WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Bull reproductive evaluations can offer some insurance to beef producers heading into the spring breeding season, and high cattle and feed prices make the exams especially important this year, a Purdue Extension beef specialist says.
The exams are conducted by veterinarians or reproductive physiologists who check the animals' overall and reproductive health, including body condition, feet and leg condition, eyes, and internal and external reproductive organs.
"The goal of having a herd bull is to get all cows bred, and that means the bulls need to be physically sound," Ron Lemenager said. "Cattle and feed prices are both too high not to give cows every opportunity to get bred. If you've never evaluated your bull before, this is the year to do it."
It's critical for producers to be sure that all bulls, not just yearling or young bulls, are sound for breeding - and that includes those that were evaluated or bred cows previously.
"Evaluations are an every year deal," Lemenager said. "Just because a bull bred cows last summer does not necessarily mean that he's going to breed cows this year."
Part of the exams is to check for frostbite or other reproductive organ ailments that could hinder breeding. Semen also is evaluated based on motility and morphology and if sperm are alive or dead.
It takes about 60 days for bulls to produce sperm, so Lemenager recommended that producers have their bulls evaluated 45-60 days before their breeding season begins. Doing so also allows time to recondition and retest animals that don't score well.
"If a bull has poor semen quality or has some physical anomaly, it gives producers an opportunity to re-evaluate the animal before the breeding season begins," he said.
If the animal fails a second reproductive evaluation, there is still time to find a replacement bull.
One option for producers who need sound replacement bulls is Purdue University's Indiana Beef Evaluation Program spring bull sale. All bulls sold have passed a rigorous series of evaluations, including breeding soundness examinations.
The spring sale will be April 18 at 6 p.m. at the Springville Feeder Auction. For more information on the program and the sale, visit http://www.ansc.purdue.edu/ibep/index.htm.
Some Purdue Extension county offices also are hosting breeding soundness exam clinics in March and April. Currently scheduled dates and locations are:
* March 20: Washington County, $35 per animal. Contact: Danielle Walker, Purdue ANR Extension educator, 812-883-4601.
* March 23: Johnson and Bartholomew Counties, $35 per animal. Contact: Sarah Speedy, Purdue ANR Extension educator, 317-736-3724.
* March 26: Clark County, $35 per animal. Contact: David Hynes, Purdue ANR Extension educator, 812-256-4591.
* April 6: Kosciusko County, $45 per animal for local cattlemen's association members or $55 per animal for non-members. Contact: Kelly Heckaman, Purdue ANR Extension educator, 574-372-2340.
* April 19: Morgan County, $35 per animal. Contact: Chris Parker, Purdue ANR Extension educator, 765-342-1010.
Clinics require appointments, and some locations require payment in advance. Producers looking for exam clinics can contact their local Purdue Extension county offices or veterinarians directly. County office contact information is available at http://www.extension.purdue.edu.