Soundness exam clinics find 11.5 percent of bulls unsatisfactory
During the three bull breeding soundness exam clinics in southwest Missouri in early October, 11.5 percent of the 96 bulls were found to be unsatisfactory for breeding purposes.
"With the hot summer that extended into September, it's surprising that the fail rate wasn't higher," said Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
The fail and defer rate included both old and young bulls. The average age of the 96 bulls was 3.2 years. They ranged in age from 10 months to 10 years.
"Interestingly, those two extremes were found to be unsatisfactory potential breeders. They will be given a second chance. Seven of the questionable bulls had a percent normal sperm count under 60 percent," said Cole.
Two bulls had penile injuries that likely would impair their breeding ability. One of the two bulls suffered their injury as a result of a hair ring that nearly cut the tip of the penis off.
None of the bulls were screened out because of physical defects that were easily visible. Five bulls had soundness scores of 2 or 3, which mostly was due to long and/or uneven toes. Their ability to breed cows on rough terrain could be compromised. Hoof trimming could help extend their usefulness if they were sound otherwise.
"Cow-calf producers who plan to turn bulls with cows in the next month should arrange with their veterinarian to do a breeding soundness exam. There is a good possibility about 10 percent of those bulls will be unsatisfactory and string out the fall, 2013 calf crop," said Cole.
A strung-out calf crop makes marketing and management more challenging. It may reduce income as the calves will weigh less if sold on a comparable date.
A bull soundness exam costs, as a rule, from $30 to $50 per bull. The cost depends on the number of bulls checked, whether the veterinarian has to come to your farm, what vaccinations are given and the extent of parasite control given.
"Trichomoniasis testing should be done if the bulls have been exposed to other than your cows. If a rental or neighbor's bull has been with your cows, he needs tested if possible," said Cole.
Trich testing is also advised when a high percentage of cows come up open even though the bull has a satisfactory bull soundness exam. The trich test will be an additional cost but should be considered a part of a non-virgin bulls exam.
The bull soundness exam clinics have been conducted in the region since 2005 as a cooperative effort with University of Missouri Extension, Pfizer Animal Health and various veterinarians. Cooperating veterinarians this fall were Drs. Voyd Brown, Cassville; Chuck Dake, Miller; and Mike Bloss, Aurora.