Bull Management 101
Have you ever wondered if what you know about a Bull is accurate?
Consider the following paragraphs and compare what you know to the latest info on Bulls.
A bull is usually kept around for one thing only and that is
to breed cows. For many producers, bulls also cause problems. They tear up equipment, fight, get in the way of your
grazing system, get out and breed your neighbor's cows, and well you get the picture.
Some strategies for dealing with these issues.
Leave the bull out with the cows all year. Not a good choice. This will
inevitably string out the calving season, which causes lots of other problems. Build a bull trap. A common
solution. However, it needs to be large enough to hold all your bulls and allow some exercise, but small enough to
qualify as a trap. Fences need to be substantial, electrified or both. You must consider water, facilities,
Is that about all that can be done? No, if you will get creative.
Lease or co-op bulls.
The idea is to have the bulls on your place when you need them and then get rid of them
when you don't. These arrangements are becoming more common. However, there is a potential risk of introducing
disease problems into your herd. Have two breeding seasons. With a well-defined spring and fall calving herd on
your place, you can essentially co-op the bulls between them. After the spring breeding season is over, turn the
bulls in with the fall herd, which will be bred cows at the time. When fall calving starts, put the bulls back with
the spring cows until fall breeding time rolls around.
Select more docile bulls.
Gentle, docile bulls will do less damage to facilities and each other. Consider both breed
and individual temperament. Use fewer bulls. This doesn't really solve any problem, it just reduces it. Push your
bulls to breed as many cows as they can. This will reduce overhead costs and allow you to get more calves out of
your better bulls. Use mature bulls, keep them fit and in shape, implement a health program and have a breeding
soundness exam performed before breeding season. The old rule of thumb is a bull to cow ratio of 1 to 25. This can
be significantly increased if the above things are done. Also, use at least two bulls to a pasture as insurance in
case one goes down during the breeding season. Artificially inseminate. This is another good way to use fewer
bulls. We could have a long discussion of the pros and cons of AI, but I will just say I have never seen a bull
break out of a semen tank. Have less stuff to tear up. With a good grazing management program, you will have less
need for things like hay feeders and troughs. Work to eliminate non-essential equipment from bull traps, and
reinforce the equipment that is essential.
I know some old timers who always said it is a good idea in multiple bull situations to
always put an odd number of bulls in each pasture. This way, when bulls are fighting, there will always be an odd
one left to breed cows.
We often think about the bull as the means of introducing new genetics into a beef
herd. However, management of the bull (or lack of it) after purchase is often the "Achilles Heel" of cattle
production. Failure to pay attention to important management practices affecting the bull often results in reduced
calving rates, increased calf mortality, and loss of uniformity and marketability. Poor bull management practices
result in three critical pitfalls. Let's examine each of these and consider ways that these problems can be