Black Line Angus / Nebraska Angus

Prepare Your Bull From ‘Storage’ to ‘Breeding’

Ahead of bulling, look to ease sires into pasture grazing with at least a week on grass, is the advice of Ohio State University specialist, Dr Stephen Boyles.

Dr Boyles advises Bulls be in the perfect state of not too fat or thin and outlines the various nutrition options required to achieve this.

An Ohio colleague, Stan Smith points out that the importance of a breeding bull is regularly drilled home through extension workers but how to maximise what you get out of him is not.

“One thing we’ve yet to discuss is what needs to happen after the bull has passed his exam and until he goes to the breeding pasture,” said Mr Smith.

“While a bull might have been a potentially satisfactory breeding animal on the day of his examination, it’s important that the 30 to 60 days from then until the day he must go to work are spent in a way that allows him to remain sound.

For those of you who will be using young bulls this breeding season, OSU Extension Beef Specialist Dr. Stephen Boyles offers the following suggestions from his publication “Bull Nutrition and Management” regarding the pre-breeding season management of yearling bulls.

Post-purchase Management of Yearling Bulls

The yearling bull deserves some special attention as he begins his breeding career in order to assure that he will settle as many females as promptly as possible during his first working summer. You probably should not immediately turn him out with the cows.

Exercise and Facilities

The ideal condition for the young bull at the start of the breeding season is thrifty but not fat, hard and trim but not thin. He should be like a football player in mid-season. Bulls that are physically fit when they are turned out will breed more cows because they will retain a higher level of libido longer. Exercise prior to the breeding season will also reduce injuries from fighting and riding during the breeding season.

Young bulls can be very active and will exercise themselves if the bull pasture is of adequate area (about 2 acres/bull). Long, narrow paddocks may also be used. It is a good idea to locate supplemental feeding areas and water sources as far as possible apart to further encourage walking activity. The pasture or paddock should be a natural surface. The worst surface is a mud-and-manure lot outside the barn, with it’s many possibilities for hoof injuries. It is important to have a well drained surface to get young bull’s hooves hardened and accustomed to walking.


Bulls are a troublesome group of cattle to provide proper nutrition. They are a relatively small group but can take up a lot of space. The tendency is to run all bulls together and hope that they won’t do much damage to the facilities or each other. But, nutritional needs vary due to age and condition, so if young and old bulls are run together some bulls may not get the nutrition they need and others may get too much.

Yearling bulls on performance tests have usually been on high energy diets. These bull need to be “let down” from the time they are purchased until they are turned out with cows. A mistake made occasionally is to turn the bulls that have been on a high grain ration out on very lush pasture or place them on straight high-quality alfalfa hay. This can lead to digestive upsets or imbalances, thus leading to potential reproductive problems. Research shows that is takes 60 days for sperm development.

The gain for yearling bulls prior to the breeding season should be about 2 pounds per day. This would require a diet containing 10-11 per cent protein and 60-70 per cent TDN (dry matter basis) which could be supplied by 6-10 lbs. of grain per day and full-feed of medium quality hay. Any hay fed should be free from molds and green in color, if possible. No ergot can be tolerated at this time, so inspect any grain screenings closely before feeding (look for dark purple to black spots).

A mineral and vitamin mix should be offered that contains adequate calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. A standard mineral mix would be 40 per cent dicalcium phosphate, 20 per cent limestone, 30 per cent trace mineral salt, and 10 per cent selenium 90 (mg/lb) premix. Quality green forages should provide enough vitamin A. If forages are weathered and/or of low quality, an intramuscular injection of 3 million IU of vitamin A is advisable. A vitamin A injection might also be considered with corn silage-based diets.


The young bull should be acclimated to grazing pasture for 7-10 days prior to the date he will be turned onto pasture with his cows, if at all possible. Several days are required for the rumen microflora to fully adjust from harvested feeds to fresh spring grass. This transitional stress should be accomplished prior to turning him into the herd.

For more detail, Boyles’ publication “Bull Nutrition and Management” can be found in it’s entirety on the OSU Beef Team webpage ( under the Library link, and is also available from OSU Extension offices.


Nebraska Angus / Black Line Angus

How Good Is Reproduction in Your Herd?

There are many ways of doing the same thing and farmers can learn from each other, was the message of a Virginia State dairy expert after a herd reproduction conference.

In March, a group of eight dairy farmers gathered at the Franklin Center in Rocky Mount to discuss the reproductive performance of some herds from Franklin County, writes Gonzalo Ferreira, Management expert at Virginia Cooperative Extension.

The round table discussion group was initiated by Gonzalo Ferreira (Department of Dairy Science) and Cynthia Martel (Virginia Cooperative Extension). The meeting began with discussion of management issues typically observed in agriculture production.

