April 20, 2015

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to Doc Talk, Dr. Dan Thomson here, glad you joined us today. Our guest is Dr. Bob Larson. We’re gonna talk about bulls. We’re gonna talk about yearling bulls. We’re gonna talk about the adult bulls in the herd. Things that you need to be watching for. Things that you need to be checking on. Hope you stick around and I hope that you enjoy the show.

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(Dan) Folks, welcome to Doc Talk. Bob, welcome back. (Bob) Good to be here Dan. (Dan) Folks this is Dr. Bob Larson. He’s a Professor here in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine where he is the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine. And Bob, you spent a lot of time working on bulls and a lot of stuff in cow/calf herds and you know, this is our… it’s 50 percent of our genetics… (Bob) That’s right. (Dan) …running around. (Bob) Those bulls are very important. They make a huge impact on the genetics, selection and where we’re going with the herd. And as well as obviously fertility. I mean, if a cow goes bad, it affects one animal. But if a bull goes bad, it affects all the cows that he’s gonna breed. (Dan) Absolutely. So, as we start in there, you know we talked before the show kind of getting organized. Let’s start in on that yearling bull, picking out that new bull, the new genetics coming into the herd. (Bob) Exactly. One of the things that I think is important to realize, those yearling bulls are different than our mature bulls. They’re different in a lot of ways. First of all, that’s usually who we’re buying. So, we’re making our purchase decision with those young bulls. And the good thing is they have a lot of potential in front of them. The bad thing is we don’t have any calves on the ground to really evaluate ’em. (Dan) Right. (Bob) And so we use tools like expected progeny differences, EPDs, those mathematical calculations that predict how well those bulls calves will do. We pick bulls based on EPDs, based on physical soundness, based on the reputation of the seller. We want bulls that can go from where they were raised in to our operations, and the commercial cow/calf operations and really do very well there. So, selecting those bulls is a very important first step. (Dan) Yea, and it’s, I think, it’s one of those things that you touched on, the reputable bull providers, they’re there for a reason. (Bob) Yea. (Dan) And sometimes if you don’t have the experience of looking at EPDs or the experience of having an eye for animals, you know going with one of those reputable breeders might be your best bet. (Bob) You know, agriculture is still very much an industry where relationships are really important. And building those relationships where your suppliers, or someone that you can trust and you really go to is important when you talk about bulls. (Dan) Absolutely. So, when we buy ’em, but then we have to make sure that they’re fertile. (Bob) Yes, one of the most important… like I said fertility on bulls is absolutely critical. And these young bulls have only recently reached puberty. And so we want to use them within just, honestly, a few months after they reach puberty. And so we’re accessing whether they are really mature enough to go out and breed cows. And the only way we can do that is a Breeding Soundness Exam. And that’s a complete physical exam, as well as getting a semen sample and looking at the semen under the microscope. And that’s a really important first step, because a fair number of these bulls just aren’t mature enough when I want them to be. We’re asking these young guys to go out and start breeding cows at a fairly young age. Most of them can do it. But we see anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of young bulls that really aren’t mature enough to go out and breed and again the only way to know that is to do a breeding soundness exam. (Dan) Cool. Well we’re gonna take a break. And when we come back, we’ll talk a little bit more about nutrition, body condition score and some of the acclimation, or social aspects of those yearling bulls and then we’ll jump in to the adult bulls. Thanks for watching Doc Talk. More with Dr. Bob Larson, after these messages.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Bob Larson who is a Professor in Clinical Sciences and is the Coleman Chair in Production Medicine here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, does a lot of work around the country and around the world on bulls, on infectious diseases, on production problems, and production advancements and management. But after we get the breeding soundness exam, we picked out the right bull, we know they’re fertile, now it’s time to introduce them to the herd. What are some of the things we’re gonna focus on with these bulls. (Bob) Well, a term, I didn’t invent this term, but I like it, is that these bulls need to be breeding athletes. They’re gonna be covering a lot of ground, so they need good feet and legs, they need to be in good body condition, meaning that they’re gonna… they will lose weight out in that breeding pasture, cause they’re walking so many miles. So, I want to start them with just a little bit of extra body fat. So, on a nine point body condition scoring scale something like a body condition six, is where I would like those bulls. Don’t want them to be overfat. Overfat, we can have some problems with fat setting up in the scrotum. We can have just problems with just movement out in the pasture. So, we’re looking for that perfect medium. So, a good body condition where they’ve got a little extra body fat to serve as excess energy but not over fat. (Dan) Cause they will lose that BCS as the breeding season goes on, fighting with other bulls, covering cows, it’s good to have them a little bit over conditioned. (Bob) Yea, just a little bit because they will lose weight. So they need to be able to… after a couple months they’ve lost weight and they’re still just about right. And so, that leads us to things