Friday 30 September 2016

Misfiring bulls are an expensive drain on the herd

Niall McDonald

Published 08/06/2016 | 02:30

Early fertility testing for bulls should be routine.
Early fertility testing for bulls should be routine.

Despite plenty of studies that highlight the virtues of fertility testing bulls there is still one problem - not near enough of it is being done.

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Given the ridiculous price being offered for milk, I will avoid preaching economics, but nonetheless with the price of running empty cows upward of €7 a day, I'll leave you to do the maths.

A bull shooting blanks is the most expensive animal in your herd by a country mile.

In trials up to one in five bulls were deemed to be either infertile or subfertile.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to pick out a totally infertile bull if cows are merrily bulling every 21 days.

What about the subfertile ones? His testicles may be the perfect size but he may only be intermittently successful. This bull's infertility may often slip under the radar until it is too late.

Early fertility testing as part of a BBSE (Bull Breeding Soundness Examination) should be routine for all the bulls in the herd.

Just because a bull was fertile in 2015 doesn't necessarily mean he will be fertile in 2016. Over 40 and childless myself, I could possible do with examination myself!

Your vet can test a bull on the farm for a moderate fee. We think nothing of purchasing prostaglandin by the bottle, inserting expensive CIDRs, and paying for pre-mating scans.

So why not include the bull in the herd fertility budget.

There is one infertile bull that may be of use - that being the vasectomised one.

The bottom line is the conception rate, but this is in turn driven by the submission rate.

A vasectomised bull is a less labour and time-consuming method of heat detection than most alternatives.

He really comes into his own in picking up heats towards the end of the breeding season when the thrill of gazing over the hedge at cows bulling has worn off.

As a higher proportion of cows get pregnant, other methods of heat detection will become more difficult and involve less efficient use of your time.

Niall McDonald is a vet based in Co Meath

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