Some of the key points were:

  • We all see and/or approach things differently. In the context of dairying, farmers might manage their farm in diverse manners. This can be valuable, as farmers might learn from the management practices of their peers. This concept was the essence of the discussion group: we can all learn from diversity.
  • Many times we are so focused on our daily chores that we may not see the big picture with respect to our problems. Discussing dairy management among peer farmers would allow different perspectives. Having a broader vision of dairy management may help farmers make better decisions.

Business will not improve by doing the same thing all over again. There is no change without action. If managers do not do anything to change (hopefully to improve) their businesses, then their businesses will not improve.

The discussion group hopes to inspire farmers to encourage their peers to set new goals, but most importantly strives for a move to action in improving their businesses.

The meeting continued with a review of some reproductive performance concepts such as heat detection rate, conception rate and pregnancy rate; and how these indicators are related to calving interval (Figure 1).

To the surprise of many, the bad news was that the average pregnancy rate of nine herds from Franklin County was as low as 14.6±4.5 per cent. The good news was that there is a lot of room for improvement. In addition to discussing actual results, the attendees weighed which areas they should focus their efforts for the short term.


Nebraska Angus

Check Bull Fertility Before The Breeding Season

It won’t be long until breeding season for herds that calve in the spring, and it is never too late to start planning, advises University of Arkansas Professor and veterinarian, Jeremy Powell.

Improvement of next year’s calf crop is dependent upon the breeding decisions you are about to make, writes Professor Powell of Arkansas University.  Herd sire selection should be a thought-provoking and profit-driven decision process, he adds.

Males account for approximately 90 percent of the gene pool, contributing more to the genetic makeup of a herd in one breeding season than a cow contributes in her lifetime.  Selecting genetically superior sires is the fastest approach to herd improvement and, ultimately, bottom line profitability.

Not every bull will fit your production scenario. Resources and goals are different for each cow-calf operation. Nonetheless, sire selection should target an acceptable combination of traits that complement the strengths and weaknesses of the cow herd and match markets.

Ask questions that pertain to your particular production situation.

  • What are your target markets?
  • Are you selling all calves at weaning?
  • If so, what color does that market value the most?
  • Are you planning to background your calves and send them through the feedlot?
  • Are you going to retain any replacement heifers?
  • Are you breeding both heifers and cows?
  • What are your available labor and forage resources?

Answers to these questions will aid you in determining the selection efforts you may want to apply towards economically important traits such as growth, carcass traits and possible maternal per formance. Feet and leg sound ness, libido, disposition, scrotal size, sheath, frame size, composition, breed type and horn presence or absence are also important traits for consideration.

While one may apply more pressure on one or two traits, remember to strike a balance among various traits and avoid extremes. Base the type of sire selected on the purpose of your breeding plan.


Nebraska Angus

My Cow Is Not Cycling: What Do I Do?

Cows in need of help back into normal cycling patterns may benefit from progesterone, especially at this time of year, according to the latest advice from The Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Teagasc) in Ireland.

The return to normal cyclic ovarian activity after calving usually occurs, on average, by 30 to 35 days postpartum. The first heat is usually silent, and the first cycle after this heat is usually short (8-12 days). This means that most cows should have commenced displaying behavioural oestrus by days 38-47 post-calving or earlier.

Failure to show signs of heat by 60 days after calving is called Postpartum Anoestrus. This can be due to either True Anoestrus or Suboestrus.

  • Suboestrus is when cows have normal cyclic ovarian activity, but are not detected in oestrus due to weak or silent heats, or due to inadequate observation.
  • True anoestrus is when cows have inactive ovaries.

Approaches to resolving suboestrus should include improving heat detection technique, and ensuring that observations are long enough (30 minutes) and frequent enough (3 – 4 times per day). On-farm milk progesterone kits may also be helpful (if progesterone is high, then the cow is cycling).

Resumption of cyclicity after calving is influenced by nutritional status, body condition score, milk yield, calving difficulty, uterine infection, breed, age, and concurrent disease. Treatment of true anoestrus should first examine the nutritional status and body condition score. These can be improved by increasing pasture allowance, increasing concentrate feeding, and/or reducing the energy output in milk by restricting anoestrus cows to once a day milking. If calving records indicate that some of the anoestrus cows had calving difficulty, or had retained foetal membranes or metritis after calving, these cows should be examined for the presence of pyometra or endometritis. If present, these will first need to be eliminated before treating for anoestrus.

Hormonal treatments can be used to stimulate a resumption of cyclicity, and are most effective if combined with increased energy intake. Treatments involve use of progesterone-releasing devices (e.g., CIDR, PRID) which result in ovulation, and resumption of normal cyclicity. At this stage of the year (late May), it is desirable to breed cows to the ovulation induced by the progesterone treatment (i.e. breed them as soon as possible). The treatment outlined at the bottom of the page stimulates resumption of cyclicity, and also facilitates fixed-time AI (FTAI) at the end of the hormone protocol. Fixed-time AI means there is no requirement for behavioural oestrus behaviour, and hence heat detection is not required.