Breeding Season Considerations

The breeding season may have already begun for some, but it is coming up in the near future for others. Here are a few considerations as you prepare to turn your bulls out.

Having a breeding soundness exam (BSE) on your bulls prior to breeding season is critical. To put it into perspective, in one breeding season an individual cow is expected to contribute to one pregnancy, whereas a bull is expected to contribute to 20-50 pregnancies. The BSE that is conducted by your veterinarian includes a physical exam, an exam of the reproductive organs, and a semen evaluation. The process of producing sperm takes approximately 60 days, meaning that subzero temperatures, infections, stress, or similar situations that have occurred during that time could negatively impact semen quality. It is important to schedule a BSE close enough to the breeding season that allows for enough time for animals to recover from any winter injuries, but far in advance enough to retest or replace bulls that do not pass the exam.

It is important to note that a BSE does not evaluate bull libido. This makes it important for producers to monitor bulls after they have been turned out, to ensure that they are actively breeding cows.

The bull to cow ration must also be considered prior to the breeding season. The average ratio for mature bulls is 1 bull to 25 cows and 1 bull to 15 cows for yearling bulls. Higher rates of up to 50 cows are used in some situations, with an understanding that this higher rate may lead to cows not becoming pregnant in their first cycle of the breeding season and subsequently calving later that following year.

Be sure to schedule a BSE with your veterinarian prior to turn out. Contact the MSU Richland County Extension office with any questions, 406-433-1206.


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