February 22, 2016

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here. Glad that you joined us. Today’s show is going to be outstanding. I have Dr. Charlie Brown from Accelerated Genetics, where is the Director of Veterinary Services. We’re going to talk about how to manage and develop these bulls. Thanks for watching. And more after this message.

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(Dan) Folks, welcome to DocTalk. Dr. Brown, welcome. (Charlie) Thank you. (Dan) Folks this is Dr. Charlie Brown. He is the Director of Veterinary Services for Accelerated Genetics. And talk to me a little bit about Accelerated Genetics. (Charlie) So, Accelerated Genetics is a cooperative who actually is going to be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. (Dan) Wow. (Charlie) Put together by a group of 40 dairy farmers in Vernon County, Wisconsin. And started thinking about genetics and improving their herds and built a cooperative to acquire the best genetics they could afford and then sharing them amongst each other and it’s developed into one of the largest, most successful cooperatives, AI centers in the United States. (Dan) Well, I know that you have a lot of producers involved, a lot of genetics, a lot of bulls involved. Just tickled to death to have you on the show and share some of this information with our viewers. As we talked and kind of setting up the day, we said let’s talk about some of this bull development, growth and development and nutrition to start out with. (Charlie) Good, yea, let’s do that. So, the majority of the bulls that we house are dairy bulls, but we do have a facility for beef bulls exclusively in McCook, Nebraska. But our dairy bulls are acquired at a very young age. We bring in dairy bulls somewhere between, sometimes as young as three months of age but routinely between five and seven months of age. And developing those young bulls, nutritionally having them grow at the appropriate rate so that they’re putting on that frame and that muscle but not getting over conditioned, having a good consistent ration and a good health environment where they’re not dealing with respiratory problems and feet and leg problems and just giving them every opportunity to express all the genetic potential that they have. So, that’s a big part of what we do, developing young bulls. So, we really have those bulls between five and seven months before they’re actually able to make semen. We do press young bulls to grow. We don’t look at average daily gain. We look at a number that we use called weight per day of age. So, as we look at bulls on farm before they’re acquired, we look for bulls who are between 2.4 and 2.6 per day of age. So, for example for easy math, a ten month old calf is 300 days. He would be 750 pounds. That would be a well-grown dairy hosting bull. For the smaller breed, Ayrshires, Guernseys, Jerseys, 1.6 to 1.8 pounds per day of age is the number we kind of look at for having a bull being well-grown and well-developed. And then as they get into puberty and past puberty and they’re in our system long enough, we can monitor average daily gain and we actually try to monitor that so that bulls have a decreasing average daily gain as they get more and more mature. And so then we’ll look at body condition scores as well. (Dan) Well, it’s amazing to me. And when we come back I want to jump back into, we’ll take a break but when we come back, I want to get back into the optimum, you know not too fast, not too slow on growth and maybe some of the problems we’re trying to defend. Thanks for watching DocTalk. This is Dr. Charlie Brown, Dr. Dan Thomson. We’re here at Kansas State University. More after these messages.

