am not sure if this falls under the category of question, or confession. Do you have any thoughts?


I think you've given readers here a very valuable lesson, if they will take your question/confession to heart. It doesn't matter how long you've raised cattle, or how knowledgeable you are, a complete breeding soundness evaluation done by a competent veterinarian may be the most valuable reproductive tool available.

Breeding soundness evaluations should be done prior to EVERY breeding season. That is EVERY bull EVERY year. Cases like yours are rare, but devastating. And this is far from the first time I have seen a case like this.

Usually the issue is the sub-fertile bull who quietly steals a calf or two, or loses pounds because he does not get cows bred as early in the season as a fertile bull would have. With current prices, every day late a calf is born costs you money.

You cannot afford to have a bull in the herd, for even a minute that is not 100% able to do the job you've bought him for. When you purchase a bull, get the breeding soundness form and be sure it is complete. If anything does not look right or you have any questions, contact your veterinarian. In my opinion, breeders should only offer bulls that have passed a complete breeding soundness evaluation.

Keep in mind that you have huge role in the breeding process. A BSE cannot evaluate libido and a good bull can go bad in a heartbeat. So be sure the bull is breeding cows. Watch cows for return to heat 18 to 24 days after they were bred. If too many cows are coming back around, it is time to act. After all, fertility is the most important economic trait in cattle production. Always keep your eye on that ball!


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