If you have a spring breeding season on your ranch, several aspects of bull management require attention to body condition months in advance.
Ranchers with spring breeding and calving seasons may want to give some thought to bull management throughout the winter months, according to Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Animal Science Professor Emeritus. To better understand nutritional needs in proper bull management, Selk divides the bull’s year into three seasons: pre-breeding or conditioning (2 months), breeding season (2-3 months), and post-breeding season or rest and recuperation (4-8 months).
While the length of each segment may vary from one operation to another, the basic requirements remain the same. In herds with both fall and spring breeding seasons, bulls may need a high level of nutrition to recover body condition more quickly than if they are used just once a year.
At the start of the conditioning period, the bull battery should be fairly well established. A producer should have determined bull needs for the upcoming breeding season and then have appraised his present bull battery. This evaluation should include a breeding soundness exam, which checks the reproductive capacity and physical soundness of each bull.
Bulls that prove unsatisfactory, and possibly those that are questionable, should be replaced. New bulls should be acquired at least 60 and preferably 90 days prior to the breeding season to provide ample time for the new acquisitions to adjust to the feed and climate of an area. It also allows bulls that will be working together to become familiar with each other and to develop a social structure. Newly acquired bulls as well as the carry-overs should be brought up to date in a complete health program with the balance of the herd.
Care for feet
Selk says proper attention and care of bulls’ feet can prolong their useful life and can help insure a high rate of activity during the breeding season. After an extended period of inactivity, bulls’ feet may be long and misshapen. Hoof trimming should be done at the start of the conditioning period, so there is time for some re-growth, which acts as a cushion during the breeding season.
One of most critical factors for proper bull development is exercise, according to Selk. A bull during breeding season might be equated to an athlete since he travels several miles each day and maintains a high degree of physical activity. Physical fitness requires several weeks of conditioning. Bulls are by nature very active and become more so as the weather warms prior to the breeding season. If given ample area in bull pastures, bulls will usually exercise themselves. In designing bull facilities, it is a good idea to locate supplemental feeding and water areas as far apart as possible.
Bulls that are physically fit when turned out will breed more cows during the breeding season because they will retain a high degree of libido and remain sound longer as well. Exercise prior to the breeding season also reduces injuries from fighting and riding normally occurring during that time.
Read more about bull management in the OSU Fact SheetANSI-3254 Management of Beef Bulls at http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1922/ANSI-3254web.pdf.