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Good bull selection, proper medicine use will improve herd

Choosing a good bull and using medicine the right way can go a long way in improving your herd.

Beef producers don’t want to miss out on profit potential when it comes to selection and performance of breeding bulls,

Texas AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist Jason Cleere of College Station says structural soundness is important when choosing a breeding bull because a bull takes on a lot of stress servicing a herd of cycling cows. If a bull with poor physiological traits is chosen, “that bull will only last a couple of years, instead of five years,” Cleere says.

Fertility testing of replacement bulls also is recommended.

Key Points

Selecting the right bull is a big part of your cattle herd management.

Structural soundness and good fertility are musts in a breeding bull.

Proper storage and correct use of medicine are important to herd health.


“Examining testicles for size and shape — this stuff comes down to a veterinarian and the breeder sorting out the bulls that do not meet these specifications,” he says.

Breeding soundness evaluation will involve a veterinarian examining bulls for scrotal circumference and semen quality.

“Also, every year you should get your bull evaluated before turnout,” Cleere advises. “If you have a single herd sire, you could wind up with no calves [by not having a test performed].”

Cleere says it’s also possible a herd with two bulls could have a dominant sire that is knocking off the younger bull from breeding, resulting in a lower pregnancy rate.

One herd involved in the AgriLife Extension Beef Partnership in Education Program had a 10-year average pregnancy rate of 70%. Proper fertility testing of the herd bulls and culling of those that failed resulted in an 81% pregnancy rate this past fall.

A good, general rule of thumb is to have one bull to every 25 or 30 cows, Cleere says.

Tips on medicine

Floron “Buddy” Faries, DVM, Texas AgriLife Extension state veterinarian, has some health tips.

Faries says a common mistake is using only a portion of a medicine bottle and then refrigerating what is left.

“Discard any unused portions,” Faries says. “You will get vaccination failure. The remaining contents in the bottle will deteriorate and cause a tissue reaction because you are using a decayed, deteriorating vaccine.”

The veterinarian says it is critical that producers completely read and follow the labels and other instructions enclosed in the packaging.

“If I put a fresh bottle of LA 200 in the refrigerator, it’s no good,” he points out. “Why? It says on the label to store at room temperature. You can cause a reaction in the tissue if it’s used on the animal. You also need to make sure that no light gets to it or it will diminish its effectiveness.”

Faries cautions against injection-site blemishes on beef cattle. He stresses that producers should not administer injections anywhere in the rear portion of the animal since that is where the highest-value cuts are located.

Instead, Faries says to move to the front shoulder region of the animal for either intramuscular or subcutaneous injections. The injection should be under the skin, as this area will be trimmed out when harvested. “Also, move over 2 inches before giving another vaccination,” he adds.

Faries says this will prevent cross-contaminating vaccines and potential tissue reaction.

He also advises using one needle when drawing medicine from the bottle, and to change needles every 10 animals.

Fannin is with Texas A&M Agriculture Communications, College Station.

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BE SOUND: Structural soundness is an important characteristic when choosing a good breeding bull for your herd.

This article published in the May, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.