Is Your Bull a Stud or a Dud?

Evaluation of bulls for breeding soundness is one of the most neglected management practices of Indiana’s cattle producers. A bull is expected to settle 20 to 50 cows during the breeding season and too often his ability to do so is taken for granted.

The evaluation should be done prior to the breeding season. Breeding problems that are discovered at pregnancy checking occur far too late to prevent substantial loss of income. Breeders that sell bulls should have them evaluated prior to the sale. Bull suppliers depend largely on repeat customers and selling an infertile bull may cost the breeder a good customer as well as create a lot of bad advertisement.

The breeding soundness exam cannot guarantee fertility but it is the best method available to predict which bulls will not settle cows. Approximately 10% of bulls will fail the Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BSE). The routine BSE will not detect bulls with low libido; therefore, observation of the bull in the breeding pasture is still important. Observe bulls to confirm that they are finding and mating cows that are in heat. Observe the same cows in three weeks to be sure that he is “settling cows”. 

The BSE includes an evaluation of structural soundness, evaluation of the reproductive anatomy and, most importantly, evaluation of semen quality. During the BSE, a semen sample is collected and evaluated immediately for percent motile sperm. Minimally, 30% of the sperm must be motile in order for the bull to pass the exam. The same sample is then stained and individual sperm are evaluated. Seventy percent of the cells must be normal microscopically for the bull to be acceptable.

BSE Clinics scheduled for south-central Indiana are listed below. Cattle producers are encouraged to participate in one of these clinics annually. Reservations are required for each site.

*Washington County – Wednesday, March 19 at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Salem. For reservations or more information contact Danielle Walker at 812-883-4601 by Wednesday, March 5.

*Clark County – Tuesday, March 25. For reservations and more information contact Dave Hynes at 812-256-4591.

*Crawford/Harrison Counties – Saturday, March 1 at Milltown Feeder Auction. For reservations and more information contact Miranda Ulery at 812-738-4236.

*Lawrence County – Monday, April 7 at Springville Feeder Auction. For reservations and more information contact Dave Redman at 812-275-4623.

*Orange County – Saturday, March 17 at Rodney Hager Farm. For reservations and more information contact Terry Kinser at 812-972-8907.

The evaluation charge is $35 per bull. Bulls must be at least one year old and weigh at least 900 pounds.

These BSE Clinics are conducted annually through the joint cooperation of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service and these counties’ cattle organizations.