HPCA Young Bull Management

This information is provided thanks to N.T. Cosby, Ph.D., Purina Animal Nutrition.

HPCA Young Bull Management

Investing in quality bulls is one of the more important animal husbandry practices for profitable beef production. A bull is, of course, half of the reproductive equation, but improved growth, quality, and consistency of the calf crop can pay huge dividends at marketing time. In addition, since most beef producers routinely retain heifers from their own herds for replacement cows, a quality bull’s legacy lives on in his daughters for generations to come. Properly caring for and managing a young bull during his first breeding season will ensure his ability to continue to sire quality calves in future breeding seasons.

The bulls developed by Hinkle’s Prime Cut Angus have been grown using the Purina Accuration Grower program with Intake Modifying Technology. The Accuration Grower program regulates the amount of feed eaten per meal and the total amount consumed throughout the day by the bulls. With this feeding system, the bulls can be developed on a nutrient-dense ration that allows them to express their genetic potential for growth and carcass traits without compromising structural soundness in the feet and legs.

Young bulls will need continued attention to proper development once taken to their new home. Bulls will need acclimation to their new environment and forages. Ideally, the new owner should plan on a minimum of 30-60 days from time of purchase to ready his young bull prior to the breeding season. The bull should be held in a large area that encourages exercise and maximum forage intake. They should be penned with other bulls of similar size and age to allow them to familiarize themselves and establish their rank and order prior to the breeding season. Readying a bull for the breeding season is like preparing an athlete for competition. The bull will be asked to travel several miles during the breeding season, breed the cows, and survive primarily on forage.

We should remember that a properly-developed young bull is not done growing. In addition to free-choice forage, a young bull will need supplemental nutrition. Most young bulls will need 8 to 12 lbs. of supplemental feed in addition to forage to prepare them for the breeding season. This feed may be a high quality mixed feed provided daily in a bunk or may be offered using the appropriate Accuration Cattle Limiter ration in a bulk feeder. Using the 1 to 9 body condition scoring system, a young bull should have a score of 6 at turnout. In a 60 day breeding season, a working bull may lose 80 to 100 lbs., or roughly one body condition score. Having the bull in the proper condition at turnout will allow him some loss of condition without sacrificing his ability to service cows. If a bull loses more than one to one and a half condition scores during the breeding season, he should be replaced with a fresh bull. Excessive weight loss may stunt the future growth potential of the bull and impact his longevity. Once a bull comes out of the breeding pasture, he should be gradually reintroduced to feed in order to regain lost condition and prepare him for the next breeding season.

It is important to limit the number of cows the young bull is expected to breed his first season as well as limit the time he is with the cows. A 45 to 60 day breeding season is recommended for young bulls. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of cows to the young bull’s age in months. For example, a 16-month-old long yearling bull could be expected to service 16 cows in a 45 to 60 day breeding season. Another point to consider is bull battery management. For example, a pasture with 30 cows would need two long yearling bulls. Both bulls could be turned out at the same time, or one bull could be rotated every 2-3 weeks with the second bull. This program would allow the young bulls to maintain condition while ensuring a fresh bull is always available to service the cows. It is not advisable to turn a young bull in with an older bull in the same pasture.

A breeding soundness exam is routinely done prior to sale time for bulls offered for sale. If the time from purchase to turnout in the breeding pastures is longer than 60 days, it is recommended that the new owner have his veterinarian conduct another breeding soundness exam prior to turnout and before every subsequent breeding season. A breeding soundness exam is not a lifetime guarantee as to the soundness of the bull and needs to be completed before each breeding season.

During the breeding season, mature and young bulls alike should be regularly checked for excessive condition loss, to check that the bulls are breeding satisfactorily with adequate libido, and to check for injuries that may occur during the breeding season.

An investment in a quality bull will pay returns with the first calf crop and for generations to come through his daughters. Properly handling the young bull during his first year will improve his longevity and productivity.