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. •

MSU to host annual agricultural research center field days across Montana

The public is invited to attend free annual field days across Montana to tour and learn about the people, places and projects involved with agricultural research at Montana State University’s College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station or MAES. Five research stations across the state and a local Bozeman campus farm will each host a field day this summer.

“Statewide field days are a longstanding tradition where we invite the public to tour our facilities, meet our faculty and staff and learn about trends and progress in agriculture research that hopefully makes a difference in their lives,” said Barry Jacobsen, associate director of MAES. “What’s most important about field days is that they serve as an opportunity for statewide producers, farmers, ranchers and agribusiness to share successes and challenges face-to-face with faculty scientists and learn about what the university is doing in response to those challenges and needs. It’s a chance for faculty and stakeholders to engage as an agricultural community and for the university to get feedback on what we need to be focusing on.”

Field days include facility tours, explanations of research projects and results and a chance for citizens, producers, legislators and agribusiness representatives to speak with MSU scientists and Extension agents.

Summer 2017 field days include:

  • Northern Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, June 29: The field day begins at 4 p.m. with tours before and after dinner. The center is located about seven miles southwest of Havre on U.S. Highway 87. (406) 265-6115.
  • The MSU Arthur H. Post Agronomy Farm , Thursday, July 7: The Post Farm will begin tours at 8:30 a.m. followed by lunch. The Post Farm is located eight miles west of Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191. (406) 586-6819.
  • Central Agricultural Research Center, Wednesday, July 12: The field day starts at 9 a.m. and includes a free lunch. The center is located 2.5 miles west of Moccasin on U.S. Highway 87. (406) 423-5421.
  • Northwestern Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, July 13: The field day begins at 2 p.m., with dinner following the tour. NWARC is located near Creston on State Highway 35. (406) 755-4303.
  • Eastern Agricultural Research Center, Wednesday, July 19: The field day begins at 9 a.m. The center is located one mile north of Sidney on State Highway 200. (406) 433-2208.
  • Western Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, July 27: The field day starts at 4 p.m. with dinner at 5 p.m. and a tour following. WARC is located at 580 Quast Lane, Corvallis. (406) 961-3025.

MAES comprises agricultural research of on and off-campus MSU faculty. The research centers are strategically located across Montana to allow research with different soil types, elevations, climate zones and landscapes, and a local advisory council guides the research at each station. The federal Hatch Act of 1887 authorized every national land-grant university to establish an agricultural experiment station, with research reflecting the university’s curriculum and state needs. The Smith-Lever Act authorized the Extension Service in 1914. MSU College of Agriculture, Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and MSU Extension have been cooperatively serving the land-grant mission and the Montana public for the past 100 years.

For more information about the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, visit http://agresearch.montana.edu/maes.html. For more information about the station’s research centers, visit http://agresearch.montana.edu/researchcenters.html.

MSU Extension sets March 10 workshop on agricultural resiliency

BOZEMAN – Montana State University Extension in Gallatin County will host the workshop “Building Resiliency in Agriculture,” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 10, at the Gallatin County Extension office, located at 903 N. Black Ave., Bozeman.

The workshop aims to improve farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to respond to variability and extremes in agricultural operations. Topics will include past, present and future climate; flexible stocking rates; emerging crops; weed management; irrigation efficiency and soil moisture measurement; and financial resiliency.

To register, contact Emily Lockard, MSU Extension agriculture agent, or Brad Bauer, MSU Extension natural resources agent, at (406) 582-3280, gallatin@montana.edu. Attendees can also register at the Extension office in Bozeman. The workshop costs $10 and includes lunch.

For more information, see: http://www.gallatinextension.com.

MSU Extension and MSGA announce 2016 Steer of Merit certifications

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Montana State University Extension and the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) distinguished 106 “Steers of Merit” out of 924 entries for 2016. Out of 612 steers entered in the Carcass Division, 69 were deemed Steers of Merit. In the Ultrasound Division, 37 out of 311 entries received the distinction.

 

The exhibitors and breeders of the top five steers in each category were honored at MSGA’s Annual Convention, Dec. 7-9 in Billings at the Radisson Billings Hotel. The top five steer entries in the Carcass Division were: 1) Kaleb Probst, Beaverhead County (Probst Livestock, breeder); 2) Reese Meine, Beaverhead County (Reese Meine, breeder); 3) Layne Boeh, Park County (Terry Reuter, breeder); 4) Sara Malesich, Beaverhead County (Malesich Ranch, breeder); and 5) Madeline Hamilton, Missoula County (Two Creek Ranch, breeder).

 

The top five steer entries in the Ultrasound Division were: 1) Brighton Lane, Montana Fair (Dr. Bryan Roe, breeder); 2) Tucker Turbiville, Fallon County (Tucker Turbiville, breeder); 3) Beau Bromenshenk, Montana Fair (Bromenshenk Farms, breeder); 4) Tate Thompson, Montana Fair (breeder unknown); and 5) Isabelle Lowry, Montana Fair (Probst Livestock, breeder).

 

The number of Steer of Merit certifications for 2016 decreased by 2 steers, with 21 more entries submitted compared to 2015.

 

The Montana Steer of Merit program was initiated in 1967 as a joint effort between the Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana State University Extension. The program was designed to measure, record, and improve carcass characteristics in beef cattle. Data from these carcasses has been summarized and analyzed statistically. Over time, significant increases have been made in quality grade and in yield grade, or cutability, indicating that cattle can be selected for leaner carcasses with higher cutability and still maintain high quality grade as reflected by marbling.
To be designated a Steer of Merit, carcasses are evaluated by a qualified individual using information that relates to yield of lean meat and eating quality. Beef carcasses must meet criteria set by the Steer of Merit Committee in the areas of hot carcass weight, dressing percent, fat thickness over 12th rib (back fat), total rib eye area, yield grade, percent cutability, and quality grade. Computer software programs help compile data and rank carcasses for state and county awards. Data is also analyzed periodically to track genetic and feed management progress. The minimum standards for Steer of Merit are reviewed each year and the program is updated to meet the changing industry standards.

 

For more information about the Steer of Merit program call Megan Van Emon, Montana State Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at (406) 874-8286.