Bull Management in Multi-sire Pastures
Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
Before the fall breeding season begins, a few simple management procedures involving the bulls can increase the likelihood of a high pregnancy percentage among the cows.
1) In multi-sire breeding pastures, make certain that the bulls that will be pastured together have been in a common trap or pasture prior to the breeding season. Bulls WILL establish a social hierarchy. They will fight to find out who is “king of the mountain”. It is better to get this done before the breeding season begins, rather than wait until they are first placed with the cows.
2) Put young bulls with young bulls, and mature bulls with mature bulls. Mixing the ages will result in the mature bull dominating the younger bull completely, and in some instances causing a serious injury. If the plan is to rotate bulls during the breeding season, then use the mature bulls first, and follow with the yearling bulls in the last third of the breeding season. In this way, the young bulls will have fewer cows to breed, and will be 1 - 2 months older when they start breeding.
3) Breeding soundness exams will be a cost-effective way to help weed out those bulls that may be dominant in the bull pasture, but due to poor semen quality, could cause a lowered pregnancy rate or elongated calving season next fall. Visit with your local large animal veterinarian about testing the bulls soon, so that if replacements are necessary, there is enough time and opportunity before the fall breeding season is to begin. If the bulls need to have the feet trimmed, now would be the time to have them trimmed so that the feet will not be sore during the first week of the breeding season. Also, be certain to ask your veterinarian about the need to test the bulls for the reproductive disease, trichomoniasis. Bulls to be sold at production sales must meet certain testing guidelines before moving to new owners and across state lines. Information about the testing requirements in Oklahoma can be found at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry website at http://www.oda.state.ok.us/ais/bovinetrich.htm.