Examine Bulls Before Spring Breeding

For farmers who raise bulls for breeding, a physical exam performed by a veterinarian can help eliminate problems during breeding season.

by Dani Yokhna
Bull in field
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock
Examining bulls for reproductive soundness prior to breeding season will help ensure cows health and productivity.

As breeding season approaches, farmers who breed cattle need to have their bulls examined for reproductive soundness, according to beef specialists at Purdue University.

Veterinarians specializing in reproduction typically perform bull exams. They evaluate physical soundness and the reproductive organs, and assess any injuries or conditions that might prevent the bulls from breeding cows in the spring.

“Virgin bulls are among the most important for producers to have tested because up to 10 percent of those animals could have reproductive issues,” says Ron Lemenager, an animal sciences professor at Purdue. “Young bulls seem to be more vulnerable to changes in the environment, nutrition and disease that can affect semen quality.”

During the exams, semen quality, volume and motility will be evaluated. The exam provider also will palpate reproductive organs and check for any problems, such as swelling, adhesions, hair rings or warts. Young bulls that have not yet reached puberty will be evaluated for reproductive maturity, as well.

Lemenager recommends that farmers have their bulls evaluated well in advance of breeding season.

“Normally, we talk about evaluating bulls a month to 45 days before breeding so that if they fail the exam, there is time to re-evaluate them,” he says. “If they fail a second time, producers then have a chance to find a replacement and still get cows bred on time.”

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It takes about 60 days for a bull to produce viable semen. Any condition that increases body temperature can result in lower semen quality or temporary sterility.

Lemenager says that breeding exams are worth their cost to prevent problems during breeding. “With the price of cattle and feeds right now, these exams are very cost-effective,” he says. “We want to get cows bred and calving on time.”

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