Looking after Bulls
What do I do when I get the bulls home?
Bulls are like us. Some settle easily in to a new location - others don’t. Here are a few pointers to help your new bull/s settle in.
Bulls are social animals and there is a hierarchy within each mob. Usually we have around 4 mobs of bulls for any one sale. If bulls are purchased from different mobs and put together they will very likely fight to sort out who’s “boss”. If you buy more than one bull, find out from us at the end of the sale what mobs are represented in your purchases and we can tell you whether you are likely to experience fighting when we get them home for you.
When the bull/s arrive at your home, let them settle in by leaving them in the yards overnight and observe how they are reacting to their now home. Give them fresh water and good quality hay. If they are fighting you might have to split them, depending on how serious it is. Two bulls fighting is often less of a concern than 3 bulls fighting as sometimes the third bull will broadside one of the bulls locked in battle and serious injury can result.
If you have purchased only one bull, then find a mate or two for him straight away. If you have bought multiple bulls from a number of different management groups or studs it is often better to put them all together at once. Introducing new bulls into a mob one at a time can lead to the new bull being given a very hard time indeed by his contemporaries. Sometimes a young bull will team up with a bigger older bull but often it should be one or two cows or steers. Bulls left on their own are much more likely to jump or push through fences and be unsettled and once they get into the habit are hard to stop.
We do not use dogs on our cattle so your new bull might react strangely if you use a dog. In all instances read the body language of your new bull/s and take appropriate action. Sometimes this might involve a stint in the yards, other times it might be better to let them into a paddock straightaway with one or two cows. The added advantage of running them with cows is that it will help them develop immunity to foreign bugs they may not have previously encountered well before the breeding season. Whatever the circumstance, do not take the view that everything will be fine because sometimes it isn’t and each bull will be different. For further advice please do not hesitate to call us.
Your new bull will be up to date with vaccine and parasite treatment at the time of sale however a booster vaccination should be given annually including Vibriosis, Pestivirus and 7 in 1. These vaccinations can be given anytime to fit in with your normal management routine however 4 to 6 weeks before mating is a good time and this also gives you a chance to inspect all your bulls and establish their general soundness before the breeding season.
How to get the most out of your bulls
Prior to mating a breeding soundness evaluation of all the bulls you own is a good idea. You may wish to undertake this yourself or get a vet to do it for you. Bulls should be assessed for reproductive soundness including palpation and measuring of the testicles.
Testes should be at least 32 cm in circumference and tennis ball firm, not hard or soft. They should be symmetrical and free from abnormal lumps and bumps. The epididymis at the base of the testicle should not be enlarged or irregular and the cords at the top of the testicle also free of lumps. It is a good idea to observe your bull’s actual physical prowess in a serving ability test. When a bull is mounting a cow he must thrust and complete a service fully before he can be given a tick. Stand to the right and to the rear of the bull and check for corkscrew penis.
Corkscrew penis is a condition where the end of the penis spirals preventing entry into the vagina. Corkscrew penis will always deviate to the right side of the cow. Check the bull also for muscle tremor, muscle wastage, lameness, favouring of one hind leg or any other indication he may be unsound. Look for other indicators - unevenly grown hind toes can be a sign of hip problems for instance.
Once your bulls have passed through all these hoops they are ready for joining however do not think that you can now take your eye off the ball (so to speak) because during joining an injury is even more likely to occur, or a long standing problem resurface, due to the workload. Inspect your bulls twice a week at close proximity. Look for the same things you observed in your pre joining check.
When you have passed the first 3 weeks of joining make sure there are not large numbers of cows cycling. Even if your bull is serving well and normally there is always a small risk he may be infertile due to poor quality sperm. This may be a temporary or permanent problem. If you are in any doubt replace the bull with another.
It is important to remember that the fundamental profit driver in a beef enterprise is reproduction. It is therefore vital to spend time making sure your bulls are working properly.
During the non-breeding season do not let your bulls get fat! Bulls will last a lot longer, have fewer feet problems and will be more agile and virile generally if they are not overweight. The best mature bull paddock is often your worst paddock. Young bulls may need a better paddock as they are still growing.
At the 6 week pre joining check-up, move all bulls to better paddocks to start lifting them before mating.
If you are in any doubt as to the soundness of your bull/s, or what you should be doing or looking for, please call us on 02 6453 5555.