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Stackyard News Sep 06

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    Monitor Stock Bull Soundness to Maximise Value

Conducting a routine breeding soundness assessment on all stock bulls both before purchase and 30 to 60 days before the start of each breeding season is a good way for English dairy and suckler herds to guard against bull fertility problems, advises the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) in its latest Beef Action for Profit fact sheet.

'the economic worth of a bull
depends upon his ability to work'

beef bull

‘Better Returns from Better Stock Bull Buying’ emphasises the critical importance of physical soundness and fertility as well as high breeding value in stock bulls to boost returns and cut costs, pointing out that it is estimated that between 20 to 40 per cent of all bulls have unacceptable fertility levels – being either infertile or sub-fertile.

Stressing the extent to which the economic worth of a bull depends upon his ability to work, EBLEX sets out a four-point breeding soundness checklist involving separate assessments of general health and condition, legs and feet, reproductive organs and semen quality to guide herd management.

Soundness Assessment for Bulls

1. General health & condition

Ensure the eyes are clear and free from injury, and teeth are neither excessively worn nor lost.
Avoid overworking excessively thin or fat bulls.

2. Legs and feet

Avoid hind limbs that are too straight or cow-hocked, or hooves with prominent ridges on the horn of the claws.
Look for easy movement, with the rear hooves landing in the imprint of the front ones.
Trim hooves whenever necessary.

3. Reproductive organs

Look for a scrotum that is symmetrical and sufficiently large.
Ensure the testes are firm and move freely within the scrotal sac, with the upper portion of the epididymis soft and free of lumps.
Be aware the erect penis should be parallel to the bull’s body.

4. Semen quality

Assess sperm for both viability and morphology with a veterinary laboratory test, being aware that semen quality is affected by management and can change rapidly.

As well as inspecting bulls thoroughly for soundness, a careful check of their health status is strongly advised before purchase, with all new bulls isolated and checked over by the vet before joining the herd as part of a strict biosecurity programme.

It is recommended that yearling bulls should be purchased well before they are needed, acclimatised to herd life gradually and prepared for work from 18 months of age. Care should be taken to avoid over-working young bulls in particular. And all bulls should be managed to be in Body Condition Score 3 at the start of the breeding season and maintained in good condition (BCS 2.5 -3) throughout it.

Copies of Beef Action for Profit Fact Sheet 9 are available free of charge to English levy payers from EBLEX on 0870 2418829 or by e.mailing More detailed information and guidance linked to the factsheet can be obtained through the unique interactive website resource at

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