Is your bull ready for work? BSE could provide answer

By KEENAN BISHOP Extension Agent for Agriculture Published:

Most cattlemen have purchased their spring bulls by now. Hopefully that bull came with a breeding soundness exam or BSE. Those of you who are using last years bull still need to be concerned about a BSE. Darrh Bullock, University of Kentucky Beef Specialist, offers the following advice as we approach the spring breeding season.

Bull infertility can be one of the costliest problems in a beef cattle operation. Even if a bull has been a sound breeder for several years he can become infertile, even temporarily, which can cause the loss of part or the entire calf crop. Unfortunately, this happens more often than most producers think. The good news is that the chances of it occurring can be greatly reduced with a simple management practice called a breeding soundness exam.

A veterinarian or highly trained technician generally performs a breeding soundness exam. The exam includes: a physical examination of the bull, including rectal palpation of the secondary sex glands and examination of the penis, and an assessment of the bulls structural soundness; scrotal circumference measurement; and a microscopic examination of semen quality. Most or all of this can be done chute-side with adequate facilities.

If a bull passes his breeding soundness exam it means that he should be physically capable of breeding cows. It does not measure desire. That means that even if a bull passes his breeding soundness exam he should still be observed to make certain that he is interested in females that are in heat. Also, females should be observed for return to heat, which is a sign of fertility or desire problems in the bull.

The breeding soundness exam should be conducted within 60 days of the breeding season. However, do not wait too late because it will be more difficult to find a replacement if your bull does not pass. It is also a good idea to purchase bulls that have passed a breeding soundness exam or get an assurance from the seller that if he does not pass he can be replaced.

Using a bull with good genetics is important to your beef operation, but if the bull cannot pass those on then he is of little good. The cost of a breeding soundness exam is your insurance for next years calf crop.

State Requirement Changes

For ID of Goats and Sheep

Terry Hutchens, UK Goat Specialist, offers this from the State Veterinarians Office of recently released information regarding the requirement for Scrapie Tag identification for all goats and sheep entering into public or private commerce. In other words, a scrapie tag must identify all goats and sheep of any classification each and every time they change hands, regardless of purpose of the transaction.

This applies to all goats and sheep in regards to breeding stock, show animals or slaughter animals. Please note that this will go into effect July 1, 2006. I am sure that if a producer enters a stockyard for the purpose of selling untagged livestock, he or she will be charged $2-$3 per head for tags. In order to avoid problems associated with marketing your goats and sheep in Kentucky, signup for the USDA Scrapie Eradication Program now.

Producers may follow the procedure described below:

Producers are required to obtain a Premise ID by completing an application available here at the Extension Service Office or by applying online at the following web address Complete the Kentucky Tag Order form and mail or fax the form to the USDA APHIS, office, P.O. Box 399, Frankfort KY 40602, 502-227-9651.

The USDA will provide producers with the proper form and information. Each farm will be provided a unique identification number along with up to 200 tags. Participants will receive an ear tag applicator free of charge. The scrapie program is an excellent program for animal trace back to the farm of origin. This program also is less costly to the producer. By contrast, electronic tags cost the producer $2-$3 per head.

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