By: David Burton, University of Missouri Extension
The bull breeding soundness days held in early March at four veterinary clinics in southwest Missouri found 13.5 percent of the bulls were unsatisfactory as potential breeders. There were 170 bulls examined ranging in age from 11 months to 10 years.
The 13.5 percent fail or defer rate compares to the longtime average rate of 10.7 percent.
The special clinics began in 2005 as a spring only event and since 2008 they have been held also in October ahead of the fall bull turnout.
The single largest reason for failure and deferments was a normal sperm count of under 70 percent. Fourteen bulls fell in that category and they varied in age from 12 months to 7 years.
Five bulls had scrotal circumferences smaller than the requirement for passage considering their age. The average on all bulls was 39.1 centimeters with a range from 27 to 48 centimeters.
"It's difficult to determine why these problems occurred. The body condition scores of the poor testing bulls went from 3.5 to 6.5 with the average 5.3. Some owners wondered if the unusually cold, icy weather may have been a factor," said Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
According to Cole, very few of the bulls had any visible frostbite evidence on their scrotums. Only one had significant appearing damage, yet he tested okay. Another bull had a large scab on his prepuce which appeared to be frostbite, according to the veterinarian.
Thirty-seven bulls were tested for trichomoniasis. Thirty-one bulls had structural problem related to excessive toe growth, corkscrew toes or corn development between their toes.
"Most of these hoof problems would not cause the bulls to be unable to breed cows. However, a lot would depend on the terrain, size of pasture and the number of females in the herd," said Cole.
As in the past, the large majority of the bulls tested were Angus at 45 percent. Tied at 8 percent were Red Angus and Limousin. There were 19 different breeds or breed combinations tested this spring.
The bulls were given a body condition score using the 1-9 scale. The average was 5.9 with the extremes being 3.5 to 8.0. This compares very closely to past BCS averages and ranges.
"The clinics are held to focus attention on the need to check bulls ahead of the breeding season so replacements may be found if a bull does not receive a satisfactory rating," said Cole.
The one breeding soundness criteria not evaluated at the clinics was libido. Cole says the person looking after the cows or heifers is responsible for observing the bull's activity once he's put with the females.
Cooperating on the clinics this spring were: Barry County Veterinary Services, Cassville, Animal Clinic of Diamond, Diamond, Dake Veterinary Clinic, Miller and Countryside Animal Clinic, Aurora, Zoetis and University of Missouri Extension.
"Contact your own veterinary clinic to schedule a date to have your bulls tested. The exam doesn't take long and considering the value of your bull and investment, the BSE is a good insurance policy to take out," said Cole.