(Dan) Hey folks welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here from Kansas State University and I’m here with Dr. Charlie Brown, who is the Director of Veterinary Services for Accelerated Genetics, a cooperative group that’s located in Wisconsin and also McCook, Nebraska. (Charlie) Correct. (Dan) And working with dairy and beef bulls. And one of things that when we left that last segment, I sit there and I think about optimum growth of bulls. And what we do with beef bulls in some of these bull test stations and things of just maximum growth and high finish rations, it doesn’t sound like maybe the best thing we can do to develop some of these bulls. (Charlie) Yep. I’m not sure that it is. So, with our dairy bulls, we can get ’em in, we get on a high forage, a good quality alfalfa grass mix hay, we feed some grain to keep the growth rates up, and we expect that they can do two and a half pounds per day is good. We want them to be able to put all that muscle and frame on but we don’t want to get them over-conditioned. So we monitor body condition scores and we use the dairy system on the dairy bulls and three is fine. That’s where they should be and that’s where they need to stay throughout their lives. As they start to get older and finish that muscle and frame development, then monitoring body condition score is a real big deal, to maintain that, so they’re not too fat and that they’re not negatively affecting their ability to thermal regulate testes. Beef bulls, we have a system in place where they go to the feedlot, they get on a bull test station, they get maybe a higher forage diet in some of ’em, but still high energy and they’re pushed hard to see who has the highest average daily gain over that period. And body condition scores are not monitored. So, those bulls will come out and then they’ll be expected after they’re 14 months of age to make good quality semen and either at natural service or at an AI center and make good quality semen. And that’s a real difficult score and a lot of bulls just don’t make it because of all the stressors that we put them through prior to getting to the AI center. And they just don’t make the semen quality standards. (Dan) And you’d mentioned that it’s not just nutrition, it’s not just the really fast growth rates that we expose them to, they’re other things that we are doing. (Charlie) So bulls like all animals have a need for a social order. And my observations have been over the years that bulls in small groups do pretty good. Groups of six to ten depending on their ages. And smaller as they’re older. But for these bulls that are eight, nine months of age, up to 14 months of age, you can put ’em in groups of six to ten and they get along. But even in a group of ten animals there’s a lot of interactions that happen between all those bulls. And they have to establish that social order and maintain it, which is stressful, which raises cortisol levels. And then if we’re pushing them hard on feed and if bunk space is not more than adequate, then there’s competition at the bunk, so there’s all kinds of stressors that happen that negatively affect that bull’s ability to produce semen as that semen production process starts. (Dan) And it’s so interesting because you know we’re going to have to go to a break. But to me when you think of development of semen quality and you know the beef guys are pretty hooked up on phenotypic evaluation of bull in the sale ring, how do we strike that balance of both is probably something that we’re going to have to answer in the future. So, anyway, great information. (Charlie) Thanks. (Dan) Let’s take a break. (Charlie) OK. (Dan) Thanks for watching DocTalk. We’re going to take a break. More with Dr. Charlie Brown from Accelerated Genetics when we return.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here at Kansas State University, where my guest today is Dr. Charlie Brown, who’s the Director of Veterinary Services at Accelerated Genetics out of Wisconsin and McCook, Nebraska. And we’re talking about bull development and managing bull development and so we’re going to get into some specific time frames now. (Charlie) Yea. (Dan) So we’re going to talk about how these bulls should be managed and what’s going on with their growth and development in that four to eight months of age. (Charlie) Right. So, young, young bulls between week zero and week 16 are getting a lot of attention from their Moms or from people while they’re in individual huts and being raised by hand for dairy bulls. But week 16 to week 32 is that four to eight months of age when all the things that for bulls are going on reproductively are happening. Sertoli cell development all the sertoli cells that a bull is ever going to develop and make happens at that time. The initial hormonal cycle that goes on, LH surges and the feedback route for testosterone development goes on. So all that scrotal development that can happen potentially, that ground work is laid in that week 16 to week 32. And so that’s a critical period for making sure they don’t have the stress of any illnesses, respiratory disease, diarrheas, cold stress, heat stress. And then of course socialization. Bulls do better in smaller groups than in big groups. They have a limit to what they can manage or they split themselves apart into small groups within a bigger group. And bulls are always checking the social order. So, there’s always a little checking every day as who’s in charge and who’s not. And if you change those groups you change social order and the bulls have to reestablish the whole thing all over again. So adding bulls and taking bulls out is a difficult thing. So, for beef bulls