Critical elements to consider before selecting new bull
The beef bull is well finished his covering season and will be housed quietly away to one side for the winter months. On some farms, with the price of beef at an all-time high, there is a strong temptation to change an older bull with a view to buying a younger model.
We would be well to check out a few items before bringing a new bull onto the farm:
•First and foremost, we should source a bull that does exactly that which we need on the farm. Often we see a seriously oversized bull and may judge him to be bigger and better than the rest. But just because he's a big fella doesn't always mean that he will produce good calves.
We must also bear in mind how big an off-spring we are trying to produce. Is the bull to cover mature cows only, or will he be used on replacement heifers as well? Difficult calvings and caesarean sections are not the order of the day and should be avoided at all costs. Easy calvings must be high on the agenda.
•We should look on a new bull as a potential Trojan horse. I use this term as I refer to the disease status of the new bull.
Although he himself may look healthy, he could be coming from a herd that carries Johnes, BVD or some such disease. The Trojan horse description comes into play if an outwardly healthy bull is mixed in with all the breeding females on the farm and slowly or quickly passes on IBR or BVD into the very centre of the herd.
To avoid this we should check a few things before purchase. The new bull should be sourced from a Johnes-free herd that has an ongoing Johnes monitoring programme in place. The bull should be blood tested for IBR and BVD. He should be virus-free and PI negative on a blood test in the case of BVD.
Before the bull enters the farm he should be fully vaccinated including BVD and IBR, and leptospirosis as a starter.