New WPS Requirements for pesticide applicators

Montana pesticide applicators and owners of agricultural establishments should pay special attention to new worker protection standard requirements as of January 2018. The US EPA published a revised Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) in 2015 to better protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure. Revisions went into effect January 2, 2017; however, Montana pesticide applicators are reminded of a few revisions that recently went into effect January 1, 2018. The following paragraphs define the new 2018 requirements while providing additional WPS resources.

Most of the revised WPS requirements became effective on January 2, 2017. Three requirements went into effect January 2, 2018:

  • Pesticide safety training must cover the expanded WPS content.
  • Pesticide safety information (posters) must meet the revised standards. Updated posters

    can be reviewed and ordered on the PERC website.

  • Handlers must suspend applications if workers or other people are in the application exclusion zone (AEZ). The AEZ refers to the area surrounding the pesticide application equipment that must be void of all persons other than appropriately trained and equipped handlers during pesticide applications. See details at the MSU PEP WPS website.

    For general information on WPS, navigate to the EPA website or view the MSU PEP website. Complete WPS manuals titled “How to Comply with the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides: What Owners and Employers Need to Know” can be downloaded from the MSU PEP website or can be purchased from MSU Extension Distribution for $3. A manual for trainers titled: “National Worker Protection Standard: A Manual for Trainers of Agricultural Workers and Pesticide Handlers” is also available on the MSU PEP website.

    Contact Amy Bowser, MSU Pesticide Education Technician (406-994-5178;
    amy.bowser@montana.edu) regarding WPS questions or Cecil Tharp, MSU Pesticide Education Specialist (406-994-5067; ctharp@montana.edu) with other pesticide education questions.

    Links

    EPA WPS Website:

    https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps MSU PEP WPS Website: http://www.pesticides.montana.edu/wps/index.html
    PERC Website: http://pesticideresources.org/wps/cp.html

State Beef Councils Extend Checkoff Campaign

A new generation of consumers is getting to know beef through the new beef checkoff-funded Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. campaign, launched in October. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of its introduction, the iconic brand has been refreshed, celebrating its reintroduction to a variety of today’s consumers, channel partners and food influencers.

State beef councils are beginning to extend the campaign’s content and features, educating and exciting their states’ consumers about the many benefits beef provides to their lives.

Of special interest to state councils has been the campaign’s “Rethink the Ranch” anthem video and related video spots, showcasing real, hard-working farmers and ranchers from around the country. Nationally, the videos have generated more than 765,000 video views to date, and reached more than 3.5 million consumers. State beef councils have downloaded various Rethink the Ranch content for use on their own social media properties and through other consumer and thought leader outreach.

“Our state and national partnership is particularly valuable to Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., as the campaign showcases the people behind beef as well as beef’s powerful nutrition story,” according to Alisa Harrison, senior vice president for Global Marketing and Research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.  “Our team travelled across the United States to capture and develop the most factual and thoughtful stories about how today’s beef is brought from the cattle raiser to the dinner table. Together with the information about the high-quality beef being delivered, it’s a message that’s compelling to consumers today.”

Councils in several states, including Kansas and Missouri, will be promoting the Rethink the Ranch anthem video in a YouTube campaign launching mid-January. The Ohio Beef Council is producing its own video series to bring to life local producer stories, and is using the familiar sound of Copland’s Rodeo music and the new Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. logo in its own state materials.

Nationally, the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. team has reached more than 20 million people in the first quarter of this fiscal year (starting Oct. 1) with positive messaging about beef. Overall, more than 2 million people visited the BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com website from Oct. 3 to Dec. 18, 2017. The team has successfully driven web traffic to the Raising Beef section of the website to encourage visitors to view the Rethink the Ranch videos, with almost 400,000 page views since the launch. Those people stayed on website pages 42 percent longer (compared to 2016), and the Raising Beef section – core content for the relaunch campaign – became the second top viewed section of the site, right after the recipes.

Retailers, foodservice operators and other beef marketers are also being engaged and encouraged to learn more about beef and feature it more often through one-on-one outreach and through a LinkedIn campaign, which targeted business decision-makers. Major media outreach has resulted in more than 30 million impressions for the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. relaunch, including a major story in the Wall Street Journal online and print editions.

