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West: The importance of a complete bull BSE prior to breeding season

Matthew Garcia for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 May 2019

Breeding season is upon us, and hopefully we have made some sound bull decisions that will positively influence our herds going forward. However, it is even more important we ensure the bulls we have purchased or retained are capable of incorporating genetics into our herds.

While bulls we purchased should come with a recent breeding soundness exam (BSE), the bulls we retained from last year need to be re-evaluated prior to breeding season. In this column, I will discuss two vital components to a BSE that must be considered prior to turning out bulls.

1. The first question we must answer with a BSE is: Can the bull produce viable sperm to pass on his desired genetics? A healthy-looking bull is always great, but it doesn’t necessarily ensure he is going to be a viable breeder. For this component of the BSE, a veterinarian will electroejaculate the bull to look at the concentration of sperm and the shape/morphology of the sperm.

A bull must have a good concentration of viable well-shaped sperm to be considered a breeder. If a bull fails this part of the exam, he can be retested; however, if your bull fails this part of the exam, it is highly advised he not be put out for breeding season.

2. The second part of the BSE is more functional and looks at the outward ability of the bull to actually breed cows. In Western environments, bulls typically have to cover a good amount of range in order to breed cows. As such, even if a bull has the highest-quality semen, he must still be able to mount and follow cows during the breeding season. Ensuring the bull has good legs, feet and hips, and his sexual organs and eyes are free of injury, is essential. This part of the exam ensures the bull is actually able to breed cows and has the potential to make it through the breeding season on whatever terrain you are running on.

To summarize, a breeding soundness exam should be viewed as essential prior to every breeding season. This is especially true for bulls you are retaining from the previous year. Even though a bull was a breeder the previous year, a lot can happen during that downtime which can cause him to be ineffective. As a producer, you are putting your faith in your bulls to produce your next year’s calf crop and, subsequently, your next year’s income.  end mark

Matthew Garcia
  • Matthew Garcia

  • Beef Cattle Specialist
  • Utah State University
  • Email Matthew Garcia

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