22nd May 2015

Importance of Good Bull Management to be Highlighted at Scotland's Beef Event


The importance of bull management to the successful production of calves from the suckler herd will be highlighted during a demonstration at Scotland's Beef Event 2015 on Wednesday 27th May.

The demonstration, supported by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), will focus on the advantages of pre-breeding soundness (PBS) checks and correct nutrition to help farmers gain the most from their stock bulls.

The event, run by the Scottish Beef Association, will take place at the Alexander family's Mains of Mause Farm, Blairgowrie, with a theme of “Beef From the Hills”. With a herd of over 1000 Limousin suckler cows and 35 bulls it is an ideal venue to showcase the importance of bull management and health.

Gavin Hill, Senior Beef Specialist with SAC Consulting (part of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College) and vet Graeme Richardson aim to show the importance of having bulls in peak fitness during the breeding season, but also maintaining their condition throughout the year.

One of the areas which Mr Hill will focus on is care and management of bulls post-purchase.

"Too often, well-fed bulls bought at a market are taken home and expected to thrive on a forage-based diet. Sudden changes in their nutrition can affect not only their weight, but also their temperament, fertility and libido," said Mr Hill.

He recommends an adjustment period of two to three months between purchasing a bull and putting him out with cows. During that time the aim will be to get him used to his new surroundings, socialise him with other livestock and gradually change him from a cereal to a forage-based diet.

"A bull is usually a considerable investment for the farmer so it is important he gets the most out of him by slowly adjusting his feeding and also allowing him to exercise so he is fit enough to serve cows," observed Mr Hill.

Most breeders understand the importance of getting management and nutrition right before turning out with cows, but his concern is that when young bulls come back in they can stop growing.

"Following a nine to 12 week period with cows, the bull will understandably have lost condition and it is equally important to manage his diet throughout the winter.

"Too many young bulls are brought into pens and given some silage. However they are still growing and need to be fed a growing ration with the correct balance of cereals, vitamins and minerals in order for them to develop and grow to their potential. If this is not done, it can have an impact on longevity and capability."

Graeme Richardson, who is a director and senior vet at Thrums Veterinary Group, has been carrying out PBS checks for over ten years and believes they are an important management tool to ensure a compact calving period and improve herd efficiency.

He plans to use some of the Mains of Mause bulls to demonstrate the type of visual checks he routinely carries out for customers, before collecting a semen sample and analysing it.

There can be many reasons for poor conception rates, said Mr Richardson. "Testicle size and quality of semen are obvious indicators of fertility, however sometimes a bull with good fertility is not getting cows in calve because of a lameness issue.

“The end results are the same - a reduction in conception rate, leading to more empty cows and a protracted calving period."

He believes that it is crucial that bulls are not allowed to become overweight and that, if possible, they are exercised before turning out with the cows.

The two experts will have a selection of Mains of Mause bulls available to help them carry out their demonstration and visitors to the event will have the opportunity to see first-hand how an annual bull MOT, combined with good husbandry, can lead to a more profitable suckler herd.

The demos will be taking place at 11am and 1pm.


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