The effort is also reaching out to food and health influencers, such as registered dietitians, bloggers and doctors, to share the positive information about the brand and website. More than 36,000 health professionals have been reached through outlets such as Nutrition 411, a popular e-newsletter for dietitians.

“Teamwork has always been an element of pride for the cattle and beef industry,” said Harrison. “With this campaign, we’re able to celebrate and capitalize on our state and national partnership and make the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. brand as broad, extensive and cost-effective as possible.”

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The Federation of State Beef Councils is a division of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The Beef Checkoff Program is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Soil Health Workshops Across Montana in January

A series of soil health workshops aimed at helping Montana producers learn new strategies and techniques for improving soil health on their land will be held across the state January 16-19, 2018. Attendees will learn how to add biological inputs to their operations to increase yield, decrease chemical inputs, and improve the resilience and health of their soils. Practices such as no-till (including potato and beet rotations), intensive grazing, diverse rotations, cover crops, and more will be discussed in the context of actual working farms and ranches.

The practice of improving soil health on farms and ranches is a movement that is sweeping across the nation. These workshops will introduce soil health principles for producers both large and small who are interested in improving the soil health on their land. The workshops will also talk about practical ways to implement soil health practices effectively, and how improving soil health can ultimately increase production and bottom lines.

Workshop dates: (Click on the speaker’s name for their bio)

1/16 Three Forks The Gathering Place Brendon Rockey and Steve Kenyon
1/17 Great Falls Holiday Inn Brendon Rockey and Wendy Taheri
1/18 Billings Big Horn Resort Brendon Rockey and Steve Kenyon
1/19 Miles City Sleep Inn Steve Kenyon and Wendy Taheri
1/19 Sidney Richland County Fairgrounds Event Center Brendon Rockey and Derek Axten

 

These workshops are presented by Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana, NRCS, and Montana Soil & Water Conservation Society.

Those interested in attending should register in advance at swcdm.org/soil-health. Workshops are $15 online through January 8, and $20 at the door. Doors open at 8am, and workshops begin at 9am and end in the mid afternoon. Contact Ann McCauley, 406-443-5711, with questions or to inquire about sponsor and vendor opportunities.

Beef councils gather to discuss Beef Checkoff Program

Representatives of 28 state beef councils gathered near Denver Oct. 16 to 18 to learn more about national 2018 Beef Checkoff Program efforts and share their thoughts on how those programs could be expanded or extended through their states. The Partnerships in Action Conference in the offices of the NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The checkoff 2018 fiscal year began Oct. 1.

Among items of discussion was the relaunch of the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” brand and website, with a “Rethink the Ranch” approach and new videos and promotion on social media platforms. The program went live Oct. 9 and showcases the people who raise beef, celebrates the nutritional benefits of beef for active lifestyles and provides culinary inspiration.

“This annual Federation of State Beef Councils event is a collaborative effort to kick off the checkoff program of work with enthusiasm,” according to Todd Johnson, NCBA senior vice president, Federation Services. “Our state team members and their boards of directors have come to appreciate the ways our partnership can enhance the value of the beef checkoff to those who pay into the program.”

According to George Quackenbush, executive director of the Michigan Beef Industry Commission, the conference helps communicate a seamless, coordinated state and national plan that can most effectively reach consumers with the same message in repeated ways. “The reason we put such value on this meeting as a state council is that this is where we learn what programs will be taking place at the national level, when we can expect those things to roll out and how we can extend those programs in our state,” he said. “We can really be the army that takes these programs to the audience on the local and state levels.”

Erin Beasley, executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, agrees, saying the timing from their state perspective is perfect. “We’re actually about to get into our planning mode, so this gives us an opportunity to meet with the staff, bring all of those ideas back, then meet with our Checkoff Task Force Committee to start our planning and budgeting for the 2018 year,” she said. “The timing of this meeting, with the content and the involvement of the national staff, is absolutely integral to what we do at the state level.”

Another benefit of the conference, according to Jean O’Toole, executive director of the New York Beef Council, is the sharing that goes on between states. “You learn so much from other states and what they do,” she said. “We sometimes joke that we rip off and repurpose, but we have no hidden secrets between our councils. It’s share and collaborate based on your budgets and what you can do. It also gives you different insights. We’re all creative and have a variety of talents.”

