Bull power on the farm

Paul Westfall, County Extension Director, Granville County
Oct. 14, 2013 @ 10:55 AM


Is there enough bull power on the farm?

Maybe that sounds like a dumb question, but it is one that all cattle farmers should ask themselves each year. Maybe the answer is simple. After all, if there is a bull on the farm, that should meet the need, right? My answer is maybe. Just because the bull is there doesn’t mean that he can do his job, which is to breed cows so they can have calves.

Let’s look at some of the questions that come under the heading of bull power. One is how many cows are in the herd? If there are 35 or fewer, then one mature bull is plenty. If there are more than 35, then another bull should be considered. Otherwise, bull no. 1 will wear himself to a frazzle trying to do his job, and that may not be healthy for him.

Another question is how old is the bull? A young bull should be limited in the number of cows he is used with, say 15 to 20. More than that and his growth and development into a mature bull could be jeopardized. Old bulls have other problems, including being able to eat enough forage to keep their weight up and do their job. If they are old enough to have lost some teeth, then there is a serious problem developing.

Does the bull walk around OK? Again, this may sound like an elementary question, but a bull that has a sore foot or bad joint just won’t move around enough to perform. Lameness can happen to a bull of any age, so keep an eye out for foot problems and call a veterinarian if needed.

A good way to make sure that a bull is up to peak performance is to have a breeding soundness exam (BSE) conducted by a veterinarian. Feet, legs, teeth, body condition and semen quality are all evaluated, giving the cattleman a good indication that the bull is healthy enough to work or if he needs some help – or if the cattleman needs to replace the bull. It just so happens that area beef cattlemen have the opportunity to have their bulls checked at a BSE clinic being held on Oct. 31, 2013, at the Granville County Livestock Arena. The arena is located at 4200 Cannady’s Mill Road south of Oxford. Producers who want to have their bulls checked should call the Granville County Cooperative Extension Center at (919) 603-1350 to get their time slot for the exam. The clinic will start at 8:30 am and will continue until all scheduled bulls are tested. There is a $10 fee per bull. This cost is kept low by sponsorships from the Granville County Cattleman’s Association, Granville County Farm Bureau and Southern States of Oxford. The exams will be conducted by veterinarians and veterinary students from the N.C. State Vet School.

With prices for 550 to 600 pound weaned steers ranging from $1.40 to $1.50 per pound last Friday, cattlemen can’t afford to lose a calf crop because the bull couldn’t do his job. For more information, please call the Granville County Cooperative Extension Center at (919) 603-1350.