Bulls require very different care to cows, and taking them out to grazing requires some special considerations.
Maintaining your bull’s body condition score (BCS) and keeping him uninjured (this could render him sub-fertile) is key to making your investment worthwhile.
Here are just a few things you should be considering when letting your bull out for grazing.
Unless it’s breeding season don’t graze young bulls near heifers or cows
Bulls will go a long way to do their job, if the opportunity presents itself. This can pose difficulties for controlling calving when it’s not breeding season.
They should be kept in a separate paddock or pasture away from cows and heifers with plenty of room for exercise and access to clean water and minerals. He shouldn’t be exposed to severe weather and he should have adequate shade.
If your bull is in a neighbouring field to your cows, a good, high output, fence charger should stop a him from going through it. However even then, if a heifer is in heat, a good bull can go through a good fence to get her.
Ring the bull
Ideally do this early, at around 10 months old. This makes it much easier to handle the bull.
If multiple bulls are breeding, run an odd number of them
Large multiple-sired pastures often develop a social hierarchy where the oldest, maturest and most aggressive bull ends up having the most progeny.
This is obviously a very inefficient system and you’re not getting your money’s worth out of the additional bulls.
More problems can arise if the dominant bull has a poor performance, or is subfertile, studies have shown.
If you have a very dominant but sub-fertile bull, there will be a lower rate of conception in your herd because it isn’t the smaller bulls’ place to breed.
In order to circumvent this bull dominance in a pasture mating system, bulls should be grouped by similar age, weight, and social ranking in the herd before going into pastures.
Another nifty trick you can do as well as this, is running an odd number of bulls. This way, if two get into a fracas, then the third can slip by for mating.
Never EVER turn your back on a bull
It is often said that a farmer should never trust a younger bull even if he is quiet, because he is unpredictable. But even if he is older, no matter how quiet the bull, he has the potential to turn on you.
If you are cornered by a bull, do not run
I know you’ll want to, but don’t. This invited being chased.
Back slowly out of his flight zone so he will lose sight of you and he will be confused. If you withdraw to about 20 feet, the encounter will subside, and the bull will turn away.
Recognise when a bull is giving you a threat display
This is generally when he gives you a broadside view and arches his neck to show you his largest profile (look at how much of a brute I am, back off). This puts the bull in a state of fight or flight.
This is usually followed by putting his head down and sometimes shaking it from side to side, protruding eyeballs and erection of hair along the back.
If the bull continues to be irritated by your presence in his flight zone after this, a direct threat can follow.
The bull is threatening you directly when he turns his neck towards you, faces you head on, with his head lowered and shoulders hunched.
It is common for the bull to then paw the ground with his front feet and send dirt flying behind or over his back. It is also common for him to rub or horn the ground.
If you do not retreat, the bull will circle you, drop into the cinch (flank) body position, or start with head-to-head or head-to-body pushing.
If you spot any of these behaviours in the bull you should get out of there as soon as possible.
Because of their size and their unpredictability, bulls are arguably the most dangerous domesticated animal out there, and great care needs to be taken with them.
This is one of the reasons the Moocall HEAT device is so brilliant; the heat detection collar it requires minimum handling once it’s on the bull. Because the battery can last for 60+ days, you only need to get up close and personal with your bull when it’s absolutely necessary.
When compared to a chin ball, which needs to be refilled with paint every 15-20 mounts, it's a no-brainer when it comes to safety.