Because she is from a state with a higher population and lower cattle numbers, O’Toole values different types of input. “Sometimes you get support financially, sometimes you just get support through information, but either way you can’t beat it,” she said. “I haven’t seen an organization like this in all my years and it’s phenomenal fun.”

“It’s great to see that we’re all singing from the same songbook,” said Chris Freland, executive director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “When you’re united you’re so much stronger than if you’re separated and going in your own direction. It also validates that you’re doing the right thing within your state, as well as making sure your state board and farmers and ranchers are represented nationally. In addition, it provides our state staff an opportunity to collaborate with those in other states who are serving in the same roles.”

According to Ann Wittmann, executive director of the Wyoming Beef Council, states with low populations and small staffs value the kind of teamwork the conference provides. “The state and national coordination are what makes the beef industry so special and so workable, especially from the perspective of a small staff state,” she said. “We have programs of our own. But what we don’t have is the beautiful imagery, the fantastic story-telling, the video images, the larger-than-life programs and programs that reach out beyond what we can do as a small state. It’s the best investment that we can make so that we all work together as a team.”

Wittmann said bonding together through an event like the Partnerships in Action Conference makes the program stronger. “The partnership between the Federation of State Beef Councils, the Federation staff, and the individual beef councils is powerful and incredibly efficient,” she said.

The Federation of State Beef Councils is a division of NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The Beef Checkoff Program is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Record Keeping and Culling Strategies

By Megan Van Emon, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are beginning to change, the weather is cooler, and weaning is happening across Montana.  Not only is this a stressful time of year for the calves, but also for producers.  Critical decisions are being made in herds to prepare for the future and the hardest part is making that cull list.  However, a cull list shouldn’t be made without first discussing and analyzing records.

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records is essential to making decisions for your herd.  These records become even more important during the weaning season as calves and cows are marketed.  Examples of records sheets can be found on the MSU Beef Cattle Extension Website at http://animalrangeextension.montana.edu/beef/records.html.  The records available pertain to beef cattle production, grazing, hay, treatment, supplementation, etc.  They are made to fit in a three-ring binder.  Keeping written and/or electronic records can ease the decision-making process.  Maintaining your records in a single location allows for easy access and comparison of your historical records.

No matter how detailed your records are, culling livestock is still a difficult decision.  A few things need to be considered prior to making culling decisions.

1. What are your short-, medium-, and long-term herd production goals?

2. Did your herd meet your production goals for the year (short-term)?

3. Are you progressing towards your medium- and long-term goals?

Writing your goals in your record keeping notebook is an excellent way to assess your herd at the end of each year.  With each year you write your goals, you can compare your goals across years to determine how you are progressing towards your medium- and long-term goals.  Keeping and maintaining accurate records of your herd will aid you in critically assessing your herd each year to determine if your goals were met.

Determining if your goals were met will aid you in determining which animals to cull and which animals to keep.  Some cull decisions are more easily made than others, such as animals with bad feet and legs, a bad udder, are open, have a bad disposition, old, bad teeth, and health issues.  Record this information as it is observed in the herd to easily sort those animals when needed.

If additional culling is needed, the decisions become more difficult.  These additional culling decisions can be made by assessing your herd goals.  A couple of examples to additional culling include genetics or efficiency.  If culling based on genetics, additional information should be assessed.  Your young cows and heifers should be some of the best genetics in your herd, but they require additional inputs for growth and maintenance.  Your older cows have established herd genetics and require little inputs.  If utilizing efficiency to make your additional culling decisions, first efficiency needs to be defined.  Efficiency can be defined in multiple ways, for example feed efficiency (pounds of feed per pound of gain) or pounds of calf weaned per pound of cow.  These are just a few ways of determining additional culling decisions and will need to be assessed based on your herd goals.

Montana Beef Council Wants to Invest $860,000 in Programs

The Montana Beef Council would like to invest $860,000 into programs of beef promotion, education, consumer information, industry information, foreign marketing and producer communications in the fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1. Programs approved could be funded through Montana’s 50 cents in-state portion of the $1 per head beef checkoff, after Montana producers provide affirmative consent to Montana Beef Council to retain that portion of their assessment.

In action concluding its Sept. 20-22 meeting in Billings, the MBC Board of Directors—all Montana volunteers, including members from nearly all segments of the beef supply chain—approved checkoff funding for a total of 26 demand-building and producer communication project funding requests for checkoff funding, in the fiscal year.

