The Cost of Not Testing a Bull

This time of year, many producers have calves already on the ground or some hitting the ground and are preparing for breeding season. With breeding season here, it is time to have the veterinarian perform a Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BSE) on the herd sire.

However, there are some who would argue it cost too much to haul the bull to town and then pay someone to perform the evaluation or others claim they do not have the time to haul the bull to town and he did fine last year anyway. The two questions that come to mind to challenge such arguments are 1) if a BSE cost too much then how much does it cost to not sell any calves next fall and 2) if there is not enough time to haul the bull to town for a BSE then how much time is available next spring to watch a herd of open cows not calve?

The bull makes up half of every mating opportunity and thus he is necessary to produce a calf. It is integral that he is physically sound and fertile to improve the odds of conception. An infertile bull can cost an entire calf crop. The cost associated with no calves to market due to infertility is the cost of carrying those cows for a full year plus the opportunity cost associated with the resources used on the cattle herd that likely could have been devoted to something else with a positive return.

The economic benefits associated with the decision to have the bull tested before the start of the breeding season seems to be fairly straight forward for producers with a defined breeding season. But, how do producers with a continuous breeding season evaluate this decision? The answer is to transition the herd to a defined breeding and calving season.

Many factors can influence a bull’s ability to breed and it can be difficult to keep an eye on the bull for 365 days a year. When the cows are exposed to the bull year round then it becomes difficult to determine if the reproductive inefficiency is with the cow or if it is with the bull. Producers may have the bull tested a certain time every year but his fertility may be impacted in some manner during the year which renders him unable to settle cows.

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