“Bull management outside of the breeding season prepares the bull for success in the next breeding season,” said Patrick Davis, University of Missouri Extension regional livestock field specialist.

As winter is upon us, Davis will discuss management strategies for bulls during the off-season.

“Proper bull nutrition through the winter months is key to maintaining an optimum body condition score (BCS) of 6 prior to the next breeding season,” Davis said.

A BCS of 6 is a bull carrying a modest amount of extra fat cover. One management strategy to promote this is to feed and manage bulls based on age. Davis urges cattle producers to manage yearling, 2-year-old and mature bulls in separate feeding groups after the breeding season. This is due to their differing size and growth potentials, which results in different nutrient needs. For more information or suggestions about a proper bull winter-feeding program, contact a local MU Extension livestock field specialist.

“Winter months can result in cold stress for your bulls, and this could influence fertility during the next breeding season,” Davis said.

Because sperm is produced over 60 days prior to breeding a cow, cold stress in late winter might negatively impact sperm production and fertility, resulting in low fertility early in the spring breeding season. Also, cold stress might cause frostbite on the scrotum and sheath, which negatively impacts a bull’s ability to breed cows, resulting in poor conception rates in the upcoming breeding season. Davis urges cattle producers to provide proper shelter and cover for bulls to reduce cold stress during the winter months.

“Exercise prior to the breeding season is important to make sure bulls are physically ready for the breeding season,” Davis said.

Bulls can potentially travel a lot of distance and have long periods of physical activity during the breeding season. Therefore, Davis urges cattle producers to consider strategies like placing as much distance as possible between water, feed and mineral to promote exercise among the bulls.

“If bulls are wintered in a lot rather than pasture, watch lot conditions,” Davis said.

Muddy conditions can lead to hoof problems, which will affect the bull’s ability to do his job come breeding time. Davis urges cattle producers to implement strategies in bull lots to reduce muddy conditions.  

“As you prepare bulls for the next breeding season, work with a veterinarian to make sure bulls are physically and reproductively sound, as well as in proper health prior to turnout,” Davis said.

To determine physical and reproductive soundness, Davis urges cattle producers to schedule a bull breeding soundness exam with their veterinarian within 30 to 60 day prior to the breeding season. Furthermore, this is an ideal time to booster vaccinations and provide parasite control to help promote optimum health of the bulls as they enter the breeding season.

“Bull management is important to reproductive success and optimum profitability of a cattle operation,” Davis said.

For more information about proper bull management, contact a local MU Extension livestock field specialist.

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