“As always, the projects that the board reviewed this year have the potential to be very impactful and made for great discussion as we determined programs that best aligned with our strategic priorities and our potential funding ability,” said Jim Taber, Montana Beef Council president, a cow-calf producer and backgrounder from Shawmut, Mont. Jim Taber was elected at this meeting as president and Kiley Martinell, a cow-calf producer from Dell, Mont. was elected as vice president. The officer terms are two years in length.

As a result of its deliberations, the board of directors preliminarily approved requests from 18 different organizations that will strive towards the mission of protecting and increasing demand for beef and beef products.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan for the Montana Beef Council includes:

 · $30,023 for in-state education programs, including American Heart Association partnerships, children’s museum presence, health professional beef education, Team Beef athletes, classroom education, farm fairs, health professional pasture to plate tour and tradeshows across the state;

· $45,500 for promotional programs, focusing on in-state tradeshows, consumer radio and digital advertising, barbecue cook-offs, a meat processor competition, a foodservice partnership and a targeted consumer event in the Northeast United States;

· $16,250 for in-state beef safety and issues management comprised of the Montana Beef Quality Assurance program, as well as disseminating accurate information about the beef community to counter misinformation;

· $30,510 for in-state producer communications, which includes producer outreach using digital and radio communication as well direct communications to producers about checkoff results;

· $260,000 for domestic consumer marketing to continue consumer outreach, digital advertising, beef safety research, nutrition research, quality research, issues management, retail support, influencer engagement and foodservice support; and

·  $113,600 for foreign marketing and education in over 80 countries including Japan, China, Latin America and much more.

Other anticipated expenses funded through the budget include $353,367 for administration, which includes office lease, insurance, equipment, office supplies, postage, telephone, Department of Livestock administration expenses, collection administration expenses, board expenses, travel for programs and producer communication and administrative staff compensation for program implementation.

Checkoff collection remains mandatory, however, the above programs will only be carried out by Montana Beef Council after Montana producers complete and return the Producer Request to Retain Beef Checkoff Assessments Form. The form can be obtained at www.MontanaBeefCouncil.org or by calling the Montana Beef Council at (406) 656-3336.

Source: Montana Beef Council

Montana Beef Council provides many benefits

Written by Kristin Larson

My last couple articles were about the timeline and planning process of the $.50 of the dollar checkoff that goes to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board for national contractors to contract for beef promotion, education, research and producer communication.  

The other $.50 for many states stays in the state it was collected in with their qualified state beef council. Montana is one of these states. The Montana Beef Council was created in 1954 by cattlemen as a marketing organization for the Montana Beef industry. It is one of 45 state beef councils.

A 12-member board of directors guides the Montana Beef Council. Council members are appointed or elected by membership organizations as follows: Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Cattlemen’s Association, Montana CattleWomen, Livestock Auction Markets, Cattle Feeders, Meat Packer/Processor, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, Retailer, Dairymen, and Montana Angus Association.

I firmly believe it is important to have this grassroots board and allow Montana producers the voice to determine how their beef checkoff dollars are spent.Whenever you have grassroots input there is ownership and follow through, both extremely important factors for a program to be successful.

Our annual meeting is in September.  Contractors from across the state request checkoff dollars for projects. The board is split into committees that hear these proposals.  The committee discusses if each authorization request meets the criteria of the Act & Order and the Montana Beef Council’s mission statement.

The Montana Beef Council is organized to protect and increase demand for beef and beef products through state, national and international consumer marketing programs (promotion, education, and research) thereby enhancing profit opportunities for Montana beef producers.

Each committee decides to fund the proposals and at which level. Then the budget committee puts it all together along with in-house staff projects and brings a balanced budget to the board to discuss and approve.  This is the start of the next fiscal year and the projects they will see develop with the intent to build beef demand, educate our consumers and medical influencers, and communicate with producers about how their checkoff dollars are at work for them every day.

I know in the country there is confusion about the “Federation”.  Many think it is NCBA.  The Federation of State Beef Councils is simply a structured voice for ALL state checkoffs. The Federation does operate under the NCBA umbrella. The Federation has evolved over a number of years and provides not only efficiency in overhead costs but also provides consistent information and resources for state beef councils to utilize for design services, website creation, issues management and so much more.  The Federation also gives state producers a voice on the national level of how our beef checkoff dollars are spent.

