Purdue expert: Breeding soundness exams are cheap insurance

February 22, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The cheapest insurance a beef producer can buy for a herd is a bull breeding soundness exam at least 30 days before breeding season, said Allen Bridges, a Purdue University breeding specialist.

"The real reason to do a breeding soundness exam is to identify the bulls that have inferior fertility and aren't capable of settling the cows in the herd," he said. "One misnomer about the exams is that they are only used to identify infertile bulls. In reality, there is only a small portion of bulls that are completely infertile. Rather, we're trying to identify the bulls that have sub-par fertility so we can pull them from the herd.

"These would be the bulls that wouldn't be able to settle all the cows and would result in numerous open or non-pregnant cows at the end of the breeding season."

In a state like Indiana where most beef herds are cow-calf operations, having open cows at the end of the season means no calves to sell, which can be devastating to a producer's bottom line.

"The cost of a breeding soundness exam is going to vary from $20 to $30. So again, it's the cheapest insurance a producer can buy to ensure that the bull they're trusting to get the cows pregnant is capable, so at the end of the year there are high pregnancy rates, no open cows and a lot of calves to sell the following year," Bridges said.

The exam consists of a series of assessments to check for injury, structural soundness and sperm quality.

"We always recommend bulls undergo a breeding soundness exam at least 30 days prior to the breeding season," he said. "If the bull fails the exam for a reason that we believe he will recover from, that 30 days gives us time to come back and check that bull again. If the bull completely fails, it gives the producer time to find and purchase another bull."

Almost any large animal veterinarian can administer the test, which Bridges said is not a time-consuming process.

"A breeding soundness exam is not going to take all day," he said. "As long as producers have their bulls in an area where they can get them up, catch them and restrain them in a chute, it's a quick process."

Purdue Extension, in conjunction with local cattleman's associations, also will host a series of breeding soundness exam clinics in various Indiana counties this spring. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact the Purdue Extension educators listed below.

* March 20: Crawford County, contact Jim Ade at 812-338-2352, jeade@purdue.edu

* March 24: Washington County, contact Brad Shelton at 812-883-4601, sheltonb@purdue.edu

* March 27: Orange County, contact Hans Schmitz at 812-723-7107, hschmitz@purdue.edu

* March 30: Clark County, contact Dave Trotter at 812-256-4591, dtrotter@purdue.edu

* March 31: Bartholomew and Johnson Counties, contact Mike Ferree at 812-379-1655, ferreel@purdue.edu

* April 6: Morgan County, contact Chris Parker at 765-342-1010, cparker@purdue.edu

* April 12: Lawrence County, contact Dave Redman at 812-275-4623, dredman@purdue.edu

"A lot of producers throughout Indiana do have their bulls tested, and that's excellent, but there is a large portion of producers that don't," Bridges said. "They really are running a risk.

"We hear all the time about producers who, at the end of the breeding season, have cows that just didn't get pregnant, and we come to find out they never had their bulls tested. So, it does happen and it is a real problem - a problem producers don't know they have until they either preg-check the cows in the fall at weaning and realize they have a bunch of open cows, or they wait for calves to start hitting the ground and they don't come. What are a producer's options at that point?"

For more information about management options to improve cattle herd reproductive efficiency, visit http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AS/AS_586_W.pdf

 Writer: Jennifer Stewart, 765-494-6682, jsstewar@purdue.edu

Source: Allen Bridges, 765-494-4810, allenbridges@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Steve Leer, sleer@purdue.edu
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