'Hot-housed' bulls at risk of stress and infertility

Farmers would be better off bidding for bulls that arrive fit for work.
Farmers would be better off bidding for bulls that arrive fit for work.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Stock bull sales need to be completely over-hauled to minimise the number of dud bulls being sold to farmers, according to some of the country's top bull fertility specialists.

Midlands vet Donal Lynch claimed "hot-housed" bulls that are pumped with extra feed for months before being sold in high profile sales are prone to lameness, infertility and poor thrive when they arrive at purchasers' farms.

"The system here makes no sense. If the bull isn't fed to the gills before they arrive in the sales ring, they get a poor price.

"But in reality farmers would be better off bidding for animals that arrive fit for work," said Mr Lynch.

Kerry vet, Donal Murphy, pointed to the Continent where French farmers often buy bulls direct from farms.

He stressed that this reduces both the biosecurity risks and any tendency to intensively feed any particular animal.

"The other key factor is making sure the bull arrives on purchasers' farms in plenty of time to acclimatise to their new environment," said Mr Murphy.

"That is in complete contrast to what can happen here were the bull is literally brought home and turned out into a field of cows."

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But the Rathmore vet said that the emergence of fertility testing over the last 10 years has heightened farmers' awareness about the risk of extremely well fed bulls having very poor semen.

The level of sub-optimal fertility among bulls is estimated at anywhere between 20-40pc.

Mr Lynch said that he has dealt with many cases of prize pedigree bulls becoming infertile in the weeks and months after they arrive at a farm.

He said the stress of the stress of the change from a pampered environment to a working one can cause difficulties.

"The ideal is that a bull is put in with just one quiet cow that he can boss around for a few days, before he is introduced to four or five heifers.

"But he should be only gradually weaned off concentrates.

"If he goes from a nice bedded shed with ad-lib meal to a herd of 50 cows, it's quite likely that the stress will affect his fertility.

"High concentrate diets also leave animals prone to laminitis in the feet," he added.

Mr Lynch advised any farmer that was unhappy about a bull following purchase at an auction to act immediately.

"You need to contact the breeder and, in the case of a breed society sale, the society in question to outline your concerns," he said.

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