Over the past number of years, we have seen a huge shift in the number of farmers, particularly in Ireland, that are aiming to compact their calving season as much as possible for the following Spring. This turn has also brought about a sizable amount of farmers converting to using artificial insemination (AI) to reap the benefits of bringing better genetic qualities at an affordable price into their herd and also having easy calving sires to reduce calving difficulties down the line. Where using a stock bull, especially at this point in the breeding season where a farmer may be 4-6 weeks in, scanning early is highly recommended to ensure that the bull being used is not infertile or sub-fertile, more so for a suckler farmer where stock bulls are more predominant. Unfortunately, sub-fertile bulls are a lot harder to spot and can cause harsher results compared to a non-fertile bull as they are more apparent very early on where a breeding season can still be saved. It’s always advised to farmers to have their stock bull(s) fertility tested at least once a year for that extra peace of mind pre-season.
Facing into the latter half of the breeding season, where the farmer is approximately 9-10 weeks in after using AI, they can now to decide to introduce a sweeper bull to pick up on any still cycling repeats. It’s always best to ensure this chosen stock bull is easy calving for any straggling cows and for these late calvers it’s important that they are served at a shorter interval in order to maintain this desired tight (block) calving pattern. This is where a reliable heat detection system is most important. Where a stock bull may be now present, the farmer will notice that what seem to be otherwise relatively quiet cows are stimulated much more when in heat and the bull can pick them up much easier. This is an ideal scenario for the Moocall HEAT detection collar as when worn by the sweeper bull, it can accurately tell the farmer what outstanding repeats they still have cycling. And, with comfort to the farmer, it can notify them via text message, to each of these cows or heifers caught in heat, confidently determining that they are now served by the bull.
So, what are the key considerations that every farmer needs to make when selecting and preparing a stock bull for their breeding season?
- Looking after the bull’s body condition score (BCS) prior to putting in with the cows or heifers, aiming for ideally a score of 3.0-3.2.
- Confirming that the bull is ready for repeated mounting and capable of keeping up with the same activity levels of each cow that is repeating. This calls for the bull to maintain strong thresholds of activity across a sustainable timeframe at which required by the farmer. Resting periods may be needed particularly with older bulls.
- Providing a general health check and an assessment of good feet and leg stance, avoiding any drastic changes to feeding and warranting that all dosing and vaccinating is carried out prior to breeding.
- Most importantly, ensuring the bull is fertility tested and able to produce quality semen to maximise the genetic potential and value of the calf crop coming into the Spring.
- Also, from a genetic point of view, choosing a sire which can produce easily calved calves, which was ideally AI bred for good conformation and docility. For most dairy farmers, Friesian bulls are most used as sweepers (sometimes referred to as mop-ups) due to their known reliability for heat detection. However, since the dairy bull calf crisis of recent from within the beef sector, we have seen a lot of farmers consider beef breeds such as Aberdeen Angus’ or Limousin bulls.
As mentioned, teeing up for a successful breeding season requires the farmer to facilitate appropriate planning, to look after their stock bull and carry out the above measures before breeding. Any money spent on a stock bull is an investment, but it pays to have a settled and easily manage bull on the farm, especially where young children are present. All health checks are well known requirements every farmer must conduct to allow for that peace of mind before the bull starts work. Farmers can’t be afraid to give the bull space to adapt to his surroundings alongside the cows, especially if being housed. This will not only help him adjust to the environment to which the farmer is expecting him to serve but also aid him in meeting any adjusted dietary constraints for the suitable energy levels necessary before detecting oestrus.
For further advice on any of the above, please contact a member of the Moocall team to speak to some of our breeding specialists on +353 1 96 96 038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about Moocall HEAT here: https://moocall.com/pages/moocall-heat-information