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Bulls need lots of TLC during the post-breeding season

Check for any health problems and make sure they have proper feed, including minerals

Breeding bulls need time and proper rations to recover after the breeding season.

As a beef nutritionist, I recommend that bulls during the post-breeding season be given lots of attention, namely a physical exam, a good summer/fall-feeding program (winter programs to follow) and implementing other timely considerations. This will help both mature bulls maintain and young ones achieve body condition and health, which will contribute to next year’s cow herd conception success.

Before any real post-breeding program gets started, I would simply conduct a physical exam on each bull, moved to another pasture. Granted, most people do a good job of watching their bulls on pasture during the breeding season, but I know of many beef producers who have caught something physically wrong with their bulls during a complete examination, which ultimately saved them a lot of time and money. It saved the breeding bulls a lot of pain, too.

For example, a friend of mine rotates a number of Simmental/Angus bulls, both young and mature on different pastures where 350 brood cows and 50 segregated heifers (bred three weeks first) graze. He found that of the 15 or so breeding bulls pulled at the end of the season, seven had early stages of pinkeye and two were modestly lame due to bruised hooves (not foot rot). Another producer I know pulled 12 breeding bulls and found one old bull had a broken shoulder that was attributed to fighting with a couple of two-year-olds. Luckily, most people don’t find such drama — they are more likely to see a modest loss of bodyweight ranging from 100-150 kg by the end of the breeding season.

After the breeding season, we can focus on putting all bulls on a sound plane of nutrition that recovers optimum body condition. In addition, we want the yearlings to gain 1.5-2.0 lb. per head per day so they achieve 75 per cent of their mature bodyweight by their second birthday. Beef bulls, regardless of age — mature, yearlings, two-year olds — are the most sexually active (libido) and fertile (highest sperm count and viability) when they have a body condition score of 5.5 to 6.0 at the start of the next breeding season. In contrast, skinny bulls with a BCS lower than 5.0 often have lower libido and sperm production.

You can’t beat legume-grass pasture

Putting both young and mature bulls on good-quality mixed legume-grass pastures is one of the best post-breeding bull feeding programs to be followed until wintertime. Ideally, it would be tame-grass fields kept productive with some timely rains. However, in a year like 2021 it might be dried-out pastures that take on spotty thunderstorms. And, if that is the case for the next few months, one should be prepared to supplement purchased protein feeds such as low-molasses cattle lick tubs to be used on dried-out pastures. Otherwise, post-breeding bulls might not be able to meet their respective nutrient requirements for desired BCS or weight gains.

As part of this all-forage diet (re: feeding any grain in most cases is not necessary), a good mineral-vitamin program should be provided on post-breeding bull pastures. Since I am not a fan of feeding trace-mineral salt blocks, I recommend a good complementary 2:1 loose cattle mineral with fortified levels of copper, zinc, manganese and selenium as well as vitamin A, D and E. It should be fed at the rate of three to four ounces per head daily. It should also contain essential garlic oil to repel face flies that cause pinkeye.

Proper pasture and mineral nutrition also need a good source of water available to all bulls at all times. A case in point: A friend of mine who set up his own post-breeding bull program always makes sure that all water pumps are in good working order and can easily fill water troughs with lots of water during comfortable weather as well as during periods of hot weather and heat stress.

With good post-breeding nutrition in place, a little more bull TLC is warranted. It is a good idea to routinely check each bull on pasture and see how they are doing. There still might be that occasional cloudy eye or a single case of foot rot that need to be treated. With a good feed and management attention provided until winter, beef producers help their breeding bulls successfully recover from this year’s breeding season and help prepare for another one, nearly a year away.

About the author

Columnist

Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at [email protected]

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