Take good care of your bull and he’ll do you proud

You’ve picked him out at a sale, successfully bid and are now hitching up the trailer.

But have you thought about how you’re going to look after your new stock bull when you get him home?

Whether he’s worth 2000 or 20,000, he should be treated the same, according to Dorchester-based Mike Yeandle.

That means giving him time to settle and offering the correct diet to bring him down to working condition.

“You hear too many tales where bulls are bought in show condition and turned out with cows straight away, without a care of how he might cope,” says Mr Yeandle who runs the Moynton pedigree Charolais herd.

Its 60-cow herd and followers are owned by Peter Old at Nether Moynton Farm, Owermoigne.

Having once turned heads round the sale ring in Perth by paying 45,000gns for 20-month old Thrunton Ideal, their chosen Charolais stock bull, he is keen that new additions are well looked after.

“The first thing to consider with a high merit bull is covering yourself with an insurance policy, which for stock bulls means collecting semen.

“When you have taken the time to choose a bull based on his genetics, the least you can do is preserve them, particularly as accidents often happen,” he adds.

With semen collection comes a health status check for disease, such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bovine viral diarrhoea, Johne’s and importantly now bovine TB.

“For semen collection to take place a period of eight to 10 weeks isolation is necessary,” adds Mr Yeandle.

The isolation period also acts as time to prepare a bull for correct working condition, he says.

“Often bulls have been fitted for months to try and take a championship at the Perth or Carlisle bull sales, so preparing him for working by adjusting feed intakes is vital.”

As well as slimming him down, the isolation period gets him used to a change and his new surroundings.

“The last thing you want to do is bring a bull home and turn him out straight away, particularly when he has to walk some miles to find cows.”

A settled bull will go along way to ensuring optimum conception rates, he adds.

With Ideal, Mr Yeandle chose to run him with a selected group of cows to start with, but the following year he ran with 40 cows and got 39 in calf.

“Ideally bulls shouldn’t be worked too hard at a young age, particularly with the large Continental-type bulls, as it can stunt their growth.

An age of 15-18 months is about right for most bulls.”

He advises turning a bull out in the morning, so you have all day to check him.

“The last thing he needs is to be turned out at night and have to walk on his own in a strange environment to find cows.”

Also pay attention to other cattle running in the surrounding area.

The last thing you want is a stock bull in the neighbouring field – it sounds like common sense, but it does happen, he says.

With more prospective bull buyers attending sales in spring rather than October, more bulls are being turned out straight away to work, but Mr Yeandle warns this will do nothing for their conception rates.

“Providing time for a bull to adjust could be the difference between a poor and successful calving period.”