New database to reveal scale of infertility in stock bulls

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Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

New research is set to shed light on the scale of stock bull infertility on farms all over the country.

Kieran Meade of Teagasc Grange and Sean Fair of the University of Limerick are leading the research which has developed the first large scale stock bull fertility database to collate multiple sources of information available on measures of fertility, including bull breeding soundness evaluations.

Critical to the research is a breeding soundness evaluation. This is an assessment, at a point in time, of a bull’s semen quality and structural soundness.

Preliminary findings from the analysis of this data suggests that of 627 bulls routinely assessed, 24pc failed the evaluation, mainly due to poor semen quality.

These bulls ranged across all the main breeds, and while some of these bulls were young and would have passed at a subsequent evaluation, it does provide some insight into the level of subfertility in the Irish stock bull population.

Recently, the research has also incorporated semen quality data generated objectively using a computerassisted sperm analysis (CASA) system of a much larger number of stock bulls.

CASA allows the accurate, repetitive and automatic assessment of multiple sperm parameters that are indicative of sperm health and function, including sperm concentration, motility, morphology, as well as sperm swimming speed and patterns.

This will facilitate a further more detailed characterisation of sperm quality in problem bulls.

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Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant number of working bulls are subfertile or infertile.

This is of huge significance as currently in Ireland it is estimated that 83pc of calves born to beef cows are bred with a stock bull, while approximately 55pc of dairy replacements are sired by a stock bull.

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