Breeding season for next fall's calf crop will soon be here. Beef cattle producers should be conditioning their herd bulls now in preparation for the breeding season.
If producers plan to purchase new bulls, they should be delivered to the farm at least two to four months in advance of the breeding season.
Only healthy bulls should be purchased and they should be isolated from other animals for 30 days. Routine tests for tuberculosis and brucellosis and certain venereal diseases (on nonvirgin bulls) can be made at this time.
Bulls that are to be used in multi-sire groups in the same pasture should be put together ahead of turnout time.
Special management of young bulls, particularly yearlings, is important. It must be remembered that they are still growing. Yearlings just off test have been on a full feed of roughage and grain. Do not overwork young bulls. After 30 to 45 days of service, they should be removed from the herd and fed well to insure continued growth and development.
Proper feeding of herd bulls is very important if they are to be in excellent breeding shape. They should be fed to grow to maturity in a normal manner, but never overfed.
Overconditioning will reduce breeding vigor or libido and may lead to foot and leg problems, causing unsoundness.
Prior to the breeding season bulls may need slightly more energy so they will go into the breeding pasture in top physical condition.
The nutrient requirements for mature bulls (two years old and older) during the breeding season are only slightly above those for the nursing cows they will be breeding, so little or no supplemental feeding is required.
Yearling bulls' requirements are greater. They should be given a daily supplemental feeding of 5 to 10 pounds of grain plus 1 to 2 pounds of protein supplement. This can be fed best in the morning or evening using a single animal feeding chute in the pasture that will prevent competition from cows or other bulls. A simple commercial mineral mix or a homemade one composed of equal parts by weight of trace mineralized salt, limestone, and dicalcium phosphate should be kept before bulls at all times. A mixture of equal parts of mineralized salt, dicalcium phosphate, and magnesium oxide plus 10 percent dried molasses may be used where grass tetany may be a problem.
New bulls should be semen tested and a breeding soundness evaluation done before they are turned out.
Also, deworm and delouse bulls before they are turned into the pasture.
Taking good care of bulls will insure their ability to breed cows in a timely fashion.