What should come with your herd bull purchase?

Farm Forum

Bull sales are in full swing, and it’s time to study the bull catalogs to select your desired bulls. You start narrowing down the bulls with your selection parameters. This could include birth weight, yearling weight, EPD’s plus more. Once at the sale, you’re re-evaluating your short list to ensure the bulls have good conformation to get them through the breeding season.

If you have a successful bull sale day, you got the desired bull(s) at a good-to-fair price. I often get the questions: What else should I receive with the purchase of a bull? Should a Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BSE) and Bovine Trichomoniasis (Trich) be provided with your bull purchase?

Let’s first look at BSE testing. The breeding soundness evaluation includes a physical examination, the measurement of scrotal circumference, and an evaluation of semen quality. The physical examination focuses on the bull’s mating ability. The physical examination closely scrutinizes bull’s eyes, teeth, feet, legs, and nutritional level through body condition score. Often the bull producer provides the scrotal circumference. As scrotal circumference increases, so does the daily production of high-quality sperm. The last part of a BSE is an evaluation of semen quality. Semen quality includes ejaculate volume, sperm cell motility, and sperm cell morphology. Remember that substandard nutrition, extreme environmental temperatures, and disease can reduce semen quality. The normal recommendation is that bulls should be tested approximately 4 to 6 weeks prior to the breeding season because of these potential conditions. Some producers provide BSE results at sale time; however, depending on the length of time prior to the breeding season you may want to have another BSE completed. You may want to have your local veterinarian complete a BSE closer to the start of the breeding season as injury or other conditions can arise between the time the bull is purchased and breeding season. This is important as the semen quality of an individual bull changes over time, and just because a bull had good semen 4 or 5 months ago does not necessarily mean that it will still have the same quality of semem at breeding season. Your entire breeding season is relying on him having good semen at the start of the season.

Bovine Trichomoniasis can seriously affect the reproductive efficiency of the breeding herd. Trich is a contagious venereal disease in cattle. The one-celled parasite (protozoan) is located only in the genital tract of the cow and bull. A diseased bull may infect over 90% of the females serviced. Transmission by artificial insemination (AI) is possible but very unlikely because of the methods used to collect the semen. The requirements for trichomoniasis control are provided at the South Dakota Animal Industry Board website. Currently, non-virgin bulls must have tested negative and have this indicated on a health certificate. Virgin bulls are not required to be tested for Trich. Additionally, you might have the opportunity to purchase females at some of the bull sales, check the regulations for female animals.

Good luck finding the desired bull for your cowherd. Before the breeding season a breeding soundness evaluation should be conducted and if you are purchasing or leasing non-virgin bulls, make sure a trichomoniasis test has been completed and that it is negative.