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As any cattle farmer knows, a healthy bull depends partly on how well that bull can reproduce. Three clinics to test just that are scheduled for mid-March in Miller, Cassville and Aurora. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports how these bull evaluations will enable owners to decide if their bulls are healthy and capable of breeding effectively.
A typical breeding season lasts between 60-75 days, according to experts with the University of Missouri Extension in southwest Missouri.
Eldon Cole is a livestock specialist with the extension in Lawrence County. He says a healthy bull in its prime can produce 30-35 offspring in one breeding season.
“Younger bulls probably would not be expected to breed that many cows. And, of course, an older bull that may have some lameness problems, or his semen production is going down, he would be somewhat less, and maybe only get 10 or so calves a year.”
Cole says some physically fit bulls can breed in up to ten different breeding seasons, if they're very healthy. He says this is important, especially now, because the price per head of cattle is at a record price, and has been for awhile.
Before cattle owners start the breeding process, they can get their bulls tested to see just how capable their animals are of reproducing. Cole says at the clinics, veterinarians will examine a bull’s entire physiology, including its genitals and semen activity.
“Through all of this process, the veterinarian who will be doing this will come up with a score, and if you get a good enough score, they are considered satisfactory, potential breeders. If they’re a complete dud, they will be called unsatisfactory.”
For the bulls that rank somewhere in the middle, with a mediocre score, the animal will be labeled as “deferred.”
Cole says this gives the owner a chance to either sell the bull for another animal that is better suited to breed, or bring back the bull a month later for a second exam, to see if the bull’s health and breeding potential improves.
He says a little over 10 percent of the bulls the MU Extension tests each year are sterile, or very low in fertility.
“One other thing that we do at these clinics: bulls, just like humans, need to have their shots updated. They may need some parasite controls for external, or possibly internal, parasites. We do offer that opportunity for them to have their bulls given their boosters shots and parasite control at the clinics.”
The clinics will be held at Dake Clinic in Miller on March 12, Barry County Veterinary Services in Cassville on March 15, and Countryside Animal Clinic in Aurora on March 21. Those are all on our website. Each session begins at 8 a.m. and appointments are made directly with the veterinary clinic.
Cole says farmers can expect to pay around $35 per bull for each examination.
Southwest Missouri, he says, has more beef cattle than anywhere else in the state.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.