especially as they’re eight months old now they’re going to a bull test station and getting changed- water, feed, social order, vaccinations and then getting warmed up to getting on a high energy diet, which in and of itself can be detrimental to semen quality. And so we do all these things to these bulls and we don’t monitor body condition score, we monitor rate of gain. And so we’ve done a lot of things to negatively impact these bull’s reproductive potential. And that whole bull test station period right after that critical period has been kind of taken care of at home at the home ranch where things are much more stable environmentally, so socially, nutritionally. So, it’s a critical time. (Dan) And you know I think that people forget about, again we’re raising these bulls for, yea we want them to look nice and we want them to express the phenotypic appearance, but really we’ve got to make sure they’re going to be able to produce quality semen. (Charlie) Right. Whether it’s natural service or AI service, the bull function is to get cows pregnant. And cows pregnant is how money gets made when you’ve got a cow/calf herd. So, scrotal development is a big deal, semen quality is a big deal during that time period, and I look at bulls as athletes. They need to look like they’re doing their work. So, they need to be muscular, but they don’t need to be fat. I’d rather have them, if you’ll take this analogy, I’d rather have them look like a middle weight fighter than a heavy weight wrestler. (Dan) Yep. (Charlie) And i think that they’re just sounder and more athletic and more able to find cows, breed cows, get around and make good quality semen. (Dan) Perfect. Well, let’s take a break. Folks, we’ve got Dr. Charlie Brown here from Accelerated Genetics. He’s the Director of Vet Services. We’re going to take a break and we’re going to come back and we’ll have a little wrap with him on managing bulls. Folks, stay tuned. More with Dr. Charlie Brown from Accelerated Genetics. We’re going to come back. We’re going to talk a little bit more and do a wrap up on how to manage bulls.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. We’re having a great discussion today with Dr. Charlie Brown, who’s the Veterinary Services Director at Accelerated Genetics. And it’s been just a great discussion because I’ve learned so much about bulls and you know, there’s some things we’ve got to start, making some changes within our industry. We’ve got to start looking at bulls a little bit differently on the ground. (Charlie) I think so, I think so. So, with bulls having a rate of gain and needing to be reproductively sound, I think it’s pretty well decided within the industry that bulls who are going out to breed cows need to be a body condition score six. And that’s the happy medium. They’ve got enough cover on them to work hard. They may lose some weight, but it’s a long way from six to skinny. And you’ve got to remember bulls don’t get fat on the outside until they’re fat on the inside. So if they look a little hard, they’ve still got plenty internally to take care of ’em if feed is short while they’re chasing cows and heifers in the spring or the fall. So, that body condition score is a big thing. And changes, rapid changes in body condition score just like rapid changes in temperature, really affects semen quality negatively. And we have this thing about taking pictures of bulls. So when I hear picture ready, I think of body condition score eight, headed for nine, which really does not help bulls reproductively. (Dan) Right, yea so you know when we’re trying to dial back and it’s 70 pounds on a body condition score on a bull or more. (Charlie) Well, for dairy bulls it’s probably 120-150. (Dan) Yea, well I’m thinking more cows. (Charlie) Cows, right. So for bulls you think of that if he’s walking around at a body condition score six and he’s a good framed Angus bull, it’s probably 110 to 130 pounds of body condition score. And so a couple hundred pounds goes a long way to make a bull really slick and smooth and picture ready. It doesn’t do really much at all for his ability to actually get around and to thermal regulate properly to keep those testes at the right temperature and sperm where it needs to be. (Dan) So maybe we need to start getting used to seeing some pictures of body condition score six. (Charlie) Yep. Yep. So internally our company has made that decision to go that way. And so when people see our bulls at McCook they’re like, huh that doesn’t look like his picture. Nope, he’s in his working clothes. He’s here to make semen today. And that’s what he’s doing. He’s got a short window to make it. If you think about it, they come in, they come off the ranches or they get returned to us. And they’re in September or October and they’re going home in May and June because they’ve got contracts to fulfill for service, and so we’ve got to make ’em work hard in that period. And so body condition score six is what you’re going to see when you come to McCook. And we think, and we’ve already seen an improvement in semen quality and production. (Dan) That’s awesome. I really appreciate you being on the show. (Charlie) Thanks for having me. (Dan) Great information. Folks, Dr. Charlie Brown, Director of Veterinary Services Accelerated Genetics, Wisconsin, McCook, Nebraska, Great information. Thank you for watching DocTalk. Remember always work with your local veterinarian and if you want to find out more about DocTalk you can find us on the web at www.doctalktv.com. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson. Thanks for watching the show today and I’ll see you, down the road.

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