Montana is a cow rich, people poor state so it makes sense to spend some of our dollars in other more populated areas where our dollars can be used more effectively.  That is not to say we don’t do some amazing projects and programs at the state level. We do!  We have a tremendous staff in place, who works on our behalf every day that are just as passionate about the beef industry as we are!

This being said, it was hard to do a budget this year with the uncertainty the injunction brings.  For more than 60 years, the Montana Beef Council has been building relationships and working to build beef demand.  As a producer, I ask you to please sign the consent form and continue to give Montana producers a voice and program direction of our checkoff. I believe in the value of the checkoff program and have seen so many positive things come from checkoff work it still

One of the things that excites me is this new promotional ad that is on the Beef It’s What’s For Dinner website and will be used in other areas too.  Please go listen today.  I think it will excite you too about what the checkoff is doing and working on and go sign the consent form and turn it in today!

Sign your affidavit today to retain local control over your Beef Checkoff.

Selective Culling and Early Weaning in Drought

From the Cow Sense Chronicle by Rachel Endecott – Beef Cattle Specialist

While forage and pasture conditions are in good shape on the western side of our state, the eastern half is suffering from a worsening drought. Reducing forage demand is an important part of a drought plan and selective culling and early weaning are two strategies that can achieve that goal.

The first level of selective culling is to remove cows with obvious production issues, such as age, bad teeth, feet, or udders, as well as open cows or cows with poor quality calves. The second level of culling is where things get more difficult. There are a couple of approaches to consider, and I suspect most producers would use a combination of them. The first approach is to identify cattle with the most value per unit of forage consumed. These may be young cows and heifers that are products of the most advanced gene cs in your herd. Retaining the young nucleus of the cowherd is important for future gene c improvement, so marketing older cows, some of whom may still be productive, may be the best option to retain a future genetic base.

On the other hand, young cows and heifers have higher nutrient requirements compared to mature cows and are more likely to not breed back. Additionally, young cows and heifers often command a higher premium, so a second approach may be to identify and retain cows who are done growing and will tend to breed back easier in tougher conditions while raising heavier calves.

Early weaning can reduce forage demand in a couple of ways. Lactating cows experience dramatically increased nutrient requirements compared to dry cows. Energy requirements decrease over 20% and protein requirements decrease over 30% as cows move from late lactation to mid-gestation. This decreases the forage intake of the cow, as well as removing the forage demand the calf had been placing on the pasture. One rule of thumb indicates that for every day calves are early weaned compared to normal, about 0.6 grazing days worth of forage are saved. This rule was calculated using a 1300-lb cow who weans a 600-lb calf at 7 months of age. Positive impacts from early weaning are generally observed for cow body condition and reproduction as well. Because of the decrease in nutrient requirements for lactation, more nutrients are available for the cow to partition to body weight gain. Reproductive responses and their timing depend on the timing of early weaning. If the breeding season is already over, cow condition improvements may have an impact on breed back the following year if cows go into winter and calving in better body condition. If early weaning happens before the breeding season (calves around 80 days of age), reproductive performance can be positively impacted for the current year.

Hard decisions will have to be made if the dry conditions persist. In the meantime, pray for rain!

Time to Survey for Alfalfa Weevil

Written by Kevin Wanner and Emily Glunk

Alfalfa weevil is the key insect pest of alfalfa, causing variable levels of economic damage across Montana each growing season. After mating the female weevils lay their eggs in alfalfa stems, and newly emerged larvae crawl up to the developing terminal buds where they chew small “pin” holes in the leaves. The larvae develop through four instar stages (Figure 1); the larger 3rd and 4th instar larvae feed openly on unfurled leaves and cause the largest economic loss. Severe feeding damage will give the field a “frosted” appearance. Mature larvae develop into the next generation of adults that leave the alfalfa field to find overwintering sites. In Montana there is one generation per year. The majority of crop damage occurs prior to the first cutting as a result of feeding by larger larvae. Management decisions are based on surveying the number of weevils to determine if their population will exceed the economic threshold, the point that warrants action to be taken.