like making sure that they’re exercised. We like to develop these bulls in pretty large pens and force them to walk and really get some exercise before they go out to that breeding pasture, because we are gonna ask them to walk a lot of distance and they’ve gotta be ready to go. We like to have them socialized so that they spend some time with the group of bulls that they will be with in the breeding pasture. So, we don’t turn them out with a new set of buddies right at the start of the breeding season, cause they’ll spend their time establishing the pecking order, instead of breeding cows. So, we want them to be socialized and used to the other bulls that they will be with, so that when they go out to the breeding pasture they’re ready to focus on their job. (Dan) Yea, and that’s also important not just to focus on their job but injury prevention… (Bob) Yes. (Dan)…and not getting a crippled bull, especially those young ones. (Bob) Yes, exactly right. You know it’s one of the things we’re gonna watch real closely. Bulls, they’re big, they’re aggressive. We do worry about injuries, hurting themselves, hurting each other and so starting off, good socialization, good body condition and then just keep an eye on them and just make sure that they stay healthy. (Dan) Sure. So, talk to me a little bit about the socialization. Do you quarantine those bulls first when you bring home the young bulls and then move ’em into some of the paddocks or into some of the pens? (Bob) Yes, I really do like to get those bulls ahead of the breeding season, far enough that first of all I can get them used to my operation, to the forages and the feed that I’m gonna be using, a chance to interact with the other bulls they’re gonna be with, and just so that I don’t want to purchase bulls right up to the time I want to use one. I’d like a little time for them to acclimate and get used to the surroundings before they go out. (Dan) Perfect. Well, let’s take a break. When we come back folks, more with Dr. Bob Larson. We’re gonna move into talking about some of those issues and potential management strategies of the adult bulls. So, don’t leave us. Stay tuned. We’ll be back right after these messages.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson and Dr. Bob Larson, we’re from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. where Bob serves as the professor… the Coleman Chair and Professor of Clinical Sciences, does a lot of work with cow/calf units, feedlot units, anything pretty much beef industry, you cover it. (Bob) I like anything that’s beef cow or steer. (Dan) He covers nutrition, theriogenology, teaches theriogenology here at the College of Veterinary Medicine and so really is a valued resource for the beef industry nationally and we’re lucky to have him on the show. Bob we talked about the yearling bulls. Let’s talk a little bit about the adult bulls and some of the things that we need to be paying attention to there. (Bob) Exactly. You know the adult bulls generally are bulls that we’ve had on our operation for a while. So, we know that they were healthy and passed a breeding soundness exam last year. But we need to make sure that they are ready to go into this breeding season. There’s a lot of things that can can go wrong with a bull. And again a good Breeding Soundness Exam where you do, first of all a good physical exam, cause some of the things that can go wrong are not with the reproductive tract. It’s feet and legs, just general health, those kind of things that would really keep him from going out and covering cows. So, I want to do a real good physical exam, check those feet and legs. Check the reproductive organs the penis, the prepuce, the scrotum, make sure every thing is in good shape. And then again, like with the yearling bulls get a semen sample and look at it under the microscope, because just because a bull was fertile last year, doesn’t necessarily mean he will be this year. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong. (Dan) And what are some of those things that can cause infertility in an adult bull? (Bob) Couple of the things that we worry about, the most are- heat damage, the good thing is that’s relatively short lived. But by short lived I mean and that heat damage might be a fever due to illness in the bull, it can just be hot, humid weather and that will really decrease fertility for up to six weeks. And when you’re talking about a seven, eight, nine week breeding season, six weeks is a long time. (Dan) Yep. (Bob) The other thing that we really worry about is anything that lowers a bulls testosterone will hurt fertility. And the things that lower testosterone are stress and illness. And so we just want that bull to be in good physical shape. So we don’t want to have any nutritional stress, we don’t want to have any physical or social stress. So we really want to take care of those bulls really well in those weeks leading up to the breeding season, so that they’re ready to go. (Dan) Good, good. Anything else? I mean obviously working with your local practitioner is hugely important on these Breeding Soundness Exams. (Bob) Yea, like you said, I get to teach veterinary students about reproduction and one of the most important things that I think we as veterinarians do is the breeding soundness exam. Just again because that bull is so important to the overall herd fertility. You know, one bull that goes bad can make a big difference. And so a really good, thorough, physical exam and Breeding Soundness Exam is one of the most important things that your veterinarian does with you. And again, like we talked about with the bull supplier is developing that long term relationship where you can really trust each other to do the best, the best for everybody’s interest. (Dan) Absolutely. Well, let’s take a break. Get your bull tested. Get it into your local veterinary clinic. Get your Breeding Soundness Exam on your bulls before you turn ’em out. We’re gonna wrap up on the discussion on bulls with Dr. Bob Larson after these messages.

