Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 10 December 2016

Getting the main man firing on all cylinders

Tommy Heffernan

Published 08/04/2015 | 02:30

Condition: Bulls should be tested four to six weeks before the breeding season begins
Condition: Bulls should be tested four to six weeks before the breeding season begins

The first thing I will always recommend to check before breeding is the individual responsible for commencing the process - this is, of course, the stock bull. I do a lot of bull fertility testing, but often I am only called after suspicions arise that he is not working.

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But this can consume a lot of time at a crucial stage, so the optimum approach is to have your bull tested four to six weeks before breeding starts.

You can tell a lot by physically examining a bull, but the real proof of ability is the microscopic examination of his sperm. We can give a very accurate assessment of his fertility this way, including identifying sub-fertile and infertile bulls.

The limitation is that we can only guarantee the fertility on the day of the test. Your stock bull can also go infertile following infections, severe lameness, and injuries.

It is vital the bull's nutrition is well managed coming up to breeding, with the aim of keeping him 'fit not fat'.

The most common reason for infertility in bulls is lameness, so select your bull based on his confirmation and get him pared six weeks before breeding.

Lameness causes pain, which releases cortisol that will ultimately reduce your bull's libido.

The bull should also receive all his relevant parasitic doses and routine herd vaccinations.

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Young bulls can manage about 25 cows, whereas 45 cows would be the upper limit for older bulls.

It is also important to monitor your bull mounting/mating cows when breeding commences so that you can check that these cows are not repeating 21 days later

THE COW

The 365-day calving interval is just as important to the suckler farmer as the dairy man to ensure profitability. This topic is vast, but the important things to watch for are:

* Body condition score (BCS) and nutrition are important. You will have a lot of the hard work done by ensuring that cows don't lose too much condition following calving and are in good BCS at breeding

* Make sure pre-breeding vaccinations, such as BVD and leptospirosis, are administered. Also make sure that you deal with any trace element deficiencies

* Problem cows, or cows that had difficult calvings or womb infections, should be scanned to make sure they are cycling and don't need intervention

* Removing calves for periods to stimulate cycling can be useful

* Hormonal intervention to get cows back cycling or to synchronise heifers for a tighter calving pattern can help

*l Take records of cows that are observed bulling and tail-paint cows to make sure there are no issues. Any cows not seen bulling should be scanned and treated appropriately.

These steps will greatly help tighten your calving pattern and make your business more profitable.

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