NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
March 19, 1998
[Editors: This is the sixth and final article in a series on bull buying.]
Although North Dakota's bulls generally have come through this year's winter in good shape, a North Dakota State University veterinarian urges producers to be alert to health concerns that can cut the calf crop.
"In most cases, producers just need to make sure their bulls are in good conditionnot too thin and not too fatand in good health for the breeding season," says Charlie Stoltenow, veterinarian with the NDSU Extension Service. "In North Dakota we're fortunate because our bulls aren't exposed to as many diseases as in other areas in the United States, and the mild weather this year means there shouldn't be a problem with frostbite."
Stoltenow urges producers to consult with a veterinarian to have a breeding soundness exam performed before the breeding season. The veterinarian will make sure bulls are in good general health and that the reproductive organs are functioning well. The practitioner will also test for sperm quantity and quality.
Stoltenow advises producers who are buying bulls to check health and immunization records carefully. "That's often the first area of management that breaks down. So if there are some things missing or lacking in immunization records, it's a warning sign to look for problems elsewhere."
Observing bull behavior can often yield clues to potential problems, Stoltenow says. Lameness or a slow gait may indicate foot or leg problems. Bulls that remain near watering or feeding areas while cows wander in the pasture may also be suffering mobility problems. A bull that appears to be stiff or uses its chin or front shoulders excessively when mounting may have a back injury. Bulls should be able to mount easily without placing excessive weight on the cow. Injuries or weakness in the hind legs are particularly worrisome because they must bear most of the bull's weight during mounting.
"Anything that interferes with the bull's ability to move around or perform sexually during breeding season is a serious problem," Stoltenow says. "If the problem is minor and treatable, have it taken care of immediately. If it's something that's going to be a continuing problem, it's best to replace the bull. If problems aren't addressed, the result will be open cows, delayed breeding or a reduced calf crop."
Source: Charlie Stoltenow (701) 231-7522
Editor: Tom Jirik (701) 231-9629