Top tips for more bang from your bulls
11 March 2016
Shorter joining periods make more money. If you want to know why, and how to make it happen, come to next Wednesday’s ReproActive workshop supported by MLA's More Beef from Pasture program at “Clogheen” near Mortlake, Victoria, to be run by some of Australia’s leading beef reproduction experts.
Dr Craig Wood, a senior partner of the Terang and Mortlake Veterinary Clinic, will talk on the economic benefits of shorter joining periods and will present a hands-on bull health and management session.
“Shorter joining periods deliver benefits on several fronts,” he said.
“Calving interval is tightened resulting in a more even drop and more consistent weaning weights.
“By taking the joining period from six weeks out to nine, economic analysis has shown there is a lost dollar value of $8/weaner.
“When that is extended further to 12 weeks, the lost dollar value increases to $14.”
Craig said a six-week joining period was considered best industry practice for all females in southern beef herds, however, in reality many producers join for nine to ‘cover all bases’.
“Now, with improved pregnancy-testing and foetal aging technology, many of my clients are joining for nine weeks and, if all has gone well, they have more marketing options for their culls such as female feature sales, Auctions Plus or livestock exports," he said.
“They also have the flexibility to keep those females if they need to lift their herd numbers.”
Craig's top tips for reproductive success
- Be organised. Select a short joining period of six to nine weeks to ensure an even calf drop and to maximise returns.
- Don’t skimp. Make sure all vaccinations of cows and bulls are up to date including vibriosis (bulls), pestivirus and the five common clostridial diseases. Vaccinate females with seven in one to protect against leptospirosis.
- Check bulls’ fitness and ability to join by having a vet complete a full Veterinary Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation (VBBSE) including semen evaluation prior to each joining.
- Bulls’ body condition score, on a range of 1 to 5, should be between 2.5 and 3.5
- Bull to cow ratio is generally 1:50, however if mopping up after a Fixed Time Artificial Insemination program, the remaining females will usually cycle around the same time, about three weeks after the AI date. A more suitable ratio may be 1:25 depending on the number of returns.
- If single sire mating, check bulls are working at least three to four times a week.
- If multi-sire mating, ensure bulls have run together peacefully prior to joining. Selecting bulls of similar age and weight will reduce the risk of injury from fighting.
- Have access to a back-up bull if injuries do occur.
- To improve overall herd fertility select bulls with above average Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for fertility traits.
During the workshop's bull health and management session, producers will have the opportunity to learn aspects of a BBSE, including testicle palpations, sheath inspection and simple health checks that can improve overall herd reproductive performance.
“The gold standard would be to ensure that all bulls undergo a full VBBSE, including semen examination prior to each joining but at a minimum producers should start with crossing off the easy stuff such as making sure vaccinations are up to date,” Craig said.
“Bulls should be done for Bovine vibriosis, pestivirus and for the five common clostridial diseases, tetanus, malignant oedema, enterotoxaemia, black disease and black leg, covered by seven in one vaccine.
“Females should also be done with seven in one so they are covered for leptospirosis.”
Craig said bulls should be monitored closely during the joining period, particularly for the first week to ensure they are mating successfully.
“If single sire mating, it’s really important to check them three to four times a week to avoid any blanket failures.”
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