21 March 1997

Stress-free bulls pay off, says SAC

BULLS should suffer minimal stress and be in good condition before turnout if they are to work properly.

Thats according to Scottish Agricultural College beef specialist Basil Lowman. "Sperm produced now will not be used to inseminate cows for another two months, so ensure all stressful tasks like turning a bull for foot-trimming are completed well before turnout."

Good condition is also vital, he warns. "Bulls running with 30-35 cows will have to work hard, and wont have much time to feed. They should be in very forward store condition – a condition score of just below 2.5."

Young bulls should be restricted to serving five to 10 cows in their first season, he says.

"Young bulls are usually extremely enthusiastic but have limited semen. Overuse in their first season can shorten their working life considerably. A bull which is overworked may only last two to three years, compared with a potential of eight or nine years.

And limiting the number of cows served will also minimise concerns where bulls introduce calving difficulties or poor calf conformation. "Despite EBVs, young bulls are relatively untested," he warns.