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RAISING YOUR GAME: How to Raise Bulls for A.I.

Genomics affects all areas of cattle breeding. Genomic testing of young bulls is the new bandwagon. While some cautious folks who seek higher reliability percentages are waiting another three to five years to use them, their early adopter neighbours will be milking daughters of those bulls. And so it is, that those breeders who are planning to raise bulls for A.I. should know what they’re doing and do it right!

A Bull Breeder’s Dozen: 12 ways to Hit the Bull’s Eye

Everyone agrees that the cattle breeding game is changing but good business sense, cow sense and common sense will keep your herd on the growing edge.  It is obvious that everything you would do to raise your investment heifers should apply to bull rearing.  But there are a few details that could make the difference to whether your young bull makes it to the proven list or becomes one of the Generation Exit bulls.

  1. Get A Contract
    When it comes to getting bulls into A.I., don’t rely on wishful thinking.  Before you take the first step, make contact with A.I. studs and discuss what bulls they are interested in.  No one produces a product without knowing the end market and A.I. organization have the data, information and market to guide you in this part of the decision making process. It is in their interest and yours to make sure that neither time nor money is wasted on producing a bull that will not be used. This is the time to confirm all the details relating to health requirements and timelines and negotiate financial particulars as well.  When the bull is on the ground, it’s too late to realize that there were health protocols that were not taken care of or that you were not clear on payout terms.
  2. We’re Talking Bull
    High on the decision making list is how you will get the bull you and the A.I. company are targeting.  Embryo transplant? Sexed semen?   The more risk of failure you remove from this process, the higher your input costs will be. Variables like conception rates, fertility and recipient costs all add up.  Having said that, nine months down the road you want a healthy bull to work with
  3. Without Health There’s No Wealth
    Whatever female carries your bull, it is imperative that she be free of diseases. Failure to pass even one required health test brings your bull breeding dreams to a full stop. The dairy breeding market is unforgiving.  Be diligent in this area.  It’s costly if it is overlooked.
  4. Well Begun is Half Done
    Every dairy operation has routine procedures for calving.  If yours are working for you just keep on.  If you have regular problems in this area, take care of them before you lose a potential money maker.  Leave nothing to chance.  Be present for the calving. Make sure the new bull gets off to the best possible start.  There are many choices to make in how you will raise your bull.  Every one of them can affect your bank balance.
  5. It’s a Test.  Will you pass?
    If you’re focused on producing an A.I. bull, you’ve got to keep the paperwork going.  Inform the A.I. company you’re contracted with that the bull calf has arrived.  Register with the breed association.  Get the genomic testing done. Genomics is the modern day “no-darn-good” identifier. If you have done your homework this won’t be a problem for you. There is no reason to wait to send in the sample. When these steps are taken care of, you are ready to move on.  You might as well find out any problems that could arise here.  It’s costly to raise an animal that already has been eliminated for some unexpected reason
    It’s impossible to focus on the health of the bull calf without careful consideration of colostrums.  Many breeders, veterinarians and consultants will advise making sure that the mother is free of disease and thus use her colostrum. There are costs associated with this.  Experience says that dried artificial colostrums is worth the price in this situation.  The goal is to make sure the bull is free of all diseases.  Take the steps to see that this job gets done!
  7. Leave That Bull Alone
    With all the talk of the need for a disease-free, healthy bull, the most important step you can take is to keep him isolated as much as you can.  Every farm is host to certain resident diseases and the more contact the bull has the more opportunity there is for him to pick up something that will nullify your contract.  It is never too early to move this young investment to a scrupulously clean hutch.  Any modification that keeps him in a closed space with other animals is a decision that reduces your financial success.  Making space in the barn means making an opportunity for the bull calf to be infected with vaccines used on females.
  8. Absolutely no Vaccinations
    This is another “must not” that should be clearly covered in your A.I. contract.  Don’t leave anything to chance.  Make sure that you are prepared to prevent contamination through rigorous housing and animal handling protocols.
  9. Don’t Follow the Herd on Weaning
    Bulls that stand out from the crowd most likely were raised away from the crowd too.  After weaning, the young bull should be isolated from other dairy animals, until they are ready to leave for A.I.
  10. Looking for Mr. Good-Body
    Just as raising heifers is a big investment, so is raising a bull.  The area of body condition is one that is slightly different for bulls.  The young male needs to be strong and mature quickly.  A body condition score around 3 or 4 is the goal.  The correct nutrition will ensure better development of testicles and then production of semen at an earlier age and in larger quantities.  The impact of doing this right is crucial.
  11. Now for the Inspection
    The A.I. company you are contracted with will come to the farm to inspect the young bull. They will have benchmarks they are looking for relating to growth and development and, of course, health tests will be key to the contract being fulfilled.
  12. The Best Bulls Start Early
    When you have done everything you can and all systems are “Go!” you will want to see your bull in use as a sire of sons as soon as possible.  In the bull breeding business the one who is first with the most is the one that wins!

There are many important steps to take to make sure that the bulls you raise are attractive to cattle breeders and A.I. studs.  Do it right and it’s money in your pocket. That’s No Bull! That’s Your Bull!

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