(Dan) Folks welcome back to Doc Talk and Bob, it’s been a good show. (Bob) Oh, I like to talk about bulls. (Dan) And so, we’re gonna talk a little bit more about bulls. But there’s some things that we were talking about during the break about things beyond the BSE. (Bob) Yea, that Breeding Soundness Exam, or BSE is really important to make sure that he’s a good breeding candidate. But then you know, the proof is when he goes out there and actually works. And so one of the things that I encourage a producer to do, is to actually watch those bulls in the breeding pasture. Make sure that you know, a lot of mating happens at night when we don’t see ’em and those kind of things, but I want to make sure that those bulls really are out there actively breeding. So, one of the things that I encourage people is however often you go out and check those breeding pastures, and try to do it as often as you can. For some producers that might be every day and others it might be once a week when they take salt out. But however often you check those breeding pastures really spend some time looking at those bulls. Don’t just assume that because they’re there, they’re healthy. If they’re laying down, make sure they get up. And what I’m looking for there, I’m watching the feet and legs cause that’s some of the areas that… (Dan) Lameness. (Bob) They can be fine one day and end up lame and not interested right after that. Check their underline. What I’m looking for there is damage to the penis or the testicles those kinds of things. And so again, I’m not putting them into a squeeze chute and giving them a full physical exam, but just look at ’em really close. Get ’em up, make ’em walk, check their underline, and then also just kind of check their body condition and their overall health. Again, I’m looking for any reason that those bulls will have health issues, injuries, that it might be that if it’s an injury, they can’t mate. If they have health issues their testosterone levels drop. Even if they do mate, they’re not as likely to be as fertile. So, I just want to watch those bulls very carefully cause again, one cow goes bad it only affects her. But if that bull goes bad, it affects a lot of cows. (Dan) And it can probably be pretty important on these yearlings too, to make sure they’re not getting picked. (Bob) One of the things we’ve looked at lots of different breeding groups and yea, these yearling bulls, sometimes our best breeders, ones out there doing the best job and really aggressively breeding cows those first couple of weeks, well then they lose a lot of body condition and look kind of ragged. They may need to be pulled out of the pasture and given a rest and let some other bull fill in for ’em for a while. So again, just be flexible as far as there are times when you’ll need to pull bulls out of a breeding pasture if you’re getting some fighting between bulls or one looks like he’s really dropping off in body condition, just leaving him out there isn’t a good solution cause like I said, he’s probably dropping fertility. Even if he was great before I want the bulls that are out there actively mating to be the ones that are most likely to be fertile. (Dan) Well, great points, as always. And I really appreciate what you do and thanks for being on the show. (Bob) It’s good to be here. Thanks Dan. (Dan) Folks, Dr. Bob Larson, he’s the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. We’re lucky to have him at Kansas State University, serving the beef producers of our state. Remember, always work with your local veterinarian. And if you want to know more about what Bob and I do here at the vet school, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. You’ve been watching Doc Talk. I’m sure glad you joined us. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.

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