Alfalfa weevil sampling should begin in the spring when the stand is about 8 to 10 inches tall. Weevil populations can be estimated using sweep nets (net with a 15 inch diameter, can be purchased online) or by shaking alfalfa plants in a bucket. An average of 20 alfalfa weevil larvae per sweep meets the economic threshold for action. Ten sweeps are taken at each of 3-5 five sites in a field (30-50 sweeps per field) and the total number of weevil larvae counted to determine the average per sweep. An alternative is to cut 10 stems from each of 3-5 different sites in a field (30-50 stems per field) and shake the stems in a bucket to collect the larvae. An average of 1.5 – 2.0 larvae per stem meets the economic threshold for action. To get an accurate average more samples are required for larger fields. A minimum of three samples are recommended for fields up to 20 acres, four samples for fields up to 30 acres and five samples for larger fields. Based on historical weather data, sampling for alfalfa weevil in Montana typically begins between May 24 and June 16, depending on the location and the seasonal weather.

Typical dates that alfalfa weevil monitoring begins in Montana:

Sidney – May 24.    Glasgow – May 29.   Lewistown – June 13.   Kalispell – June 7.   Dillon – June 10.   Bozeman – June 8.   Red Lodge June 16.

When the economic threshold has been met (more than an average of 20 larvae per sweep or 1.5-2.0 larvae per stem) action is required to preserve yield. If stand growth is sufficient early harvesting is the most effective and economic action. If early harvesting is not an option then an insecticide can be used to reduce weevil populations below economically damaging levels. Additional management information including insecticide options is listed online in the High plains IPM guide: http://wiki.bugwood.org/HPIPM:Alfalfa_Weevil

Additional video resources:

Bull Breeding Soundness Exams

By Megan Van Emon

Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

 

One of the most cost efficient methods of a successful breeding program is the breeding soundness exam (BSE) conducted on bulls.  Bulls are responsible for breeding 20 to 50 cows each breeding season while cows are responsible for one calf each year.  Having a BSE conducted on the bulls is crucial to a successful breeding program.

The BSE is an exam conducted by veterinarians that includes a physical exam, semen evaluation, and an internal and external exam of the reproductive tract.  Evaluating the feet, legs, teeth, eyes, flesh cover, and scrotal circumference and shape is included in the physical exam.  The semen evaluation includes semen normality and motility.  The BSE should be conducted 30 to 60 days prior to the beginning of breeding.  It is important to note that the bull’s sperm production cycle is approximately 60 days, and if illness, injury or other issue occurs, this could negatively impact the BSE and breeding capability of the bull and may need to be re-evaluated.  An additional BSE can be conducted at the end of the breeding season to determine if bull fertility decreased throughout the breeding season.

Body condition is crucial for bulls during the breeding season.  Having adequate flesh cover during the breeding season is needed to provide the extra energy required for breeding.  Body condition can be impacted by the number of cows the bull is expected to breed, the distance traveled to breed or eat, and nutrition during the breeding season.  A body condition score 6 or sufficient body condition that the ribs appear smooth across the bull’s side is the ideal flesh cover at the start of the breeding season.

Ensuring bulls are structurally sound in their feet and legs is needed to begin the breeding season.  Bulls with unsound feet and legs will have a difficult time walking and mounting for mating if a significant distance needs to be traveled for breeding.  General health of the bull is also needed to ensure bulls have adequate semen quality and the ability to mate.  Scrotal circumference is an essential measure because it is directly related to sperm production, sperm normality, and the onset of puberty.  The external and internal reproductive tract examinations ensure there is no inflammation, abscesses, warts, or penile deviations.

The semen evaluation includes the measurement of semen motility or the percentage of sperm cells moving in a forward direction.  The bulls needs to at least have 30% sperm motility to pass the BSE.  Sperm morphology, or the proper shape, is also determined and at least 70% of the sperm cells should have a normal shape.

If all of the minimum requirements are met, the bull will be classed as “satisfactory.”  However, if a bull does not pass one of the tests, they will be classed as “classification deferred.”  If a bull is classed as “classification deferred,” the bull should be tested again after 6 weeks.  If a mature bull fails the subsequent BSEs, they will be classified as “unsatisfactory.”  A young bull may be “classification deferred,” and pass the subsequent test.  Exercise caution when making bull culling decisions based on a single BSE. •