Bull soundness clinic offered in Cassville

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Information will be available to help improve calf crop

The University of Missouri Extension will be hosting a Bull Breeding Soundness clinic on Oct. 7 in Cassville, which will have information on bull management, understanding Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) and tips on buying bills.

The breeding season for fall-born calves begins in November, which means October is a good time to evaluate bulls for breeding soundness. October is also a popular time to wean the spring calf crop and prepare them for marketing and wintering.

To make soundness checks easier for veterinarians and cattle owners, a series of clinics have been held since 2005. The clinics are held at the veterinarian's clinic. During clinics, veterinarians can focus on testing without distraction from other calls.

"It's an insurance policy you can take out to make sure your bull is capable of siring the next season's calf crop," said Eldon Cole, University of Missouri livestock specialist. "I gave a talk at Field Day [at the Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon on Sept. 11] about the issue called, 'Is Your Stud a Dud?' because we have, over the course of time that we've had these clinics and worked with the vets, we've found that about 10 percent of the bulls are not capable of producing a good, closely-bunched crop. That means all the calves are born in a close time period."

According to data from the extension, since 2005, between 10 and 15 percent of the 2,200 bulls checked at clinics do not qualify as satisfactory potential breeders.

The soundness checks offer more than just a semen check. Bulls are examined inside and out, from head-to-toe for conditions that could impair their ability to breed and settle heifers. Some bulls may not pass that day but could in three to four weeks. This is often the case with bulls under 14 months of age.

In addition to the breeding soundness exam, bulls are boosted for vaccinations and treated for parasites. Non-virgin bulls may be tested for trichomoniasis, and all may be genomic tested for various traits, which has an additional charge.

The only item that is not tested is libido. Owners should observe bulls closely early in the breeding season or even before turnout to determine if the bull can physically service a heifer. A bull might score high on all semen traits, but if he cannot or does not want to breed a female, owners should start looking for a replacement.

"It makes marketing and the overall management of those calves easier for the farmer," Cole said. "Down through history, we know that larger numbers in a sale will sell better verses taking a single one here and a single one there.

"The idea is to try to get your marketing numbers up by having calves that are close together in their birth dates and can sell together at a sale."

Experts recommend testing bulls for soundness, giving booster vaccinations, treating for internal and external parasites, trichomoniasis and genomic testing to create a good calf crop. Veterinarians, the extension and Zoetis cooperate on the clinics.

The bull soundness clinic will be held at Barry County Veterinary Services in Cassville. Clinics are offered on separate days in Miller, Aurora and Diamond. Cole will be at the clinics to discuss body condition scoring, soundness scores, use of EPD in sire selection, upcoming bull sales and bull management.

To make an appointment or for more information, people may call 417-466-3102.

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