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Don't forget the bull. (The cow barn).

Making sure you have a capable bull is a key to a good calf crop from your beef cow next year. That means the bull should have a breeding soundness examination, says Philip Berg, with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Don't underestimate the importance of the bull. The bull is responsible for half the genetic material in calves. Also, the bull's ability to locate cows in estrus and breed them is clearly vital to the success of the operation. Low-fertility bulls can increase the percentage of open cows in your herd and extend the calving period.

Berg says a breeding soundness exam can't guarantee the fertility of a bull, but it can identify bulls having obvious reproductive problems. The best time for the exam is 30 to 60 days before the start of breeding. This allows enough time to replace questionable bulls.

A veterinarian administers the breeding soundness exam. The procedure includes a physical examination of feet, legs, eyes, teeth, flesh cover, and scrotal size and shape. It also includes an internal and external examination of the reproductive tract, and semen evaluation for sperm cell motility and normality.

General recommendations are to run 25 to 30 cows per mature bull and 15 to 20 cows per yearling bull. These ratios will vary depending on the pasture, the terrain and the bull's sexual aggressiveness.

Yearling bulls may need special management to improve performance and prevent weight loss, says Berg. This may mean rotating them between pastures, and giving them extra feed or a shorter breeding season.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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