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Who's Your Cow's Daddy?
Dairy Pipeline: July 2008
M. Chase Scott, Extension Agent,
(276) 223-6040; firstname.lastname@example.org
As temperatures rise and field work takes us
away from our cows, herd reproduction may
suffer and pregnancy rates may decline.
Rising feed costs along with milk prices dictate
that we manage days in milk to maximize
feed efficiency. Every year after corn
silage harvest I receive many calls saying, “I
am way behind on my breeding, do you know
where I can find a good bull?” This year consider
evaluating your bull breeding program
before too many of your cows are open.
Even though artificial insemination can
offer a greater opportunity for a herd’s genetic
advancement, the use of natural service
bulls is still prevalent in Virginia. If you
are going to use bulls in your dairy herd they
must be managed properly and safely. Just
like a straw of semen or the success of an
artificial inseminator, bulls are in control of
the future production and offspring of your
herd. Following are a few management
strategies that you should use.
- Select a bull from a reputable, “diseasefree”
source, just because he is the right
color and walks doesn’t mean he is a
good bull. Pedigrees are a plus.
- Bulls should pass a breeding soundness
exam before he is to breed cows and
this exam should be repeated at least
four times a year, this also presents an
excellent opportunity for you and your
veterinarian to discuss your herd’s
- Bulls should be on the same herd health
program as the lactating herd. Work
with your veterinarian to formulate a
plan that compliments your herd bulls.
- A conservative stocking rate is one bull
for every 25-30 cows. Social rank may
affect bull performance, avoid grouping
smaller bulls with larger bulls, as the larger bulls may dominate the breeding
and inhibit younger bulls lower on the
- No bad temperament should be tolerated.
There are too many bull calves
born every day to take a risk with an illtempered
- The use of younger bulls should be preferred.
Feed is too expensive to be feeding
an old, big bull.
- Make sure all family members, employees,
and visitors are aware of bulls, and
use precautions when working around
them. Dairy cows are handled frequently,
offering several opportunities for a bad
bull to “get you.”
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